Love or hate Swedish Melodeath, you may still remember a time when it was all rather fresh and new. Even if it wasn’t to your particular taste, you could at least say that people were trying something different and you couldn’t argue with the results. Bands like Soilwork and In Flames were flourishing in the late 90’s and early 2000’s, yet even then it was clear to see that there was a very limited lifespan for this music, purely because it is so formulaic that all the possible variations upon the theme were very rapidly being explored and exploited. By the time Sonic Syndicate released their first album ‘Eden Fire’ in 2005, they were already scraping the last scraps of creativity out of the bowl of Melodeath. A couple of formulaic and largely identical albums later, it is alleged that their record label at the time sought a change in style. This was unacceptable for Richard & Roland Sjunnesson, who along with other disgruntled ex-Sonic Syndicate members, decided they would form their own band.

The Unguided therefore pick up where Sonic Syndicate left off after 2008’s ‘Love And Other Disasters’, and by that I mean it sounds pretty much identical. Roland Johansson’s clean vocals are solidly delivered albeit with little actual feeling, although it sounds heavenly when compared to the limply ranted shouts of Richard Sjunnesson (billed as ‘Harsh Vocals), whose unwelcome periodic utterances are very much from the petulant shouty teenager bracket. Absolutely everything he sings, regardless of content and context comes across as, “I’m a grown up now, and you can’t tell me what to do anymore Mum and Dad”. The guitars are a mixture of nice solo work and utterly generic riffing. The opening track ‘Inherit the Earth’ for example begins with THAT riff. The same one most melodic death or metalcore bands play. Drum fill, play unimaginative 8 note riff, drum fill, play same riff only upping the key on the last 4 notes, drum fill, same riff again, add nauseating twinkly keyboards, commence shouting something along the lines of how you are not going to take this anymore as drums build…aaaand reach for the skip button.

Whilst the majority of the album is painfully limp and predictable, there are a few positive points to take. Some of the lead guitar work is very good, with some nice solos and lead breaks dotted throughout. The clean vocals, whilst largely unremarkable, certainly aren’t in any way offensive, and they do compliment the music for the majority of the time, with the grating moments only generally arriving as his brother blunders forth with his next shout. The production is as shiny as you would expect; polished to the point that you can imagine little sparkles and bits of glitter every time the keyboard chimes in. Apart from that though…

Bearing in mind that the intention of the Sjunnesson brothers here was to continue making the music that they intended for Sonic Syndicate, I think you can safely say that they have achieved their aim and Sonic Syndicate fans will hungrily devour this album. It’s exactly the same really, perhaps a little more polished. To suggest that it is their best work to date is entirely possible, but to those who are not already Sonic Syndicate fans, it really is damning with faint praise. The press release that arrived with this album states that, “it’s hard to grasp what kind of releases and destinations the future have in store for a band with this initial striking power and potential”. I completely disagree. It’s very easy to envisage what the future holds, and it’s more of this. It’s what they did in the past, it’s what they do here and it’s what they will do in the future. They even started another band through their refusal to attempt to vary the sound; that should tell you something. What ‘Hell Frost’ actually is, is entry level kiddie metal. I can imagine a child in its high chair bouncing up and down on its bottom whilst banging its palms on the tray as they listen to a song about the perfectly broken dream. Maybe I’m just too old to appreciate this, but all I know for sure is that after listening to this over the last few weeks in preparing this review, Hell will freeze over before I give ‘Hell Frost’ another listen. Recommended only for Sonic Syndicate fans and for children under 16.

(4/10  Lee Kimber)