By Sebastian Mackay
I grew up with Sonic Syndicate in my formative (read: angsty) years. Everything from the models in the Jack of Diamonds music video to the all too familiar and painful lyrics of Denied. If there was one thing every Sonic fan had in common it was that their music would destroy your bedroom while someone you loved to hate was destroying your heart.
Then it got weird.
Clean vocalist Roland Johansson quit the band in a Shayley Bourget kind of way (he left because he hated touring but then started a touring band), and was replaced by Nathan J. Biggs, then came We Rule The Night. And that was... well, that was about as different as you'd expect. After 'We Rule The Night' Richard Sjunnesson followed Roland out of the band and so did his brother, Roger, (they later all formed The Unguided).
But let's back track for a moment.
We Rule The Night was something else. Compared to previous Sonic it was upbeat, almost happy, and while us purists were standing around scratching our heads ("is this Sonic?", "who the hell is this guy?", "it's good but it's not Sonic") Sonic Syndicate vanished. One day they were there and the next, quite literally, they were gone.
"We didn't know if it was the end of the end of the band or if it was a break." The intriguingly soft voice and glorious (yes, glorious) Swedish accent belongs to Robin Sjunnesson, Sonic's guitarist and the last of the brothers to be in the band. "We disappeared for so long without ever saying why and we didn't know ourselves."
Robin still doesn't know what happened but, going by the way he tells it, the story going into this album simply meant that the time was once again right. He's nonchalant and doesn't talk much.
"Where I live it gets quite dark, lonely and boring when there's no one else around. Then I moved to Sweden's west coast and did some writing. It's hard because we all live in different cities. I went to Finland where Nathan lives nowadays and he has a summer cabin there and we wrote songs and lyrics for two weeks and at that point we could see the shape the album was taking."
It's almost the story of bringing the band back together. Where ever they had roamed the self titled album was about to bring them back. Robin stresses that this album is as much, if not more, for the fans than it is for them.
Four years is a long time to wait.
And so it begs the question of whether people would ever even care that Sonic had a come back. Little known to us there was a storm brewing in Europe and Sonic were at the middle of it.
"Given what's happened over the last couple of years we knew there would be more eyes on us now. Of course, there are always haters who want usto fail but even they've been excited by it and are waiting to see what happens." We're all waiting, Robin, fans and haters alike. "In a way we knew that it would be a big release and there would be a lot of tension around it, at least here in Europe."
The tension dogged them. Even during the writing and recording. Sonic disappeared only to come back to what would be one of the most high profile releases of their career.
There was one major difference that would end up playing right into Robin's hands: the line-up changes.
"There were no creative borders [and] it made it easier. Nowadays I'm the only guitarist in the band so there was a nothing like ‘that can't be too hard to play live' because it was only me playing. That's a new freedom and I really enjoy it."
A freedom that led to inspiration and experimentation.
"There aren't any lines that Nathan won't cross in his song writing. The song See What I See is about everything he's been seeing the past couple of years and what the band have been seeing. There's no line. He's completely open and honest."
Robin gets a little ranty but you could discuss the ins and outs of Nathan's lyrics all day - especially so on the new album - there is one line that he says with a little venom and seems a touch proud of.
"We don't write about fucking computer games and dragons and give people an escape from the world. The band is about facing the reality and we're trying to keep it down to Earth, not fantasy."
Which is what's so cutting about Sonic's lyrics and, whether they were masked in the metaphors of Eden Fireor the imagery of Only Inhuman, the band have always been about tackling the disastrous side of life (as I write this Nathan's singing, "how could you be the air beneath my wings and still the thought that drowns my dreams?" lyrics to So Addicted from the new album).
Sonic Syndicate are bearing the flagstaff and they've kicked in the doors of melodic metal with an album that's heavy, aggressive, dark.
"This is us," reads the press release, "this is Sonic Syndicate in all its beauty and destruction."