Seamlessly fusing classic 80s-style metal and goth into glorious, fist-pumping anthems, Unto Others were already one of the most talked about bands on the underground scene two years ago when they were still known as Idle Hands. Courted by pretty much every metal record company you care to think of, the Portland, Oregon-based five piece have now become labelmates with Slipknot on the behemoth that is Roadrunner Records. Their recently released second album, Strength, is one of those rare beasts that immediately converts anyone in its path, no matter where they stand on the metal spectrum, and it looks set to catapult them far beyond cult status into a cause célèbre throughout the metal world.
So who better to ask for a rundown of the best, most inspiring gothic bands than Unto Others frontman, Gabriel Franco? As it turns out, being the music nerd that he is, Gabriel’s route through the goth scene, rather than rifling through the 80s era of arm-waving decadents, has been exactly the kind of elliptic, very personal and broad journey that tends to result in something wholly original-sounding being woven from its many influences. Here we present Gabriel's choices, along with the realisation that the gothic sensibility runs deeper than you knew….
1. CRADLE OF FILTH
“If there was any gothic band who got me into the dark side, it was Cradle Of Filth. I loved that band as a teenager, but even them I would watch them live and think, well, I’m not going to dress like that. They rarely go to a clean guitar, and there’s none of the groove you get in what you’d normally call goth music, but the sensibility is clearly there in the whole aesthetic and the lyrics.”
“I didn't hear Beastmilk’s Climax album for years after it came out in 2013. The track that really caught my attention was actually a Grave Pleasures track, Joy Through Death that came out on the Motherblood LP . I saw the music video for that randomly pop up on YouTube, and I thought, ‘Oh this is amazing’ and I discovered they used to be that Beastmilk band I’d heard about, so I listened to their record, and I fucking loved it.
“The song on the record that got me into it the most was The Wind Blows Through Their Skulls, and I quickly realised that the vocalist has this lyrical fixation on nuclear war, love and death. Everything is ‘joy through death’, or ‘atomic lover’, Grave Pleasures had that track called Be My Hiroshima. That's what really pulled out the metalhead in me to listen to this kind of music, that he's talking about these extreme topics to really emphasise the over-dramaticism off his lyrics, the ‘our skulls will be together in the grave kind’ of thing.”
“To me, Candlemass’s Nightfall album has massive gothic sensibilities in it, while remaining extremely doom metal at the same time. There’s that gloomy cover with the angels on it taking the old man into the afterlife, the intro’s called Gothic Stone and it has that track Black Candles and the production has an echo on like it’s recorded in a a cathedral. Messiah Marcolin’s vocals are pretty much untouchable on that record, and that song, Samarithan, still to this day is one of the most epic heavy metal songs ever written.”
4. IN SOLITUDE
“I got obsessed with In Solitude because of their Sister album, which is the really gothic one. That album just blew me off my feet. It was so dark, and almost desperate, or ‘bleak’ would be the best word. I really love Songs like A Buried Sun and Horses In The Ground - I always focus on the singer’s lyrical tics, and the words people use over and over, and there are lots of things about hands and horses in their lyrics, which are very gothic kind of content. You’ll find those kind of tics in my lyrics to. Someone pointed out how many songs had the word time in it. But that’s something you don’t realise until later.
“I know they used to be a more traditional heavy metal band, but it wasn’t cosplay like it was with so many other bands – they just were real about it, and when I watched them, it felt real. There was something really mysterious about them too. I’m still bummed they broke up, no one saw it coming.”
“Misfits are a big one for me, they've had a huge impact on everything I've done musically. I guess they were a very American band, there’s that vibe like you're going to a horror movie in the 50s, but it's like, they came from space! Of course you can peg that to Danzig 100%. I mean, he put out the album, Danzig Sings Elvis. He was a child of the era, in the New Jersey/New York area, and he’s probably obsessed with that shit, and loves those old crooners. But he did his own thing, and he put it into punk rock and helped develop punk rock with that. When Misfits lost Danzig, They became very American in a very different way, in the sense that they became so over commercialised, and in my opinion, watered down, but that's a story for a different day.”
6. JOHNNY CASH
“In his later days it was more obvious, but even in Johnny Cash's early days, listen to what he sings about. It’s very down and out, and hard on your luck, but the way he sings, and his lyrical content, his vocal inflections. And he was The Man In Black. You listen to the song, about why he dresses in black. He sings, I dress in black for those who are basically getting screwed in the world, for all the people who are dead, for all the people who have bad trips and so on. I'm dressing in black to remind you that there are bad things going on in the world and that it's not all cherries and sunshine. And to me that's an extremely gothic message. He's one of those non goth acts that totally has a gothic sensibility. And of course there’s the video where he’s just staring death in the face. It's a damn shame he's gone, I would have loved to have seen him live.”
7. THE SISTERS OF MERCY
“I’ve been influenced by The Sisters Of Mercy 100%. When I heard first heard the album First And Last And Always, I didn’t know that Goth rock was even a thing at the time. I put it on and thought, this is sick, I’ve never heard anyone sing like that before, and it was so over-dramatic. Weirdly, it’s the same reason I got into The Smiths. At first. I was like, really dude? Just chill the fuck out. But because of the extremeness of how sad he was, it felt like a teenager complaining. But that drew me to him. I think he just managed to pull it off while keeping a badass attitude too.
“I actually almost like the incarnations of the band more than the early version. Like a lot of people, I thought the Vision Thing album sucked the first time I listened to it, but then I was like, you know what? Doctor Jeep isn’t such a bad song! It was almost like faux rock, like rock that comes on in a cheap movie or a video game. And then the lyrics always won me over. I thought they were so wacky. On the song Ribbons, he keeps saying, ‘Incoming!’ at the end of the song, and then it ends, and you’re like, OK, he’s said it about 30 times. And then the song completely ends, there’s two second of silence, and then ‘INCOMING!’. He’s just fucking with you at that point, and I really like shit like that.“
“I would Rammstein another band with gothic vibes, is. I’ve always loved that them, they’re just super-heavy. They do a really good job of it, of just making you want to move, but always kept the emotion in it. On their album Rosenrot, the title track is pretty goth. It has a classic goth bassline, and the vocals are really what I’m talking about when I say a gothic aspect. He’s got such a deep voice, it kind of works with that. And also, they sing about love and loss and weird shit: bondage and sex, pain, torture shit. It’s got a very BDSM vibe to it. I think so many genres draw from goth, now that we’re talking about it. It really is a universal thing. Almost any artist can pick from it – except Rush, hahah!”
“I’m a huge fan of Tribulation, and when we got to open up for them, I was kind of shitting my pants. It’s weird that I’m kind of peers with him now. I respect them 100%. To me Tribulation are up here, and I’m down there, and I probably will stay that way forever.
“The album that drew me in first was the 2015 one, The Children Of The Night and they had one song Strange Gateways Beckon, which has a sick high hat at the end and this amazing riff, just a super cool thrash riff at the end of the song, and I was like that fucking rules. They still kick ass, it’s just the whole package with them, and I’m pretty sure my guitarist Sebastian has copped some moves from Jonathan Hultén after that tour we did with them Uada and Gaahls Wyrd. It’s going to be really interesting what they do next now that Jonathan has left the band, because he wrote a lot of the songs, so I don’t know what to expect at all.”
10. OZZY OSBOURNE
“Bark At The Moon and Diary Of A Madman are kind of goth, just because of that werewolf vibe. I’m a huge fan of Ozzy Osbourne's solo stuff. He has a really gothic voice, and of course the Black Sabbath album cover and the song itself really have that haunted feeling and a sense of the unknown. ‘What is this that stands before me?’, you know? Goth and metal go hand in hand. They’re totally intertwined, it’s the only way this band works for sure. While we’re talking about Black Sabbath, I was actually bored one day and I made a techno version of it. I made it as ridiculous as I possibly could. I might put it out soon on Bandcamp soon, just to piss some people off.”
Unto Others' latest album, Strength is out now via Roadrunner Records