A new beginning for a band who’d only just begun, Unto Others is the equally intriguing (but much better) new name for Idle Hands – the time-warped love-children of a perfectly balanced goth rock/heavy metal union. The Portland, Oregon quartet’s 2019 debut, Mana, was one of the most immediate assertions of distinction in recent rock history. The class and character of the band – or more specifically, guitarist/vocalist and bandleader Gabriel Franco – was instantly evident, each earworm-laden hook digging into the listener with such force that by the third spin you could have sworn you’d known these songs for years.
It was always going to be a tough record to outdo, but with the increased visibility afforded by a Roadrunner deal and a new bandname (in the same cobwebbed serifs), Strength is indeed a strong introduction to the band’s singular modus operandi. At first the smoother, fuller sound feels like it may have removed a little too much grit from the sonic fingernails, even though the metal shapes being thrown here reach for slightly more modern and intense vibes than Mana’s predominating NWOBHM-level weight and pace. Unleashing the double bass drums and speedy downstrokes has made Strength less of a concerted time-capsule contrivance, with a more open and contemporary feel.
Apart from a few infectious exceptions (blood-shaking opener Heroin, stadium-sized sing-along Hell Is For Children and the ringing, propulsive melodies of When Will Gods Work Be Done [sic]), the hooks are often as memorable but less direct, requiring a few more spins to sink in. There’s perhaps less of an indefinably magical, bottled-lightning quality than was evident on Mana, and Franco has confirmed there was an element of ‘difficult second album syndrome’ with Strength. It is, however, absolutely no slouch, and it continues the band’s unique trajectory with increased maturity and depth.
Strength is released on Friday September 24 via Roadrunner Records