Effectively serving as the second Idle Hands album under a new name, it only makes sense for Unto Others’ Strength (Roadrunner Records) to continue the mix of Classic Metal and Gothic Rock last seen with 2019’s Mana. However, debuting with a sound balancing two distinct styles like this inevitably raises the possibility of a tug o’ war taking place on subsequent offerings. In this scenario, it begs the question whether the band will prioritize their Metal side or their Gothic side. But as they say in that one Taco Bell commercial: “Why not both?”
Right off the bat, Strength starts off on a considerably heavier note than Mana. The opening ‘Heroin’ is the band’s most aggressive song to date, putting forth intense drumming, biting guitar chugs, and a particularly urgent vocal performance. Subsequent songs don’t quite hit the same levels of intensity, but that energy lingers throughout. The drums keep that extra oomph, the rhythm guitar tone has more weight than it did before, and there’s always an underlying snarl even during the album’s most melodic tracks. The band also tempts accusations of Flanderization with the punctuating grunts seemingly getting played up more this time around.
But with that said, the Goth Rock influences may still play a larger part in shaping the material. The lead guitar continues to draw almost exclusively from the Post Punk template, providing more lush textures than shredding solos, and the bass serves as the rhythmic foundation more often than the guitars. The vocals also deliver the borderline cartoonishly mopey lyrics in that lovably despondent baritone and there’s even the occasional synth to round things out.
The songwriting also proves to be something of a mixed bag, offering a more streamlined experience in terms of pacing but with individual hooks taking a little more time to properly digest. The album’s first four songs make for the most fun listening as ‘Downtown’ and ‘When Will Gods Work Be Done’ are bouncy, danceable numbers and ‘No Children Laughing Now’ is endearingly melancholic. I admit the middle’s focus on more mid-tempo tracks threatens to halt the momentum but ultimately stays uniform. The take on Pat Benatar’s ‘Hell Is For Children’ feels pretty in character and I enjoy the penultimate buildup on ‘Instinct.’
As much as I may prefer Mana by a hair, Strength is a masterful transition from Idle Hands to Unto Others. The album does a splendid job of pushing the band’s Gothic/Heavy Metal fusion forward on both fronts, putting in a mix of extra muscle and atmosphere. The songwriting also offers a mix of catchy anthems and more contemplative material with room to be a grower overall. The mood may be a little extra at times, but Unto Others remains one of the most interesting bands in the modern scene. A fitting soundtrack for those times when you can’t tell if you want to headbang or rhythmically step in time South Park-style.
Buy the album here: https://www.untoothers.us/
8 / 10