Unto Others – Strength (Roadrunner)Monday, 20th September 2021
After justly storming the metal world with their debut EP and full-length Mana, the then-named Idle Hands were renamed as Unto Others as well as picked up by Roadrunner Records. Strength is the much-anticipated follow-up to Mana, and while it carries much of the same spirit as that offering that made the act such an impressive force, it also sees the band diversifying themselves and putting some genuine polish on some parts to allow and even brighter light to shine forth.
The question always happens with an act like this, having such a unique and compelling sound from the get-go – in this case combining elements such as traditional heavy metal, gothic ambience, and a bucket of other ‘80s influences – of how to make something new and refreshing when the formula already works so well and hits a unique mark. Those who enjoyed Mana will find plenty to enjoy with Strength in that regard, as the winning formula has not been jettisoned but instead strengthened and diversified. Opening track “Heroin” hits some familiar notes in its tone, but also immediately brings forward some new elements as well. Certainly more aggressive (and plenty headbang-friendly) in the riffs, it’s a driving and invigorating first taste and it also showcases Gabriel Franco’s growth as a vocalist. The gloomy croons still take centerstage, but just like with the riffs, there’s a greater sense of aggression in them sometimes, which hits perfectly for the track. Follow-up “Downtown” feels more familiar to those who have championed the band in the past, with gorgeous flowing guitar melodies and a hooky chorus that will quickly imbed itself into your cranium and sit there for a solid week (or until another track later does the same thing and overwrites it).
But diversity does reign, as cuts swing towards the more aggressive and heavy, gloomy and melancholic, or somewhere in between. “When Will God’s Work Be Done” was an effective single to showcase the more pronounced heaviness to the act (when they choose to act on it), all the while still embracing that ‘80s gothic beauty. The closing title track hits some new wave notes alongside the frequent dreariness and a rousing chorus that impressively hits it alongside some punchy riffs and energy. Short but sweet “Why” has a gentle, solemn side to it while still being a rather upbeat and near-bouncy (for Unto Others material, that is). The softest cut is that of “Little Bird,” which has a whimsical tone to it that feels like a fresh side to the band and makes it one of the more instantly memorable cuts on the album. Add in an excellent cover of Pat Benetar’s “Hell is for Children,” which spins it into pure, gothic-oozing Unto Others territory and you can start to get a feel for the sheer wealth to discover as you listen along.
Strength takes the best parts of Unto Others’ sound and augments it into new directions that the band employs with ease. A sound that’s just as wildly addictive, fun, and unique as anything that they’ve previously released, Unto Others should hopefully continue to ride on their own well-deserved buzz as they continue to move up the ranks. Darkly spun heavy metal that somehow makes the gloom and dreariness of it into a catchy thrill-ride, Strength should easily sit alongside some of 2021’s best efforts.