Unto Others – Strength (Roadrunner Records)

Portland, Oregon has always been a breeding ground for edgy guitar heroes breaking boundaries.

Think back to the 80s bombast of Black N Blue.

Or the funk rock flavours served up by the peerless Dan Reed.

Kiss’s Tommy Thayer is a Portland native.

It Prevails peddled a heady mix of emo-tinged, post-hardcore punk.

And Red Fang’s stoner metal is a sonic joy to behold.

But Unto Others have just raised the bar, blown the opposition out of the water and dropped the metal record of the year.

The people of Portland have new heroes to hang their hats on.

New from old, in fact, as Unto Others is the latest incarnation of Idle Hands.

But what’s in a name?

What’s in the songbook is all that matters and Strength does what it says on the tin.

This is a powerful, passionate and occasionally punishing statement of intent.

Broody basslines feed off a goth rock foundation as NWOBHM-styled riffs meet hard rock hooks head on.

It’s a melting pot of all things metal.

A triumph of genre-fluid musicianship 10 months in the making.

And an often tense window on the world of a band in transition.

The Devil makes work for Idle Hands

It’s almost a year to the day since Idle Hands dropped the name synonymous with dextrous debut Mana.

A trademark issue forced a hasty name change.

And Unto Others was born.

Twelve months down the line and it almost seems fitting that Idle Hands belongs in the past.

Strength is the sound of resurrection.

It references a band rising phoenix-like from the flames.

And it poses the obvious question: where next?

You see Unto Others have packed so much into their Roadrunner Records debut it’s difficult to predict this bold band’s future path.

Full-throttle opener Heroin points towards bludgeoning post-thrash.

But Downtown’s poppy riff and Gabriel Franco’s retro-fuelled vocal has more in common with The Cure than any Bay Area big guns.

As an album Strength is a curious, yet compelling, mash-up. But it’s all metal. Kind of.

The goth rock vibe runs right through When Will Gods Work Be Done.

Destiny leans on a dark intro culled straight from a Terminator soundtrack.

And there’s even a hint of Hysteria-era Def Leppard deep within the set-closing title track.

There’s nothing predictable about Strength’s kaleidoscopic sounds.

When it comes to making music, Unto Others are a law unto themselves.

High Rizk strategy

Franco admitted Strength was a slow burner.

And Unto Others’ main man never expected to devote so many months to a modern metal masterwork.

But it was worth the effort. And then some.

Produced and mixed by Arthur Rizk (Code Orange, Power Trip) it’s an album that evokes memories of trad metal’s early 80s heyday.

Turns out the man twiddling the knobs had an absolute blinder.

Sweeping strokes of goth rock mastery will have Sisters Of Mercy devotees crying tears of joy through their jet black mascara.

But fans of Metallica’s Black album and Pat Benatar’s enduring pop rock balladry (check out a beautiful cover of Hell Is For Children) will be just as enamoured with a carefully curated set.

An underlying heaviness is this record’s beating heart.

And Unto Others can comfortably stand toe-to-toe with metal’s hardest hitters.

But Strength is at its strongest when Franco and co. rip up the rule book and reinvent the wheel.

Others might try. But Unto Others have succeeded in making the metal record of 2021.