Sophomore releases are a turning point in a band’s career as it’s perceived by many a “make it or break it” step. When a band “makes it” it’s magic, however, when it doesn’t the results can be more more than devastating; Heavy Metal history is full of such examples. So, why am I prefacing this review in such a way? Well, IDLE HANDS got its debut EP “Don’t Waste Your Time” about a year ago, and now they made their way to our record players with their sophomore release, their first full-length album simply called “Mana”. As you understand, the bets are on.
IDLE HANDS were formed by SPELLCASTER bassist Gabe Franco, as well as other members of the now split-up band from Oregon, and to our surprise things took a new turn: goth rock would be the last thing someone would expect to hear from a bunch of folks that became known through their heavy/power metal ventures. The band indulges into goth rock as it was introduced to the masses by SISTERS OF MERCY and FIELDS OF THE NEPHILIM back in the ‘80s, and that was revisited more recently by bands like IN SOLITUDE. That said, it was their metal background that made them appeal to “strictly” metal audiences, that also earned them a slot at Keep It True Festival earlier this year [April, 2019]. Funny how times – and people – change, isn’t it?
The album kicks things off with “Nightfall”, a straight-beat, uptempo song that sets the tone for the rest of the album. There’s not much to describe in the music as the band stays “safe” within the well-defined boundaries set by the pioneers of the genre. Melodic guitars, acoustic passages, mid-range and baritone vocals – Peter Steele influences are quite evident –, and basslines that add an overall beefiness to the sound, are the key traits of a rather melancholy-evoking songwriting, just like in their 2018 EP. It’d be unfair not to mention the metal influences that tighten the band’s sound and that make it appeal to metal audiences as I mentioned earlier. Double kick-drum action, expressive guitar solos that deviate from the goth rock norm, and an anthemic – and at times even AOR-like – aura that’s apparent throughout the album, brings some light to the darkness the album emits, for me were more than enough to keep me engaged from the beginning ‘till the end.
Almost every song in “Mana” comes with hooks that stick to your brain, as the band managed to find the sweet spot between the blissful popiness of goth sound and the dark aggressiveness of a well done metal album. This approach reminds me a lot the GHOST way of doing things. Songs that stood out for me during the first spin were “Nightfall”, “Jackie”, “Don’t Waste Your Time”, “Dragon Why Do You Cry”, just to name a few. My favourite pick would be “Give Me To The Night”, a song that could easily find its way in albums like ENFORCER’s “Zenith”.
Overall, it’s an album that emits a sweet sorrow/melancholic feeling that brings back memories of another age. For me, playing the album for the first time felt like a time travel in the past, around the time I was making my first discoveries in the rock and metal universe and was trying to digest crazy amounts of music . Even though it’s not groundbreaking stuff, it’s music done well and you’ll surely find reasons to resonate with it. Give Me To The Night!