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 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” out about a year ago, and now they’re back with their sophomore and first full-length release, “Mana”. The bets are on.
IDLE HANDS was 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 different turn: goth rock would be the last thing someone would expect from a bunch of folks that became known for 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 recently by bands like IN SOLITUDE. That said, it was their metal background that made them appeal to “strictly” metal audiences, and 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’s very representative of the rest of the album. Overall, the band stays “safe” within the well-defined boundaries of the genre. Melodic guitars, acoustic passages, mid-range and baritone vocals – influences by Peter Steele 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 made the album appeal to metal audiences as I mentioned earlier: double kick-drum action, expressive guitar solos that deviate from the goth norm, and an anthemic – and at times even AOR-like – aura, brings some light to the darkness this album emits. For me these were more than enough to keep me engaged from start the finish.
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-crafted metal album. This reminds me a lot the way GHOST do things. Songs that stood out 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 to albums like ENFORCER’s “Zenith”.
Overall, “Mana” is 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 back when 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!