Review by Andy Hawes for MPM
One of the best things about reviewing music for Metal Planet is that, every so often, the boss drops a curveball and hands me something to review that throws me out of my comfort zone and introduces me to a band or artist or even a sub-genre of Rock that I’ve never given the time of day to and that subsequently blows my mind and that has happened again with the superb new album Strength by Unto Others.
Strength is Unto Others’ debut album for Roadrunner Records and follows on from their 2019 album, Mana. It was recorded over a 10 month period from June 2020 and April 2021. The promotional material cites Type O Negative, Danzig, The Cure, Joy Division and Iron Maiden as reference points.
This was a most intriguing proposition and I didn’t have any clue of what I was going to get when I pressed ‘play’. But, oh boy was I glad that I did!
This is a really excellent album! It has what is to me a quite unique sound, and does combine influences from all the bands mentioned above, although to my ears there are also hints of Sisters of Mercy in the driving uptempo rhythms and some of the vocals, of latter day Depeche Mode in some of the vocal stylings and even of 1980s Thin Lizzy in a couple of harmony guitar solos. It’s a fierce and contradictory melting pot of influences but one that produces a fabulously rich cocktail!
The album kicks off with a track entitled ‘Heroin’. You know instantly with a title like this that you’re not in for a happy, comfortable ride, but what is absolutely certain is that it’s a colossal statement of intent. Opening with buzzing industrial electronica, it bursts into life with a massively heavy chugging Thrash-Metal inspired riff, before vocalist/guitarist Gabriel Franco’s voice instantly transports you into full-on Goth territory, including some savage Metal screams.
The track is hugely dynamic and massively heavy: it assaults the senses without mercy, pummelling you with relentless power before a shot and melodic Iron Maiden-esque harmony guitar solo which then leads into the sort of frantic whammy-bar abuse that graced most of Slayer’s 1980s Thrash Metal output. It is 3 minutes and 41 seconds of pure aural savagery that is both terrifying and glorious at the same time!
Next up is the quite brilliant ‘Downtown’, which starts off all gentle guitar picking – rather like early The Cure – before the heavier guitar power chords kick in.
This is a much more melodic track, with clean and distorted guitars blending effortlessly with superb harmony vocals. It’s a brilliant contrast to the opening track and is incredibly infectious, even down to the Iron Maiden styled guitar harmonies.
The third track, the excellent’ When Will Gods Work Be Done’ has a more Goth Rock vibe, with hints of Sisters of Mercy in the vocals and rhythm guitars. It’s another ferocious anthem with plenty of power, space and dynamic in the production and with plenty of high energy lead guitar.
These three tracks set the album up perfectly as they summarise exactly what Unto Others are about: a glorious and up-tempo romp through a fabulous mixture of Classic and Goth Rock; powerful, melodic and hugely entertaining.
Unto Others have the knack of combining heavy power chord guitars with the sort of clean chorused guitar sounds heard on a lot of early The Cure albums. This is a trademark element of several songs on this album and they have nailed it completely.
It’s a bit of a different sound and it works really well. This is very clear on the brilliant ‘No Children Laughing Now’ and the fabulously up-tempo ‘Destiny’ (which also has a killer guitar solo and some of the best vocals on the album!) and the quite brilliant ‘Why’ amongst others.
They also have the knack of using dynamics very effectively. All members of the band contribute to this and the production supports it beautifully.
Nothing is overdone. Many of the sounds are quite retro – I’ve already talked about the influence of The Cure on the sound, but there are also lots of 1980s styled heavily reverb-drenched stadium rock drums, huge classic rock sounding rhythm guitars and 1980s styled guitar breaks. Yet somehow, despite these old-school sounds, the music sounds anything but dated.
You know you’re onto a good thing when after a few listens you realise that there really isn’t a weak track on the entire album. This is definitely the case here! As such picking out standout tracks is difficult. However, one that really does need mentioning is the absolutely stunning cover of Pat Benatar’s 1980 classic ‘Hell Is For Children’.
This was one of the first Rock songs to very blatantly deal with the difficult subject of child abuse and Unto Others deliver a cover that both pays homage to the classic original and also fits perfectly within their sound and style throughout the album. In fact, Unto Others’ sound really suits the dark subject matter of the lyric and Gabriel Franco nails the vocal completely. Mightily impressive!
Overall, it has to said that this really is an absolutely cracking album! It may have a strange and almost contradictory mixture of influences and sounds, but that’s the charm of it. It effortlessly combines all of those into a powerful, hard rocking and melodic combination of Classic Rock and Goth Rock.
There’s bags of melody all over the place and up-tempo tracks dominate, maintaining a driving and high energy feel throughout. As such, it comes very, very highly recommended to rock fans of all persuasions. Give it a whirl: you’ll love it!
Stream “No Children Laughing Now” and Pre-Order ‘Strength’ now: https://untoothers.lnk.to/strength