Review Summary: *Goth dancing intensifies*
Post punk and heavy metal have intermingled for decades now but up to recent years, it feels like the relationship hasn’t been explored to its fullest extents. Plenty of fusions successfully capture the dark, brooding nature of both genres but excursions that focus on their more upbeat aspects are much harder to come by. Idle Hands of Portland, Oregon successfully emulated that mopey danceability on their 2018 EP, Don’t Waste Your Time, and their first full-length album Mana examines the style even further to excellent effect.
The band dynamic best illustrates this concept in action. The guitars provide a perfect balance of styles as their simple leads and pulsating gallops are unified in an icy, hollow tone. Divergence can be seen in the drums and vocals as the former’s hard-hitting patterns stay securely in metal territory while the latter play like a disinterested yet distraught cross between Robert Smith and Nick Holmes circa late-90s Paradise Lost. I do find myself wishing that the bass lines were more prominent, especially due to how much they drive the rhythms in goth rock, but they are serviceable as is.
And with the songs all panning out to a three to four-minute average runtime, the album makes for a very breezy listen. The eleven tracks mostly consist of driving upbeat rockers, which can admittedly lead to some tracks running together. The sheer energy is more than enough to make up for it but there are plenty of catchy hooks as well. The bleak desert vibe on “Cosmic Overdrive” makes for an oddly effective hybrid of Judas Priest and The Jesus and Mary Chain while “Blade and the Will” is a lighthearted romp that works as well as it had on the band’s 2018 EP.
Fortunately, the full-length format also allows for more exploratory outliers. “Don’t Waste Your Time” (Oddly not an EP repeat) has a ballad-style somberness set to a Manowar-style march. There’s even room for more traditional gothic brooding as the unusually titled “Dragon, Why Do You Cry” pairs mid-tempo beats with the occasional spoken word segment while “It’ll Be Over Before You Know” and “A Single Solemn Rose” provide darker atmospherics.
Overall, Idle Hands’ first full-length album is a fantastically fresh fusion of post punk and traditional metal. While many of the tropes here were first posited on In Solitude’s already classic Sister, Mana presents them with more aggressive, tighter musicianship. It may be a shock to the system at first, but the songwriting keeps things consistently natural. If you’ve ever wished that Paradise Lost’s One Second had more double bass, consider this your new jam.
“Don’t Waste Your Time”
“Dragon, Why Do You Cry”
“It’ll Be Over Before You Know It”
“A Single Solemn Rose”
Originally published at http://psychicshorts.blogspot.com