The metal scene is one that moves in cycles, with sub-genres becoming the flavour of the month before the hot new thing moves in to take over the masses for a short time. Goth rock, however, always seems to stay the course. There’s something about the sounds, the feelings, the time period it evokes, and for those reasons the style never seems to go out of fashion. From bands such as Sisters of Mercy, to The Cure to Fields of the Nephilim in the 80s right up to HIM in the early 00s or Tribulation, In Solitude or Grave Pleasures now - the gothic scene is one that constantly attracts musicians and fans alike and to hear young and new bands embracing the classic sound is a pleasure that knows no bounds.
For Idle Hands, those older days are the inspiration for one of the most impressive debuts of the year. Mana is only their first record but they already seem so assured and confident that it’s hard to believe the band have been together for only the best part of two years. Members have been involved with plenty of other projects, however, which helps Idle Hands with their song crafting skills and swaggering presence. Fronted by Gabriel Franco, the band have a voice that is timeless and it’s this voice that brings deadly melodies to the fore and creates an atmosphere that speaks of horror, lost love and death... so much death.
Mana plays in an extremely cinematic way with songs that create a distinct narrative from beginning to end. It reads like a thrilling journey of finding love to losing hope and the tribulations that must be handled along with those exciting - and depressing - exploits of youth. The speed of which the emotion hits is a force to be reckoned with from the very outset with “Nightfall” pushing forward as soon as play is hit and the drama doesn’t let up until the closing notes of “Mana” fade away.
“Jackie” is a beautifully doomed love song that is not as optimistic as its upbeat progression suggests - Idle Hands do much to colour their songs with darkness yet the pace is often foot-stompingly bouyant and “Cosmic Overdrive” pushes those ideas ever further into the otherworldly expanse of pitch black darkness. Lyrically the band delve quite deep into the esoteric while maintaining a glistening sheen of exuberance - it’s quite the clever tactic and one that is upheld throughout the spritely forty minute run time. Franco’s voice is a baritone wonder and while many comparisons to Sisters of Mercy’s Andrew Eldritch can be found, there’s also a hint of AFI’s Davey Havok hidden in there along with the gothic vibrations from that band’s 2003 album Sing the Sorrow (the outro of “Don’t Waste Your Time into the initial moments of “Give Me To The Night” is classic AFI).
“Give Me To The Night” itself is a central highlight and a song you’ll want to listen to over and over again. It’s short and punchy and comes in at just under three minutes (the perfect pop song length) and is so deliciously catchy that it should come with a warning. The constant ramping up of the chorus and the sudden shift into a higher register when that chorus comes back in on its second run after a rambunctious guitar solo is so wonderfully slick that you wonder whether Idle Hands have made a deal with the Devil themselves.
It's a testament to how clever Idle Hands are with their lyrics and instrumental abilities because no other band could pull off a song called “Dragon, Why Do You Cry?" and have it seem less silly than the title suggests - you completely believe in this story and the emphasis that the band put on even the most bizarre of subject matters is utterly reasonable...and that’s what gives Mana it’s silky sheen and totally persuasive narrative - Idle Hands are a band who believe absolutely in what they are doing and they want to take you along for the ride.
8.5 / 10
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