The Dark Horse Approaches: Unto Others - Strength Review

The Portland outfit go from Idle Hands to throwing hands in their sophomore release.

unto others
Photograph by Peter Beste

Words by Jake Sanders (@themetalscholar):


It leaves nothing to the imagination for this critic to describe the group Unto Others as the bearers of the mantle left by In Solitude and Type O Negative, for multiple reasons. Firstly, it imagines a world where the group formerly known as Idle Hands doesn't possess a wholly original lineup of tricks that are obnoxiously impressive from each song to the next. Secondly, it paints them into a corner of doom rockers who have previously tried to obtain this formula and mold it to their own interests, which is not the case, as is illustrated by their first album. Most importantly, however — this group's soulful influence falls so much further from the tree than a simple carbon copy of their sludgy and glacial predecessors.


Unto Others rides in on a powerful steed when it comes to the melodic battle. Songs are pock-marked by a well-oiled chorus pedal that dreams of rainy days and the chill of autumn. Rather than their metal counterparts, they take to galloping on the kit with the improvisation of a group who understands variety is the spice of life. Perhaps uncharacteristically, they sway warmly into the arms of catchy verses with metered rhyme that fits like a glove, a sign of disciplined songwriters with patience and brevity.


The Portland quartet, it would seem, have chosen to abandon both their previous moniker, as well as the very idea of remaining idle during quarantine. Strength, a twelve track opus, charts the latitudes of where a group can go when they have access to the resources of AAA labels with limitless talent, fully prepared to make waves in a scene lacking diversity in the mainstream.

In production alone, it's worth noting this album is a tome of how to climb into the same lineup as Metallica's legendary Black Album (1991). The polish, the crystal clarity, and the isolated instrumentation that came from having Arthur Rizk behind the console on this foray make it all shine.


Whereas Mana (2019) hit equally as hard, its punch was contained all within the songwriting quality itself. Standing on its own, the album featured a mid-to-high bias of sound that at times threatens to snuff out the existence of the lower register, a disservice to the quality bass provided by Brandon Hill. That has been rectified this time around as a full spectrum of sound has made its appearance from the grinding riff that shakes nervously at nineteen seconds into Heroin.


The most appealing new aspect of this album is unquestionably its aggression. Much of the cynical, no-nonsense dogma that sings with a righteous voice of innocence on Mana has thoroughly evaporated, leaving a furious and festering sound in its absence. Tracks like When Will God's Work Be Done, Heroin, and No Children Laughing Now, all prime examples of this new thrashing and flashy stylistic metamorphosis are the elements that comprise this second album, a feature that proves to be far more effective than any mere gimmick. Unto Others has a knack for pumping up a crowd with barks, chanted choruses, and crooning ballads that are both grim and glorious. They're the kind of over-the-top, howling, countdown-laden, mythical creature driven imagery that sells a group.


Strength, though, isn't trying to sell anyone on anything they've left behind.


Cymbals are out in force, featuring technicality and a newfound love for pedals that have made their way into the limelight. Electronic traits that were a distant relative to the equation have made their way forward, and are embedded cleverly into ambient passages that sing with birdsong. They create an echoing back alley where the destitute and downtrodden slink through the sludge and slime of the underbelly of a city while crafting hoofbeats from toms that stick around just long enough to hear the cadence they've struck.


At times, it's easy to see this is a hungry band trying to show off its most visceral muscles in an arena already jam-packed with big names, all synonymous with timeless bangers and a pure legacy of heavy metal loyalty.


That's neither the point, nor the most satisfying answers that Strength brings to the table.


Somewhere between Type O Negative, Iron Maiden, and Misfits, it's clear that the influences mingle more than most. This bastard child has ties to both October Rust (1996), as well as Legacy of Brutality (1985), and has no qualms about showing off that it's well-cultured.


Dueling guitars take turns dancing their own pace in unison while the vocals phase gently into oblivion between measures. It's a wonderful tool used to offset some of the harsher, more abrupt stops that this album has a penchant for finding. Whether it's clever place to amp a crowd up before a climax or merely a well-paced direction that leaves listeners with easy bookmarks for their favorites, the tricks come fast, and often, as this album somehow melts from one track to the next, like an old friend visiting for the holidays.


Make no mistake — Strength is the complete package. It's an easy-to-access, developmentally augmented mutant of catchy as hell lyrics, well-timed passages that make for one dynamic live show, and a memorable listening experience that is damn near doomed to drag listeners into a world of problems, including ‘never finding a group that is similar enough to Unto Others’. It's harmonic, even compared to the efforts of two years ago. Every song contains a hit in its own right, a haunting melody, a staccato lick reverberating in a familiar choral tone, a cityscape of folklore touting misery, and loss in the depths of a concrete jungle.


With this album, Unto Others takes a bold and dangerous step towards stadiums everywhere. They're showing off for the camera, they're showing they're worth every penny spent, and they're showing that in less than four years, they became a battering ram of atmosphere and attitude that feels sincere and seductive to a scene that hasn't had any lions fighting for the spotlight in a while. It's monumental, bound to make year-end lists, and deserves to be heard on the finest headphones and speakers the world has to offer. As the adage goes — ‘Don't look a gift horse in the mouth’. We should all be so lucky to have Unto Others in our corner. This album isn't over-produced. It's coming into its own as a chart-topper and award show sweeper. This is big-time. They're carrying the flag into battle on the back of a magnificent stallion, and its name is Strength.

Strength gallops in Friday, September 24th, courtesy of Roadrunner Records! Get your copy HERE and hear it before this gem starts flying off shelves!

unto others
Cover Art by Adam Burke