The debut EP from Idle Hands, Don’t Waste Your Time, was a near-perfect combination of goth and heavy metal that was hugely exciting, being the best example of this style of metal since the brilliance of Sister by In Solitude back in 2013. As such, expectations were high for the full-length. Now that it’s here, how does Mana stand up to those hopes?
Mana does a great job of merging the catchiness of the best goth-rock with the muscular power of heavy metal. Draconian Times-era era Paradise Lost is obviously a huge inspiration, with Mana packing in a comparable level of anthemic, sing-along choruses and powerful riffs as that mighty album does, and there’s more than a hint of Nick Holmes to the vocals of frontman Gabriel Franco. But Idle Hands are far from a tribute act – whilst they recall those glories of old, they also have enough of their own identity and a real sense of purpose to stand out as something distinct.
The best aspects of Mana are easy to pick out. A re-recorded version of ‘Blade And The Will’, which previously appeared on Don’t Waste Your Time, demonstrates Idle Hands’ ability to write huge, cathartic choruses that are as suited for underground clubs as they are stadium-sized shows. Second track ‘Jackie’ is a gloriously miserable song of lost love, and the music on ‘Double Negative’ is a fine example of the anxious energy that runs through the album. The quality over the album is, on the whole, high, and at 40 minutes Mana never risks over-staying its welcome.
Even so, there are flaws with the record. The production gives everything a bright sheen that robs the songs of some of their raw energy – everything sounds absolutely huge, which is great for when the choruses hit, but also robs Mana of any sense of subtlety or contrast. Likewise, some of the lyrics can be a bit on-the-nose (such as the couplet “I don’t want to die/But I’m going to try” on ‘Double Negative’), if not straying outright into the realm of self-parody (such as the entirety of ‘Dragon, Why Do You Cry’).
Still, none of this is enough to stop Mana being a strong album. As an album, it may not reach the lofty heights it is reaching for; but some of the individual songs on here are brilliant. Even if you don’t end up still listening to the whole of Mana in six month’s time, odds are that you’ll put at least a few of these songs onto a playlist or mixtape, and you’ll find yourself helplessly singing along whenever they come on.
Mana is May 10th on Eisenwald. Purchase here.
Words: Stuart Wain