Mana is the first album from Idle Hands, a band promoted as gothic metal that has been receiving a lot of hype since their debut EP Don’t Waste Your Time. Before hearing the EP, I had high expectations, curious to hear the band after their name popped up everywhere last year.
Out of the gate, the album doesn’t deserve the hype. The first track, “Nightfall,” is unoriginal, uninspired, and quite frankly boring. It reminds me of Alkaline Trio at times, but I can’t say that I would rather listen to Idle Hands. The guitars are typical, drums and bass forgettable, and the vocals are terribly flat.
There are a lot of different types of metal. It varies a lot, but Idle Hands doesn’t really fall into the genre beyond a moment or two here and there. I don’t think they’re all that goth either, at least not the desirable attributes of the genre. The sounds lack edge—these songs could be heard on any garden-variety radio show.
There are cheesy guitar solos, five or six terrible vocal grunts, and dated song structures. One thing I can say for this album is that it is well-produced. I like most of the guitar tones. Mastering by Brad Boatright of Yob and Corrosion of Conformity makes the album shine, but the content just isn’t there. The ability to hear every detail is not flattering in this case.
The blast beats in “Cosmic Overdrive” is the first moment that truly catches my attention. For the most part, the music is dad-rock influenced by the underground, which just neuters the potential of anything interesting happening at all.
Near the end of each track, there is the unavoidable urge to skip to the next one, desperately looking for something captivating. Wading in negative thoughts, there is not much good to be said about this album, except that the band can play their instruments. The chorus-drenched guitar intros approach that corny 80s tone few can pull off. There are echoes of the Smiths, the Cure, and Iron Maiden, but I don’t want to flatter them with these comparisons. Either the band is highly cynical about their musical choices or they are living in the past.
The sound is dated, but the modern production begs the listener to give it a chance. It is as if they thought recycling sounds they loved from a nostalgic time would resonate with listeners in 2019. Perhaps they’re right, but it is hard to believe four people agreed on making this kind of music. Towards just the middle of the album, it’s truly a struggle to figure out why Idle Hands have received so much hype. It is obfuscating, almost annoying.
The lyrics too are insufferable; it is better to completely ignore them. When they reference their own name, I cringe. “Double Negative” is about suicidal thoughts, and by the end of it I want to kick the can as well. Nothing needs to be said about the title, “Dragon, Why Do You Cry.”
I guess if you are looking for this kind of music, there is not much I can say. The sheer subjectivity of listening isn’t enough to unequivocally condemn this band, but it will be difficult for people like me to understand why anyone likes this. It was a struggle to make to through every second of it.