Unto Others Hit Boise With a Bang (and Bangs)

Gabriel Franco of Unto Others at the Shredder in Boise on 5.8.22

It’s been a decade or three too long since mobs of miscreants banged their heads to metal mavens wearing bangs. That’s aside from Dave Mustaine and Joey Belladonna — who, at 60 and 61 years old, respectively, really should move aside. C’mon, guys, let the young ones get their chance.

But on Sunday night at the Shredder, Boise got some fresh air and fresh hair in the form of throwback ‘80s hard rockers Unto Others, a newish quartet from Portland, Oregon, led by frontman Gabriel Franco. Breathing new life into a cauldron of ‘80s hard rock, his group originally spawned in 2017 as Idle Hands. Shortly thereafter, they changed their name to another Biblically referenced moniker, Unto Others.

Franco’s voice could be mistaken for Morrissey or Ian Curtis, but his band’s blend of goth-rock, post-punk and traditional metal is one of the freshest alchemic concoctions in contemporary underground metal. With bangs, permed long hair and dark sunglasses for good measure, Franco and his black-clad buddies bathed the smoldering Shredder with 16 songs that should have depressed everyone in attendance — were they not rife with such infectious melodies and sweet harmonizing.

“I don’t care about anyone, ‘cause no one cares about me, and I don’t cry about anyone, ‘cause no one cried about me,” Franco droned at the opening of the band’s third song, “No Children Laughing Now,” one of the focus tracks from their 2021 record, Strength. But it was already too late for him to sell the audience on that idea — after kicking off their set with two even stronger tracks, the pounding “Heroin” and the arena-rock-ready “Give Me to the Night,” Unto Others had already won over the throng of fans in attendance.

Sunday’s show was Unto Others’ only off-date on their current jaunt playing before three metal juggernauts with considerably more brutal songs, foreboding presence and hard-earned longevity: Behemoth, Arch Enemy and Napalm Death.

It’s unlikely that Unto Others are phased by the tall order of opening for those legends, though. In July 2019, the Bad Penny asked Franco how excited he was to play his band’s first major gig at Psycho Fest Las Vegas. “I’m going to ignore the fact that you’re assume I’m excited to do anything,” he replied.

On Sunday in Boise, Franco — whether keeping in character or simply being himself — kept a straight face throughout his band’s hourlong set. That said, it was undeniable how thrilled he was to be playing the gig. He thanked the crowd multiple times and also shouted out a member of Arch Enemy’s camp for bearing witness to it.

“I’m gonna give Behemoth and Napalm some shit tomorrow,” Franco cracked. 

Whereas Unto Others have been limited to about seven songs during their sets on the nationwide trek that ends this Sunday night at the Hollywood Palladium, fans got a double-size program at the Shredder — and, thanks to the club’s strong acoustics, heard the songs crisply and saw them performed up-close, which they wouldn’t have at the bigger performances.

Unto Others derived six selections from each of their full-lengths, May 2019’s Mana and September 2021’s Strength. They also plucked one track from each of their EPs, June 2018’s Don’t Waste Your Time and July 2020’s Don’t Waste Your Time II. For good measure, they tossed in covers of Ramones’ “Pet Sematary” and Misfits’ “Halloween.”

It’s borderline criminal that Unto Others didn’t play their catchiest songs ever, the thunderous “The Blade and the Will.” In their defense, though, they haven’t written a bad song yet, so the omissions didn’t spoil the show. (Unto Others didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment on why they’ve apparently ditched “The Blade” from their live performances.)

Demonstrably more excited than Franco — and even the fans, who leapt and lunged in front of the stage throughout the set — were Unto Others’ other guitarist, Sebastian Silva; bassist/backing vocalist Brandon Hill; and drummer/backing vocalist Colin Vranizan. Silva was all smiles throughout the whole show, perhaps reminded that — despite all the recent gigs openings for three giant metal acts — this little-band-that-can from Portland has the same momentum found in each of their songs.

After a quick, obligatory vanishing act from the stage after their “last” song, Unto Others encored with pitch-perfect performances of Mana’s Cosmic Overdrive” and Misfits’ “Halloween” (which, to avoid confusion, did not appear on Unto Others’ October 2021 EP, I Believe in Halloween). They skipped three planned songs — “By Way of Kingdom” “A Single Solemn Rose” and “Dalmation” — but received a rousing ovation nonetheless.

And with that, Unto Others went out with a bang. And bangs.

Unto Others’ set list at the Shredder in Boise on May 8, 2022:

“Subdivisions”/”Heroin” intro
1. “Heroin”
2. “Give Me to the Night”
3. “No Children Laughing Now”
4. “Can You Hear the Rain”
5. “Nightfall”
6. “Downtown”
7. “Summer Lightning”
8. “Jackie”
9. “When Will God’s Work Be Done”
10. “It Doesn’t Really Matter”
11. “Pet Sematary” (Ramones cover)
12. “Instinct”
13. “Double Negative”
14. “Dragon, Why Do You Cry?”

Encore:
15. “Cosmic Overdrive”
16. “Halloween” (Misfits cover)

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