Unto Others Marks the Fifth Anniversary of their Full Length Debut, 'Mana'

Unto Others Marks the Fifth Anniversary of their Full Length Debut, 'Mana'

- By Ramon Gonzales

Band architect Gabriel Franco revisits the debut album that propelled the Portland unit to new heights and allowed the songwriter to cultivate a sound that was both different and authentic.

Pacific Northwest heavy practitioners Unto Others recently revealed their first showing of new music in 2024 with the debut of the mammoth single, "Butterfly". The single offered a commanding preview of the band's forthcoming new chapter due out later this year via Century Media Records. 

A masterful weave of the band's pedigree that spans post punk, guitar rock, and classic heavy metal, "Butterfly" marks the next iteration of the band following the acclaim of their Strength cycle - which fruited the band's celebrated 2021 LP and the supplemental EP release, Strength II... Deep Cuts just last year. 

Yet as the wheels are set in motion on what will no doubt be another effective campaign for Unto Others, the band is the unique position of reflection - while simultaneously looking ahead at what is on the horizon. 

Unto Others is set to mark the fifth anniversary of what was truly a pivotal moment in their development. Back in 2019, Unto Others made their emphatic full length studio debut with the album Mana - an effort that earned widespread acclaim and quickly launched the band into the conversation of one of the most promising collectives in the space. 

The band's stylized weave of post punk and classic heavy metal offered a bold direction shift and asserted the kind of songwriting prowess that suggested Unto Others were musically mature well beyond their years. The album would eventually land on several year-ending best of lists and affirm that the hype was in fact - substantiated. 

Celebrating five years since the release of Mana, Unto Others architect Gabriel Franco looks back on the kind of introduction the album made, the kind of personal investment he made during that time and ultimately the kind of payoff he earned from such an audacious, ambitious career move.

Franco explains how his appreciation for artistry and his priority of authenticity would steer him creatively and compel him to spend months focused solely on crafting the songs that would eventually make Mana such a memorable effort. 


So much of the initial response to Mana was linked with the idea of Unto Others spearheading the next wave of gothic metal. How did that term sit with you? Did you feel like it was accurate or kind of a catch-all for people to get some idea of the direction you were going. 

Franco - I feel like people and the industry in general have been trying a pigeon-hole us as a 'goth metal' band since the beginning. They see the glasses and the black and go, 'ah ok. another goth metal band'. Just last week a publication put words in my mouth and wrote “Type-O is one of Unto Others main influences”. Wrong, totally wrong.

I respect Type-O Negative and Peter Steele, and love their music, but they are far from a main influence. Journey, Maiden, Cradle Of Filth, Scorpions, Blink 182, Rush and even Scooter all sit higher as an influence than Type-O Negative. I will say, I was a parks worker for about 7 years though, so I do share that in common with Peter Steele. Maybe that’s where the negativity comes from, picking up the world's trash.

You worked with pretty closely with Zack Ohren and Gabe Johnston to see the album to completion. For someone who has always been very hands on with his music, what role did those two have in seeing Mana to its full potential? 

Franco - Zack has an insanely huge drum room at Sharkbite in Oakland, and is a total perfectionist, so it was in my head to go there, and Colin ( Vranizan) was leaving for a tour with Silver Talon around the same time (November 2018). Colin is from San Francisco. So I said hey fuck it, let’s record drums in Oakland before you head off on that tour. The only days it would work were weekdays, and I couldn’t get time off my job at parks, so I remember just being at the airport Monday morning at 5:30am calling my boss - “Hey *cough* I'm super sick”. So sorry to my boss but it was for the greater good.

We got the drums tracked in 6 hours. But Zack accidentally recorded at the wrong frequency or something, and we had to do everything over. Colin re-did all the takes in 2 hours, and that is what you hear on the record. After he left for that tour with Silver Talon, I headed back to Portland and finished up the record with Sebastian at Falcon Studios with Gabe Johnston. He’s an old friend, complete pro and almost solely responsible for the sonic production of the album.

Recording for Mana started pretty quickly after the release of Don’t Waste Your Time. Did you already have a good amount of material in the works at that point or was it more creative momentum from the EP that compelled you to get to work in the studio? 

Franco - Mana was 8 months for 40 minutes. I spent every spare moment (and every cent I had) of my life working on that record. At that time I was always writing, in fact I was pretty much constantly writing music from June 2017 until just a few months ago, when I decided a break to reflect would be good. So like 7 years of writing all the time. Coming up with the music was easy, its equal to the amount of time you spend working on it.

But I also had a lot to say and prove. I had a heavy chip on my shoulder. My last band had failed, there was a lot of resentment, I was 27, I felt like my time was running out. I didn’t like the idea of working a day job the rest of my life. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but I was personally discontent. So in a way it was inevitable. I’m just glad it resonated with all the people who support us and our music.



Though there are some parallels in post-punk and classic metal - it might be tough for people to stylistically make the connection. Did you have any trepidation about doing something that was so left of center at the time? Was their any concern that it was too niche? 

FrancoI wasn’t thinking that way at all, everything was niche at some point. All I knew was I had to do something different. I would go to metal parties, people in bands who would play one sub-genre or another, and they would all be listening to Stacey Q or Journey, and I was like, well, metal heads don’t just like metal, I know I don’t. I love so many genres of music, most people do. So I said to myself “I can really do whatever I want here”. So that’s what I did.

In terms of a full length debut and really making a proper introduction - did Mana set the precedent you had hoped for? How did the album exceed your expectations and were there any places where it fell short for you?

Franco - I didn’t expect anything from Mana, I was just doing the best I could. For the past 10 years I had been operating at the '$50 in the merch box to pay for gas, 25 people showed up so that was a great show!' kind of mentality. I wasn’t aiming very high. I figured I would have to do 5 years of hard underground touring to get any kind of recognition, but 5 months after Mana came out, we were on the road with King Diamond. Life is full of surprises. 

The album was well-received across the board. Were you surprised by the kind of praise the album got right out of the gate?

Franco - Yes, I couldn’t believe it. We were on top of the world. Our 50 day “Mana” European tour in April – June 2019  is high on my lists of cherished memories. The whole period was a beautiful roller coaster for all of us.

What did Mana teach you about yourself as a songwriter? How did making that album challenge you and what lessons did you take from it that still resonate with you now? 

Franco - It’s a bit hard to remember to be honest with you. At that time I was still learning a lot of chords, and having fun integrating them into the songs in interesting way - like clean arpeggiations over heavy chords and things like that. I think the most important lessons, I still have trouble following to this day, is start with the fundamentals, the foundation. The bass, and build from there. Don’t get ahead of yourself. Don’t start writing lyrics before you’ve finished the guitar parts and melodies, and most importantly. One song at a time, write it all at once if you can. While you’re in the headspace. Also, don’t settle. If something isn’t good enough, throw that shit in the trash.

Some of these songs are more than five years old and still feel very relevant and new. What do you attribute that that kind of musical endurance to?

Franco - Thank you. If they truly are still relevant I can only attribute that to honesty. I don’t think people are stupid, and I try to imbue the songs with some kind of meaning whenever possible, or at least just make them fun.

There is a mystique about the Pacific Northwest that loans itself well to your sound. What is it about the region that seems to compliment Unto Others and did any of that creep into the making of Mana?

Franco - We are tucked away in a corner here. Us and Seattle. It’s very nice. It’s actually sunny a lot here. People say it rains all the time but it’s really not that bad. The winters can get a little bleak. I would say the fresh air, it helps, me at least, appreciate the beauty. I am an eagle scout, and my dad is an avid outdoorsman. I camped a lot growing up. There wasn’t much to do except be patient, relax, and appreciate the world around you. My dad made a point of instilling a respect for nature in me, and I have spent many hours staring at sunsets or waves or stars. Generally when you’re doing that, you start thinking about your place in this universe, and it’s not as big as you think. So all you can do is be grateful


The debut of "Butterfly" segues into the band's upcoming fifth year anniversary celebration of their acclaimed LP, Mana. Unto Others will host intimate headlining sets in the month of May, revisiting the album with a special performance in full for the first time ever. 

Later this summer, Unto Others will embark on a European trek that will see the band perform at several international festivals in addition to their own headlining appearances.

A full list of dates and cities can be found below. Tickets are available - HERE

Stay tuned for from Unto Others in the coming weeks. 

May 10 - Portland, OR @ Star Theater [Mana 5 Year Anniversary]
May 17 - Salt Lake City, UT @ Aces High Saloon [Mana 5 Year Anniversary]
August 1 - Copenhagen, DK @ Stengade
August 2 - Wacken, DE @ Wacken Open Air
August 3 - Munster, DE @ Zappenduster Festival
August 4 - Berlin, DE @ SO 36
August 5 - Gdynia, PL @ Klub Ucho
August 6 - Poznan, PL @ 2Progi
August 8 - Villena, ES @ Leyendas Del Rock Festival
August 9 - Jaromer, CZ @ Brutal Assault Festival
August 10 - Schlotheim, DE @ Party San Open Air
August 11 - Kortrijk, BE @ Alcatraz Music Festival
August 13 - Fontaneto D'agogna, IT @ Phenomenon
August 14 - Dornbirn, AT @ Conrad Sohm
August 15 - Munich, DE @ Backstage
August 16 - Gyöngyös, HU @ Fekete Zaj Festival
August 17 - Hamburg, DE @ Bambi Galore
August 18 - Eindhoven, NL @ Dynamo Metal Fest
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