Album Review : Metz’ ‘Strange Peace’

I will admit that I have a bit of a dude crush on the Canadian rock band METZ. There’s just something about their intense brand of noise rock/post-punk gumbo that gets me in the gut. It’s a kind of rush that comes with a special sort of experience. Maybe like jumping out of a plane, taking part in the running of the bulls in high heels, or that exhilaration one feels as the last car of a rollercoaster gets pulled by sheer force over that first big hill. I liken the METZ experience to putting the pedal to the metal on some long, open country road. It’s something I used to do when I had a 1977 Chevy Nova. I’d push that 305 V8 to its limit. There was that feeling where you though your heart would jump from your chest to your throat to right out your mouth.

METZ makes noise that makes me feel weird and invincible.

Their debut self-titled record and its follow-up II were like beehives recently kicked and punched. They buzzed and hollered like years of misspent youth and broken dreams stewing in warm, stale beer looking for their car keys at a bummer of a party. The only cure for that kind of pent-up rage is to ignite a guitar amp on fire with buzzsaw riffs. Guitarist and vocalist Alex Edkins, bassist Chris Slorach and drummer Hayden Menzies seem to tap into some kind of subconscious Cro-Magnon rage when they come together as three piece METZ. It’s an ancient magic that gets me every time.

Strange Peace is their newest record and their best. Some maybe thought this time around they’d try and clean up their act a bit, maybe even try and write a pop song. Turns out they’ve made their heaviest and most accessible record to date. How about that?

From that debut to II and all the 45 singles that came before, in-between, and after there’s been this unmistakable crash and grind to the METZ sound that always reminded me of Steve Albini. They pay tribute in their own unique way to Shellac and In Utero-era Nirvana. You can hear it in Edkins’ piercing guitar tones and his guttural vocal belting; as well as the concrete slab of a rhythm section in Slorach and Menzies. This time around instead of creating the Steve Albini sound on their own, METZ actually got the real Steve Albini to do it for them. The results are as loud and wonderful as you’d hope.

Even though there’s no pulling back of the aggression and noise, there’s a fine tuning happening to where all those sonic explosions can more easily be savored. Something like the jagged opener “Mess Of Wires” might’ve been almost unbearable to the senses on a previous record. A minute in and the ears would dull and the eyes would bleed. But here the menace and anxiety is blended into a cocktail easily swallowed and enjoyed, without losing any of the woozy pleasure. The vocals are turned into a sly pop hook. You’re given a catchy melody amidst the broken glass and bent rebar. Likewise, “Drained Lake” comes out of the gate with punk dexterity and alien-esque guitar noise. Soon enough though, vocal harmonies rise from the depths to give this song a pop undercurrent. Alex Edkins comes across like Jello Biafra on a steady diet of Big Black and the Feelies. This is the perfect blend of aggression and sly pop undercurrents. “Common Trash” is a pretty much straight guitar pop track, complete with hooky vocals and good time guitar riffing. Except this pop is wrapped up with a barbed wire bow. “Dig A Hole” sounds like sheet metal covering an Angry Samoans track, while album closer is a spring snapping in slow motion for nearly 6 minutes.

Don’t think that all this “pop” talk means our Ottawa noise rock bros have mellowed. They just seem to have found a way to keep things redlining but in a way that even the deadest of dead fish might end up whistling a METZ track in the shower some morning.

Strange Peace is the perfect balance of METZ at full force and METZ opening their doors for passerbys to walk in and check them out. This may end up being one of my favorite records of the year.


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