[Sub Pop, 2012]
Jeff Pearson, October 19, 2012
Listen: “Wet Blanket”
Every once in a while a record comes around that completely floors me in its unexpected brutality. Very rarely, however, does that record literally floor me like METZ’s self-titled debut has done. After the first listen, I came to cowering in a corner, perhaps with a little bit of drool dribbling down my chin, my mind in conflict between outright fear and complete manic glee, my mood rapidly oscillating between the two. I am fully aware that this isn’t normal behavior. Then again, METZ isn’t a normal record. It is the type of record that makes me forget my name. I have no idea what any of the lyrics are, yet I scream every word back at singer Alex Edkins (any lyrics quoted in this review will be transcribed by a less-affected third party, as I guide them through the album, my eyes rolling around in their sockets, speaking in tongues).
Since first beginning their five-year climb to the self-titled Sub Pop debut, corroding basement wall after basement wall around Toronto with their relentlessly brutal post-hardcore attack, METZ has perfected their sound through means of making it more destructive and impactful, the in-control answer to their live assault. The sound that will come through your speakers on METZ sounds like anything but a band that spent the better part of their time since their live debut in 2007 polishing their sound, however. As opposed to watering down their instinctual sonic choke hold on the listener, they used that time to learn how to tighten it, to build up those basement walls around the listener so they have something to destroy in your home as you listen to their record. The translation from their live show to record, something that often loses a bit of its ferocity, is nearly perfect, and perhaps the unexpectedness of having such a destructive sound infiltrate your home is what makes METZ such an impressive debut.
That balance between the utterly destructive and the actually quite pristine that METZ displays for the duration of their self-titled LP is established pretty much immediately with “Headache.” Guitars like jackhammers—occasionally breaking through the concrete rhythm section of bassist Chris Slorach and drummer Hayden Menzies to produced shrill shrieks as they scrape metal—as Edkins’ voice sounds like the gravelly debris flying in every direction. It is a raw and punishing sound, but one that somehow carries with it a lot of appeal, aside from those who are naturally drawn to raw and punishing sounds. “Headache’s” truncated stomp is completely conducive to unabashed head-bobbing and there are subtle melodies flying through the mix that would appeal to even those not privy to being somewhat fearful of the musical storm pouring out of their speakers.
I don’t mean to sugarcoat this record, however. The melodies have to be sought out, dug out from the bottom of a mountain of rubble that will leave the listener’s hands bloodied and spirit broken. The true appeal of METZ is its brutality; it is the perfect record for those occasions when you wish to be utterly violated by a set of songs, and cast aside in a whimpering heap—and what’s not to love about that? The record never wavers in its unrelenting intensity, from cuts like the slow dredge of “Sad Pricks” to the fierce tempos and pterodactyl scream-guitars on “Rats,” no matter the pacing of the song, the stifling aggression is ever-present. The wonderful thing about METZ is that it doesn’t play like three guys setting out to destroy your home and poison your mind; instead it sounds like three guys who just really love playing loud, aggressive music because that’s what they grew up listening to. Having grown up on the unchecked aggression of bands like the Jesus Lizard and Mudhoney, METZ simply recorded an album that felt natural to them and something that their fifteen-year-old selves would have loved and tried to emulate.
Much of that nineties influence is audible in METZ’s sound, not only in their devil’s deal of trading melodic sensibilities for sonic assailment, but also in the way that they hide their actually incredible instrumental prowess in a sea of noise. On the record’s latest single, “Wet Blanket,” each member is at his best, with Edkins willing his guitar to practically beg the listener for help, a suffocated wail emitting from the depths of the mix, but also Slorach giving the track that depth—his bass pulses below like the monster’s hollow heartbeat—and Menzies sounding like whatever drummer it was that Animal looked up to and could never fully embody. It’s moments like “Wet Blanket’s” relentlessly noisy breakdown that those five years of honing skills truly shine through, and remind the listener to not be fooled by the energy in the forefront on METZ—this band can really play. When a band is able to play at such a high level in both skill and ferocity, it is something special. Now that, after multiple listens, I am able to listen to the record fully without coming to in a slobbering pile, I can safely experience that.
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