Album Review: METZ
METZ - Self-titled (Sub Pop Records, 2012)
In the four years since their formation, walking into a METZ show was sort of akin to stepping into the fury of a hurricane, conspicuously absent of any sort of buildup. The concise story is that they're three normal-looking dudes from Toronto with a minimalist guitar-bass-drums setup, but five seconds of exposure informs that they specialize in cranking out ear-pummeling noise with a knack for rhythmic melody. The last bit wasn't always evident in a live setting, though, as brevity and punishing volume left the band's songform somewhat inscrutable, and singer/guitarist Alex Edkins' maniacal wail unintelligible — an effect as disorienting as it was enticing for the new listener.
With their first three years of recorded output made up of as a number of 7" singles (all released by local stalwarts We Are Busy Bodies), anticipation's been a high for the first full-length documentation of METZ's studio sound, reaching a fever pitch with June's news that the band had inked an international deal with legendary Seattle label Sub Pop. Luckily, and despite the live reputation that already precedes them, METZ's self-titled debut accomplishes the rare feat of trapping all of the intensity and tension found onstage, with just the right amount of studio manipulation to experiment with their sound without losing any of its bite.
Much like their always-capitalized name suggests, METZ craft songs that are short, snappy, and savage in execution. Rooted in the heavily hypnotic bass riffs of Chris Slorach, their sound is one that takes the best parts of the Jesus Lizard's manic energy and the economic approach to guitar rock pioneered on the first three Wire records; mixing freely with other post-punk reference points, never once seeming derivative. At just barely shy of half an hour, there's no time to catch your breath - the record's ten skeletal tracks are full-throttle from the get-go, serving as rapid reminders that less can indeed be more when energy and volume are dialed up well past 11.
The band's early singles (available here as PWYC for a limited time) may have mostly left melody on the backburner, a move further reinforced by their incendiary live presence, but one of the most striking aspects of the album is how effortless and immediate it's turned out to be. A glance at the tracklist of titles like "Sad Pricks" and "Negative Space" suggests some sketchy subject matter, but the full-throated riffery sits atop what are diverse and well-constructed songs. "Headache" launches the record with a backing chorus of catchy 'ooh's punctuating the song's structured noise assault, while recent single and album highlight "Wet Blanket" approaches krautrock in its extended closing jam. For a band that makes such a racket, it's hard not to be impressed by the musicianship on display.
It's been a long time coming, but the self-titled debut from METZ does anything but disappoint. If you thought their live show was good before, just wait 'til you know all the songs. If you've never been in on the fun, you owe it to yourself to check out their Toronto album release party this Friday (October 12) at the Horseshoe, where Baltimore's Roomrunner and fellow Toronto noiseniks Ell V Gore will join them for the night's celebrations.