There is a brilliant and brutal simplicity to the music the Canadian punk band Metz makes: loud, cynical, severe, sharp around the edges. The group is composed of three members—guitarist and vocalist Alex Edkins, bassist Chris Slorach, and drummer Hayden Menzies—who seem to share the same goal: to create maximum friction between their instruments and to do so at the highest possible volume. As a result, the music has almost no concern for melody. It has more in common with the sounds of factories, of hard and dangerous work that requires large machines and hot materials. Some punk bands will give you a great tune. Metz is not one of them. Their songs resemble panic attacks, convulsions, violent spasms. In the act’s harsh asceticism, you feel a retrenchment toward punk’s original values and a way forward.
The general intention of early punk bands was to remove the high-concept, high-order cognition of the most ornate forms of rock and pop music. They wanted to take the spiritual and structural skeleton of early rock ‘n’ roll and amplify it, make it noisier and more rebellious. To revise history and use those revisions as a template for the future. The bands who don’t understand both sides of this equation—tradition and progress—tend to conceive of punk music as a mere act of nostalgia. They often use lo-fidelity recording techniques as a badge of authenticity, framing a strict allegiance to the past as the highest creative virtue. This is music made through influence rather than impulse, and it’s not terribly useful or interesting.
Metz, mercifully, is not that kind of band. Metz is loud and abrasive in a way that is distinctly physical—you respond to the music as a series of vibrations in your torso and skull—and possible only with the clarity, fidelity, and volume of modern recording technology.
The band’s third album, Strange Peace, is very much like its first two, and that is a good thing. Each is single-minded in its purpose and methods. There are no ballads, no songs that are quiet or long or contemplative. Instead, there is a constant search for a frequency that is thrilling and a commitment to it.
“Lost in the Blank City” arrives near the album’s midpoint and wastes little time announcing itself. Eleven seconds in, a kick drum enters, with a bass guitar matching it in rhythm and tempo, as well as a harmonized vocal and riff. This lasts for ten seconds and is repeated as a kind of chorus. There are variations on this structure as the song progresses, but the feeling is the same: a convergence of tension and agony. The sense something might implode.
That frequency is no accident. It’s a result of each musician attacking his instrument with as much intensity and force as possible. The guitar riffs are strained, panicked, serrated. The drumming is calibrated for impact, rather than rhythm. And Edkins’ vocals are caustic, barked or sneered as often as they are sung.
The ultimate effect is a paradox: musical harmony which simulates mental and emotional disharmony. A strange peace, contentment found through discord.
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