It’s 2015, Toronto-based threesome METZ have just released their second album II and vocalist Alex Edkins is describing the pro-genesis as “a year of loss and doubt, of contemplating our relationships with death and the planet.” Two years further down the line and Edkins appears to have cheered up, well in relative terms anyway. Strange Peace, it transpires, is “…about recognizing that we’re not always in control of our own fate, and about admitting our mistakes and fears. They’re about finding some semblance of peace within the chaos.” Peace. Within. The Chaos. That ought to be the eternal epitaph for METZ.
So with a new-found perspective on life, is it safe to assume that METZ have mellowed into the musical equivalent of Victor Meldrew, cantankerous miscreants complaining incessantly how the world has gone to hell in non-motorised vehicle? Well 30 seconds into album opener ‘Mess Of Wires’ and you have your unequivocal answer, NO! If the percussive torrent and discordant thrashing of guitars doesn’t turn your insides to blancmange then Edkins wailing will almost certainly push you over the edge. METZ, as always, are fractious, irritating and wholly unreasonable.
If, like me, you fell in love with ferocity of II then don’t despair, there is ample opportunity on Strange Peace to revel in your own personal tinnitus hell, ‘Mr Plague’ and ‘Common Trash’ will ensure your head feels like the inside of cement mixer for several hours whilst ‘Dig A Hole’ tips the scales at barely a minute long and is the epitome of garage rock, if they have garages in downtown Toronto.
However, whereas previous METZ offerings have been relentless and unremitting, there is far greater restraint contained within Strange Peace which makes me question whether Edkins and his mates have discovered a new-found inner zen and tranquility is now their primary aim. Naturally, this is serenity as seen through the eyes of one of the worlds leading hardcore acts, yet there is a feel of fragility and vulnerability about METZ which is in contrast to the bleak nihilism of their previous albums. ‘Drained Lake’ is an upbeat romp despite the bruising opening “Forever getting nowhere/While blankly staring into space” and has the nonchalant air of man beating seven shades of shit out of a fire extinguisher whilst the world and METZ are alight around him. Have a listen, you’ll see what I mean.
However, if the band have discovered another gear and a penchant for a sexy hook, then it is never more evident than in ‘Cellophane’, arguably one of the catchiest, dirtiest and seductive choruses this year. “It’s all about to change/You’re wrapped in cellophane/Are we just standing still?/How will I know it’s real?” argues Edkins in archetypal gravelly fashion and he’s bang on, how are we to recognise any semblance of peace when it comes wrapped in an invisible, translucent cloak. Peace, that word again. For a band who continually sting your eardrums they have a thirst, a longing, for conciliation and are prepared to beat us around the head until they get it. No compromises.
The word METZ sums the band up to a tee; short, precise, bold. Strange Peace is an album with the rough edges still intact, just not coated in acid this time around and the result is a more accessible and listenable experience. But boy, they are still angry about the world and despite their desire for unity I don’t see them taking over the mantle of the Dalai Lamas of rock just yet.
Strange Peace is out now on Sub Pop