It’s mighty fine to see Sub Pop enjoy a new level of notoriety these last five years or so thanks to the breakout success of such acts as Father John Misty and a post-Portlandia Sleater-Kinney.
But for those of us who’ve been along for the entire wild ride of the venerated Seattle imprint’s story, the existence of Toronto noise rock group METZ in its ranks is undoubtedly indicative of some kinda fever dream where Mudhoney’s Mark Arm, who works for Sub Pop as their warehouse manager, smacked a copy of the group’s demo on the A&R guy’s desk lamenting, “Man, why aren’t we signing bands like this anymore? Yet since inking a contract with the label in 2012, the trio has established a young legacy of brutality that’s right up there with some of the loudest sounds on Sub Pop’s storied roster.
For their third LP Strange Peace, METZ headed to Chicago, cutting the album live to tape with Steve Albini, who imbues the same feral nature he has given his own bands and dozens of other recordings onto the compositions of guitarist/vocalist Alex Edkins, drummer Hayden Menzies and bassist Chris Slorach. Yet at the same time, he allowed enough space on the recordings to let the group expand upon their root ferocity.
But if you are expecting some kind of weird side trips into jazz or folk or something like that, you can forget it. Tracks like the blistering opening cut “Mess of Wires” and the pummeling “Common Trash” blast through the listener’s senses armed to the teeth with a full-fledged arsenal of primal scream vocals, chugging feedback-soaked guitars and face smashing rhythms that will roll over you like Part Chimp ripping the hands off the Jesus Lizard. The six-minute “Raw Materials”, meanwhile, is an unpredictable journey reminiscent of the In Utero b-side “Gallons of Rubbing Alcohol Flow Through The Strip” with an added dose of choogle.
However, what’s new about Strange Peace is a more empowered grasp of the art of songwriting. One can hear the influence of Public Image Ltd. bursting through the fuzz on “Drained Lake”, especially in the Lydon-esque inflections of Edkins’ phrasing. Elsewhere, songs like “Cellophane”, “Caterpillar” and “Dig A Hole” explore dashes of pop melody subtle enough to not disturb the album’s consistent hard charge but reveal a desire to strive for something more cohesive. They uncover the promise of a further shift in tone which could jump off the momentum of these dalliances into more structured, tuneful territory that could easily manifest their Zen Arcade sooner than later.
These are rough times we live in. It’s refreshing to know there are bands like METZ putting out such quality rage like the 11 songs on this most exceptionally enthralling hello for today’s youth to thrash along to with the same sense of reckless abandon their parents were able to extol as members of the Sub Pop Singles Club.