You’re a Canadian post-hardcore band (for want of a better term) with certain 1990s tendencies. Obviously you’re gonna send your demo to Sub Pop. Where else? In the case of the really-pretty-good Metz it was the only label they sent their tape to (we know it wasn’t a tape but where’s yer sense of romance, man?) and it was that legendary label that immediately signed them. Eschewing the obvious route of working with Our Glorious Leader Steve Albini they chose instead to work with Holy Fuck’s Graham Walsh as producer, making playful reference to a producer who could only be the former Big Black frontman in a recent interview as “some curmudgeon in Chicago”.
Yet it’s Shellac that Metz most recall, and certainly not to their detriment. Strictness, precise savagery, burning frustration and searing guitars populate the serrated set of eleven purposely brutalist tracks here and their debt to the notorious trio’s approach and sound is clear throughout. There’s more to them than that, though.
Right at the front there’s the barbed-wire covered punch in the lip that is ‘Headache’ – it manages to imitate the experience of the migraine fairly effectively – relentless, inescapable and mightily bleak. The singalong “Aah-aah”s almost a parody of respite. A lack of sympathy for the more delicate listener is a recurring theme, and one the band should be grinning about.
There are early Nirvana sounds lurking in the shadowy depths of the likes of ‘Rats’, a ‘Negative Creep’ aping sludger that’s knee deep in bending basslines, raw-throated repeated vocals and hard, crisp-as-fuck drumming. There’s no doubting the legitimacy of intent here – just that the referencing may be a little too heavily weighted for some tastes.
‘Knife In The Water’ takes a Mission of Burma-like propulsive riff, adds a smear of Helmet heaviness and tears off in whatever filthy direction it chooses, leaning on the simplistic guitar part and exploding out in all manner of ugly directions.
The classic buzzing sound “invented” by Sub Pop themselves more than 20 years ago is characterised by the none-more-growling ‘Wasted’ – a desperate broken bottle battle of a song that lurches madly into a critically addictive chorus via tight, point-perfect military drumming. It’s as wonderful as something that sounds so horrible can be.
‘Negative Space’ leans in head down to the likes of Helmet (again) and The Melvins – hard, battering repetition being the order of the day on this explosive surge of song. It’s the one that sounds most like the beautiful Mclusky and as a result is something of a highlight.
Closing track ‘–))—‘ consists of a good stretch of silence followed by a raw roar of feedback and an owl-like kiss-off. A little moment like this bucks what’s come before just enough to leave you with a spark of curiosity about Metz’s future – are they the kind of band that will shift up a gear and dust their shoulders of the remnants of their influences? There are definitely moments to suggest so.