See also: Guest Mix by Metz
Toronto noise rock power trio METZ recently released their fourth full length record, Atlas Vending. The band’s first two releases – their self-titled debut in 2012 and 2015’s II – perfected a pulverizing sound consisting of all three band members bashing away at maximum force, aided by dissonance, shouting, and distortion. It’s a great sound. On 2017’s Strange Peace, the band kept up their ferocity while adding texture and space. By giving listeners a little more room and time to catch our breath the band made audible a sense of warped melody that had always been in METZ’s sound, but sometimes hard to hear behind all the ripped-speaker fuzz.
The band go further in this direction on Atlas Vending. The album opener “Pulse,” for instance, builds up slowly – what might be feedback or synthesizers, then a dissonant guitar chord and drums played with a simple and repetitive beat, joined by an undulating bass and talk-singing. Around the two minute mark comes the anguished shouting and shower of noise that’s more familiar from the earlier METZ records.
Many of the songs work this way. To put it reductively, old METZ often had minimalist and textural parts, mostly in their songs’ intros, and occasionally in outros and breakdowns, with most of the bodies of their songs being claustrophobically dense with sound. (Early METZ sometimes sounds like every signal in the mix is clipping. It sounds cool but if the band had kept it up for four records it’d be like drinking a whole bottle of tabasco sauce – without any break after while the taste buds go numb and stop registering the new heat.)
On Atlas Vending, on the other hand, METZ sometimes start and end songs with the red hot bludgeoning parts, but stretch out with texture and minimalism in the middles. The effect is like adding a little water to a fancy but high alcohol volume scotch: the burn and bite still there, but now all these new complex flavor and undercurrents become apparent.
In its roughest moments – like the ferocious beginnings of “Blind Youth Industrial Park” and “Hail Taxi” – Atlas Vending is just as harsh as anything on the band’s prior records. Across the record as a whole, though, the band have a broader palate than on their prior records, playing with repetition, dissonance, and tension, and tunefulness. In doing so they make clear how melody – albeit weird melody – has always been part of their sound.
METZ gets compared to Nirvana a lot, but aspects of Atlas Vending are closer to later Fugazi – when the band would sometimes stretch out with long and dissonant breakdowns – or the more accessible end of late 80s Sonic Youth. In these moments, like on the glorious almost eight minute album closer “A Boat to Drown In,” METZ’s huge-yet-minimalist sheets of sound play with layered texture.
I want to mention as well what I think is a first in the METZ catalog – love songs! The minute and a half long “No Ceiling” is especially notable, with shoegaze-punk guitars that would be at home on a Die!Die!Die! record. Because it’s so short it’d be easy to overlook but in its emotional tone it’s probably the biggest departure on the record.
If you’re new to METZ, this is a great record to start with. If you’re a fan – and you should be – this record won’t disappoint and a close listen can help you hear some of the complexity of their earlier sound that you might have missed in the face of the relentless noise. Overall, Atlas Vending is a work of strong artistic vision crafted by musicians who are clearly at the peak of their creative powers.