Music Reviews
Strange Peace

METZ Strange Peace

(Sub Pop) Rating - 7/10

One thing you can always expect from METZ is that they’ll never soften up. The Toronto trio has been highly susceptible to the trappings of angst with a bracing strut. Theirs is the antithesis of a human interest story: they have a profound dislike of humankind and no one is absolved, even themselves, and rather prefer to show the egregious side of humanity. It’s bracing noise punk that delineates a dour course without warning, and in Strange Peace, the prospect of relief or escape is still slight.

In fulfilling their dark vision, METZ enlisted maverick engineer Steve Albini to give Strange Peace an unrehearsed and spontaneous approach. It’s a technique Albini is commonly known for, but it also implies that the band is seeking an optimal compromise between studious mastery and candid musicianship. Strange Peace was cut to tape, and every shrieking guitar and hammering drum beat sounds as if they’re being played directly to you at a dingy venue. Despite Albini’s input, METZ are still in control of their usual outbreaks: the sawtooth strumming of Mess of Wires charges along with a force that is more punchy than Albini’s tendency to give them a metallic tinge, while in Common Trash, they utilize his ability to blanket any kind of distortion with their own wide-eyed lunacy.

METZ took only about two weeks to record Strange Peace, yet it’s the first time they’ve complicated their song structures just a notch by ordering their straight-ahead structures with askew rhythmic patterns. A great portion of their previous two efforts burst through like a kick in the teeth, and to avoid that twin-like dynamic, they now allow for a more spacious feel instead of just speeding off down the road. Caterpillar, for instance, subtly bends an elastic-sounding guitar string - as if taken out of Experimental Jetset-period Sonic Youth - with a sustained tension that builds and builds; the menacing Lost in the Black City is what releases that strain, and though it’s characteristically punishing, a closer listen reveals a chorus that has more in common with classic California power pop. Even first single Cellophane appropriates a catchy harmony that’s steeped in thick, sludgy garage rock.

Maybe they're not significant changes, but considering how METZ I & II are like Siamese twins, there’s no denying that they're itching to expand creatively. And Sink is another clear example of this: similar to No Age’s divisive An Object, they calm their usual frenetic tumult with dispersed fragments of translucent discord set against a sustained, textural backdrop. And then there's album closer Raw Materials, unquestionably the most ambitious song they’ve ever written - a six-minute opus that puts forth a dizzying army of guitars for its first half, later turning it into a catchy breakdown that’s more akin to driving indie rock until it all comes full circle. It’s a surprising finish, given that what preceded it was two by-the-numbers punk tracks (Dig a Hole, Escalator Teeth) they could well have written in their sleep.

On Strange Peace, METZ are more accepting of the disorder that surrounds them. Look no further than Cellophane for proof, a meditation on mortality where they imagine themselves helpless to their own emotions. Seeing as they handle this moment head-on, as with much of the album’s tormented imagery, to see them so roused becomes an oddly comforting gesture. Strange Peace is about finding even a semblance of mental calm when everything seems awry, and hard to think of many other modern hardcore bands who could accomplish this with such genuine physicality. It’s their strangely particular way of channeling their own distress.