Every week, we tell you about an album you need to spend time with. This week’s album is Strange Peace, the third album from Canadian bashers METZ.
The first time I encountered METZ in any capacity wasn’t as an MP3 or a JPEG on an album announcement; I saw them play a set at the 2010 edition of the M for Montreal music festival. The fest, ostensibly meant to draw attention to Montreal bands, drew the typical indie fare that was the sound dujour at the time. When METZ--who are actually from Toronto-- took the stage, looking like extras from Slap Shot, I expected some pleasant indie. What I did not expect was to have the sensation that I was in front of an explosive runaway train car as it hurtles off the side of a cliff, on the verge of being torn limb-from-limb. METZ were like if Jesus Lizard took too much meth and were playing all their music from a stage that was currently electrocuting them. They were amazing, and I’m not sure if I’ll ever recover from the tinnitus I got that night.
Even though you roughly know what to expect with each subsequent METZ release--10-ton riffage, songs that burst forth like an uncontrolled building implosion, fraught lyrics, and an album that could easily soundtrack Mad Max: Fury Road--the joy in each new album is how they've evolved and tweaked their sound from the raw, uncut version that appeared on their 2012 self-titled debut. Their third LP, the winkingly titled Strange Peace—with the exception of a slow song in the middle of the album, there’s very little peace to be had here—is a frayed, howling album that expands and evolves their palate with songs that have a slower BPM than anything they’ve done before. But at its center is still a rising maelstrom, a never-ceasing crush provided by one of the heaviest bands working today.
Opening with a disembodied producer—presumably Steve Albini, who helmed this—saying, “you are rolling,” Strange Peace plays like it was recorded in real time over its 36 minutes, a song cycle about uncertainty and things you can’t control. “Mess Of Wires,” the album’s opening track, is like the rolling in of a cloud of lightning, the drums and riff converging like thunderous bolts. That storm collapses into “Drained Lake,” a song that sounds like it was played on instruments made out of skeletons, and builds back up for “Cellophane,” the album’s lead single, and one that captures the solar plexus mincing feeling of seeing METZ live. The album spirals off into a variety of directions from there, all tethered to the band’s ripping sound. It’s not all full-steam ahead this time out, though; “Sink” is the closest thing METZ have to a ballad. It’s still raw, and scary, and sounds like it was delivered after a blitzkrieg. But it points out a lane that is there for METZ if they want to take it; slowing things down doesn’t dull their attack that much.
Strange Peace is the third straight smasher from METZ. They’re never going to make music that will soundtrack an iPod commerical, but the music world is a much better place knowing they’re out here, feeling nervous and making wild music about it. Put this on when you want to feel like you're riding a dragon over the wall.
Andrew Winistorfer is Vinyl Me, Please’s Classics and Country Director, and an editor of their books, 100 Albums You Need In Your Collection and The Best Record Stores In The United States. He’s written Listening Notes for more than 20 VMP releases, and co-produced Nat Turner Rebellion's Laugh to Keep From Crying. He lives in Saint Paul, Minnesota.