Albums, Music, The Revue — September 25, 2017 at 5:35 am

METZ’s Faustian ‘Strange Peace’ (album review)

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“I am part of that power which eternally wills evil and eternally works good.”
~
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, ‘Faust: First Part’

In his classic tale, Faust, German writer Goethe tells the story of a scholar who, unhappy with his life, makes a deal with the devil. He exchanges his soul in return for unlimited knowledge and pleasure. Faust uses these gifts to his full advantage, mistreating many and taking advantage of others, including a young girl named Gretchen. It is a tale of how greed, power, and lust can corrupt even the most intelligent while adversely affecting others. Canadian post-punk / hard rock trio METZ apply a similar theme to their cathartic third album, Strange Peace.

In their nearly a decade together, Alex Edkins (guitar/vocals), Chris Slorach (bass), and Hayden Menzies (drums) have firmly established themselves as one of music’s hardest, loudest, and heaviest outfits. Their songs are unrelenting, and their live shows are fiery and frenetic. Behind the maelstrom of noise, however, lies three calculating and observant men whose songwriting matches the ferocity of their music. With Strange Peace, they have reached the apex of their art and delivered one of the fiercest critiques of the world today. That world is one occupied by several Faust-like characters, including ourselves.

Strange Peace is unleashed with a three-song rampage that begins with “Mess of Wires”. A massive wall of menacing, bone-jarring noise open the song, shaking you right to your core. The warring rhythms are cathartic with each drum roll by Menzies and every pounding bass line by Slorach feeling like artillery fire. Edkins, though, leads the charge: his searing vocals and thunderous guitar work are like the cavalry piercing through enemy’s lines. The intensity in the music is matched by Edkins’ edgy lyrics. This isn’t just a political song; it’s a battle cry that calls for people to stand up and have their voices heard against their oppressors. That encourages people to not be silent but to fight against bigotry and hate.

“Drained Lake” follows, and it is the 21-gun salute of post-punk. It is an ear-piercing piece of ferocity that echoes the Dead Kennedys both in intensity and social commentary. This time METZ challenge our reason for existing and society’s expectations and ideas about worth. Meanwhile, “Cellophane” is a bruising, bone-crushing rocker. One blistering guitar riff after another fills the air, accompanied by a barrage of bass and percussion. METZ cleverly infuse some Kinks-like harmonies in the chorus as they repeatedly ask, “How do I know?” It’s a question from a person who feels defeated, even fatalistic, about his place in the world.

The band channels their brethren Preoccupations on the dark, throbbing “Caterpillar”. Edkins’ deadpan vocals describe a person metamorphosing into something dark and sinister or being eaten alive from the inside. The darkness remains on the heavy and harrowing “Lost In The City”, with its echoes of Stone Temple Pilots’ more ominous songs. The instrumentation is methodical, which adds to the track’s hypnotic yet foreboding environment. Edkins’ voice takes on an aggressive tones, and he unleashes his fury on the person who has created this apathetic, soulless place.

That person is “Mr. Plague”. An undeniably political song, METZ calls the election of one individual a “miracle”. Its chaotic ferocity and intensity is matched on the back-to-back-to-back ballistic trio of “Common Trash”, “Escalator Teeth”, and “Dig A Whole”, which are also companion tracks. As the band whips up a whirlwind of noise punk, they sing about how the people have now become “common trash” in the eyes of the elite. We have become expendable servants to serve the interests of a few. A frenzied punk theme is meticulously unveiled on the latter two as the band describe how we are bombarded with propaganda and lies with “machine gun-like repetition”.

The menacing closer, “Raw Materials”, further advances the ideas of power and control. This number is METZ at their feverish, dramatic best. The song erupts immediately with all three members displaying ferocious energy. It then suddenly slows down, almost coming to a full stop. The break, however, doesn’t last long, and the song develops into an intense growler. No words are spoken in the final half, and none need to be said. The music says it all on this song about being trapped in a world with no escape where it’s difficult to see the light.

Unlike Faust, there is no God to save us from the current doom. Since we have created the conditions for such individuals to thrive, our faiths are in our hands. METZ, in this sense, are like the archangels delivering resounding messages that we should never forget. They do it, though, in menacing yet brutally honest fashion. They achieve it with an album that is their best yet.

Strange Peace is out now via Sub Pop Records and Royal Mountain Records. The album is also available on Bandcamp.

METZ are currently in the midst of a lengthy global tour. Dates and information are available here or check their website.

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