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Review: Post-Hardcore Stalwarts METZ Vary Their Mutilation Technique on ‘II’

SPIN Rating: 8 of 10
Release Date: May 04, 2015
Label: Sub Pop

With the imposing physicality of their music’s warped hardcore handiwork, METZ to date has not been a band for whom subtlety has been a high priority. On their clangorous, self-titled debut, every compositional tool in their rehearsal space was a sledgehammer and every song looked like a nail. Like a host of similarly acerbic power trios before them, the Toronto three-piece relied on the unified clatter and roar of guitar, bass, and drums as the nauseating bedrock for their monolithic constructions. While their second full-length largely hangs on to that architectural austerity, it also throws a spanner in the works. With found-sound recordings, more idiosyncratic arrangements, and a general willingness to get a little weird, the band’s picked up a whole new toolbox — one that allows them a precision and depth to match their assault.

Frontman Alex Edkins has said that this record was made with a “mistakes-left-in kind of approach,” but if anything this only makes II‘s noise-rock more pointed and direct. “Spit You Out” starts out feeling like a familiar METZ track, all tightly wound distorted bass and sneered vocals, but it casually morphs into something a little more woolly and wild. Edkins’ guitar lines and Hayden Menzies’ drums rattle and sputter around like malfunctioning machinery before revving back into the pummeling high gear they’re known for. That’s the rule for most of what works best on II: The trio take the forms that worked the first time around, turn them on their head, and then jump right back into the fray with reckless abandon.

But more than just new structural tricks, Edkins, Menzies, and bassist Chris Slorach were able to elevate the surly Jesus Lizard exercises of their debut by adding a few new instrumental wrinkles to their sound. There’s the distant twinkle of a discordant piano that opens “Nervous System” and reverberating studio chatter and static at the start of “Zzyzx,” both of which function as ominous, foreboding interludes between the unforgiving, brickwalled compositions that surround them. With even these brief moments of respite, the lurch of each successive track becomes all the more affecting.

It’s common for bands bent on destruction to dial things back as they move ahead, but METZ has no such designs. II, like the record that preceded it, is still a seasick and unyielding document of brutalist experimentation. But because the trio is willing to explore different avenues, there’s more corners to get lost in. They’ve realized that tools other than a sledgehammer can do some serious damage — that say, a screwdriver, a jackhammer, a table saw, can be used for even more creative mutilation.