If you're headbanging on stage and happen to smack your bass with your skull and split open your forehead, splattering blood all over yourself, what do you do? If you're Metz's Chris Slorach, it's a no-brainer: You duct-tape that shit and keep going.
The musically abrasive Toronto trio is bloodied and relentless, delivering thrashing, concussive blows in short noise-rock spats "Wet Blanket" and "Wasted," while "The Swimmer" applies pounding pressure to the cranium, not unlike being waterboarded. Ah, but it's a persistent pain so pure, cutting down then across then lifting you away for an out-of-body experience. It's not often a song can make you feel exactly like a battered and bound body in a trunk on the way to the dump — but that's just what tracks like "Landfill" accomplish.
And the damage seems to translate in concert. Metz, a name chosen for being "abstract" rather than having any special meaning, has played more than 300 gigs in just two years. Guitarist/vocalist Alex Edkins starts ticking off recent gigs when we give him a call.
"Europe, the U.K., Greece, Macedonia, a couple Canadian shows," he says.
The band had just finished playing a festival in Ottawa, the place where Edkins and drummer Hayden Menzies spent large chunks of their youth. (Bassist Sloarch, the one with the head injury, fills out the rest of the three-piece.)
Formed in 2008, Metz waited four years before releasing its eponymous debut on Sub Pop Records. Nominated for the 2013 Polaris Music Prize, Metz quickly grew a large fan base. This year's follow-up, aptly titled II, sees the band reserving its footing, choosing to stay the course with smaller, more subtle evolutions than trying to reinvent itself. The bone-cutting immediacy still remains, as opener "Acetate" proves.
"[The album is] less rigid. We didn't try as hard to get perfect takes," Edkins sasy. "Most of the records I really like, whether it's an old soul record or a punk record, it's usually a little bit loose, kind of wild. So we wanted to go for something like that . . . The first record is really straight and [showed] us trying to do the perfect take, which really doesn't exist anyway.
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"It's not to say we don't want to evolve," he says. "But when we were making that record, the thing that felt best to us and felt truest and honest with ourselves was to make the record we made. I think if we tried to do something a little bit more in style or trendy — you know, something a little bit more dance-y — I think it would have been wrong for us . . . We just followed our gut, like we always have, and that's what came out."
The moments of rage are softened by the ruminative album photographs, shot by Edkins' father, especially the cover for II, which depicts two silhouettes of people looking down and out.
"When I look at it, I wonder what those people are doing. Are they breaking up or are they shooting up or are they reading a book or rolling a joint or are they just incredibly depressed?" Edkins says. "And I love how the body of water is in front of them, and across the way you can see little bits of land. I always consider it a bit of a symbolic thing, a bit of a metaphor for people who see where they want to go, and they know where they want to go, but they can't get there, and they're trapped in this world, in this modern style of life . . . I see these two people that are despondent and trapped."