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Live Report: Metz At Moth Club London
Sean Kitching , December 11th, 2019 09:48

Sean Kitching revels in the berserk stagecraft of the Canadian noise rock band who play like "it's the last gig before the end of the world". Photographs by StarLynn Jacobs

Live photographs by StarLynn Jacobs

Tonight is my first visit to Hackney’s Moth Club. When we arrive, the long room is fully packed out all the way to the back. Gold glitter covers the curving ceiling and even more incongruously, a shredded gold curtain hangs at the back of the stage like a well-used piece of Christmas tinsel. Deriving its name from the Memorable Order of Tin Hats, a network of members’ clubs for military veterans, the venue has a comfortable, working men’s club vibe, with a decent sound system and easily accessible stage.

The night before this, Metz had played support for IDLES, along with current tQ favourites, Giant Swan, on a considerably larger stage at Alexandra Palace. The recent on-site discussion of IDLES' worthiness (or not) kind of passed me by. I’m indifferent to and largely unaware of their music, but it seems clear from their choice of support acts that they are fans of decent music themselves. I ponder the difference between those two stages as Metz prepare to play. Most of my gig going life has involved smaller stages such as this, and frankly I’m grateful for it. If it weren’t for the intimacy afforded by such venues, I doubt very much that I’d still feel as passionate about live music as I do.

A friend turns to me and says that he doubts the crowd will get as crazy as they did when we saw Metz in June, at Studio 924 in Hackney. It isn’t long after the band start that we both realise his hopes are misplaced. The crowd are fantastic, of course, but driven by Metz’s intense energy, rather high spirited to say the least. If you fall down, you’ll get helped back up again, but guaranteeing that your drink stays in your glass doesn’t seem to be a viable option.

Canadian 3-piece punk band Metz have been around for a little longer than a decade now, with three studio recordings and most recently a compilation album, Automat, which came out in July this year. As much as I love their records (a fantastic mix of 90s favourites The Jesus Lizard, Hüsker Dü, early Nirvana, Fugazi and even a touch of the churning, washing machine chug of Flipper at a considerably higher energy clip), it’s in the live arena that they truly excel.

Hayden Menzies pounds the skins with impassioned fury, losing himself in his performance. Chris Slorach pogoes about the stage like a tightly coiled spring, and vocalist and guitarist, Alex Edkins, is soaked through with sweat within the space of the first song. The tone of his guitar sound is a thing of monstrous beauty – an unstoppable vibrational frequency that locks itself into loops that exude a kind of crazed yet enormously positive, cyclical energy. I’ve seen them play maybe five or six times and every time they play like it’s the last gig before the end of the world.

In a 2013 piece in the Chicago Tribune, Edkins said: “You kind of blank out when you’re up there, and when you wake up you’re covered in sweat and the equipment’s broken.” Watching Metz is utterly absorbing and celebratory, to the point where it’s hard to imagine that another group playing such sounds could possibly improve upon their performance.

‘The Swimmer’, from Metz II kicks off and grapefruit-scented IPA flies through the air. Like most of Metz’s songs, it’s driven by a trance inducing loop of locked bass, guitar and drums. Despite all the noise, there’s an almost Beatles-esque pop sensibility at work in the harmonies underneath, in much the same way there was with Hüsker Dü. I don’t spend much time listening to music like this anymore, but when you’re watching Metz going full tilt like this live, it’s hard to remember that other sorts of music even exist.

‘Mess Of Wires’, from Strange Peace, has a bludgeoning, almost psychedelic quality to its stroboscopic pulse. Edkins intones the words “Make the sound”, inviting the audience into the soundscape he and his bandmates sculpt out of all this noise. ‘Spit You Out’ sounds as exciting as it did when it first appeared in 2015, a jagged loop recalling early Nirvana with epic levels of guitar shredding emboldening the audience further. A punter borne above the heads of the crowd looks hopeful, for a moment, of making it all the way to the back of the room. He doesn’t get that far, but then even a third of the way seems a pretty good effort in this churning sea of bodies. ‘Get Off’, from Metz II, is even fiercer.

IDLES’ Adam Devonshire swaps places with Chris Slorach, admitting to the crowd that he’s “shitting himself’ at the prospect of joining Metz, even if only for one song, as Slorach launches himself into the audience. Considering again, the difference in the sizes of the stages tonight and at Alexandra Palace, it’s a touching moment that gives a good indication of the esteem Devonshire holds this band in. Three more songs left, including ‘Pure Auto’, from recent early and rare tracks compilation Automat, and it’s all over, the band and audience alike, utterly spent. Another highly charged and ultimately exhausting performance from Metz. I expect many of this audience, like myself, will be back again for more, when they next return to our shores. When you’ve seen such music performed at this level, in all its chaotic and ecstatic glory, it’s hard to forget it, or to go back to bands with lesser commitment or passion.