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Atlas Vending Sean Kitching , October 9th, 2020 08:52

Metz tweak their reliably potent formula a little on their fourth album but it’s thankfully business as usual for the brilliant Ontario-based noise-rock trio, says Sean Kitching

The relationship between live and recorded music and their interconnectedness in the mind of the listener has always been a personal source of fascination. A powerful and involving live experience has the capacity to imbue recordings by that artist with a renewed sense of excitement. That this should be so is unsurprising of course, given the way our minds work by process of association. What is perhaps (sometimes) surprising, is the extent to which it can occur and the lengthy duration of time this effect can remain active. In the case of Metz, I already liked them a lot before I first saw them at the Camden Underworld in 2015. Seeing what they were capable of in a live context, however, made me appreciate the incredible intensity of their life-affirming racket and opened my ears to subtleties that I didn’t know existed beneath the surface roar of their recordings.

As Metz were also one of the last handful of gigs I was able to catch at the tail end of 2019, before the notion that anything might come along to prevent live music taking place had ever occurred to anyone, it was with considerable excitement that I received my advance copy of Atlas Vending. As I blasted it loudly through the living room speakers, my wife came in and we jokingly jostled each other for position as if we were back in the mosh pit. So evocative of that gig in December that I could almost smell the spray of lager in the air.

According to guitarist/ vocalist Alex Edkins: “We’ve always been wary to not overthink or intellectualise the music we love but also not satisfied until we’ve accomplished something that pushes us forward.” Whilst Atlas Vending noticeably evolves the Metz template on from their first two albums, it occupies similar territory to 2017s Strange Peace. This is no bad thing. The essence of Metz’ sound is like a tincture of the best of 90s alternative rock (Fugazi, early-Nirvana, The Jesus Lizard, Hüsker Dü) but filtered through the kind of preoccupation with texture manifested by experimental NYC noise-rock trio, Sightings. Their sound is already a precisely refined amalgam of the noise guitars, drums and bass are capable of emitting, shook up and released at high pressure. Too much messing with such a volatile mix is in no one’s best interests.

Opener, ‘Pulse’, stutters and flails its way into existence, like a blind thing fumbling its way out of a dark place, before exploding with repressed energy. ‘Blind Youth Industrial Park’ erupts straight out of the gate, anger tempered to a diamond-like hardness, although with rumbling bass driving the whole contraption dangerously close to dissolution. Hammering drums at the onset of ‘The Mirror’, overlaid with metallic sheets of droning guitar, provide as close an approximation of the band’s live sound as has been yet captured on record. Likewise, ‘No Ceiling’ - an exhilarating 1:37 of barely contained euphoria that will soon be turning living rooms into mosh pits all over. ‘Hail Taxi’ keeps the pace and quality constant, injecting a relatively catchy chorus into the proceedings without sacrificing an iota of its emotionally charged forward momentum. ‘Framed By The Comet’s Tail’ describes a more cyclical configuration, bringing the psychedelic aspect of Metz’s sound to the fore. ‘Parasite’ adds a touch of glitchiness to an otherwise hardcore formulation, attaining a kind of breakneck chaos that makes it seem as though guitar, bass and drums are chasing each other in an endless tailspin. Finally, ‘A Boat To Drown In’, kicks in, guitars and drums expanded to massive proportions, as if Metz have taken to a colossal stage, a reverb soaked sonic cloud drifting out into the horizon, stretched out across a hypnotically droning 7:38. All things considered, this is a brilliant record from Metz, and perhaps the closest they’ve yet come to capturing their incredible live performance on record. One word of warning - tinnitus sufferers (like myself) should perhaps resist the temptation to crank this up too loud through headphones. Play it through your stereo speakers instead, share the noise around, give a little to the neighbours.