Looking back, Alex Edkins wasn’t exactly planning on conquering the world with METZ, the Toronto trio that has emerged as one of the most thrilling noise-punk squads that’s ever roared out of the Great White North. The singer-guitarist was something of a music-scene veteran when he started ripping up the practice space with bassist Chris Slorach and drummer Hayden Menzies. Asked if he realized they were onto something special right away, the affable frontman suggests that he and his bandmates were more interested in escaping the monotony of daily life.
“It was never considered to be really anything—we kind of looked at it as something to do after work,” Edkins says, on the line from his home in Toronto, having just returned from a European tour. “It was something to do on the weekends. It’s truly been this very odd, mind-boggling evolution. We started and then everything slowly grew and grew to where this is kind of now our main thing. METZ is what we focus on every day. I don’t think you can plan for that, and even if you do, it’s something that rarely happens.
“We’re very aware of how strange this is,” the frontman continues. “All three of us had done music for so long and been in so many different types of bands that it almost helped us with what we’re doing today. I feel like we’re kind of older and have been doing it for a while. Because we weren’t new to it, that really helped us along getting METZ to where it is today. It gave us a nice grounding in terms of not having any expectations, for one, and also knowing what mistakes not to make again, because we’d been through it all before.”
With its first two albums—METZ and II, both on Sub Pop—METZ established itself as an unrelenting assault squad, red-lining its strain of alternative rock invented and perfected by titans like the Jesus Lizard and Big Black. Given the group’s affection for a time that—history lessons aside—they never really knew, it’s fitting that they realized a dream by working with iconic producer Steve Albini for this year’s Top 10 outing, Strange Peace.
METZ still rages like a motherfucker on earsores like “Mess of Wires”, but this time the band traffics in more than napalm-strength savagery. “Cellophane” is fuel-injected pop once you get past its serrated edges, while a click-clack country heart beats somewhere at the core of “Sink”. METZ unleash their inner art stars on the feedback-splattered “Lost in the Blank City” and slather Factory-brand postpunk in Emerald City sludge on “Mr. Plague”.
“We had 14 sort of skeletons or blueprints before we went in with Steve,” Edkins says. “The intention was to capture those skeletons in a very live and raw way and then not look back. It was supposed to be ‘Bang! There it is.’ A lot of the experimenting that you hear—the bells and whistles—came after we brought the tapes home to Toronto. We ended up with time to tinker without touching the skeletons.”
METZ also gives its fans plenty to think about on Strange Peace; among the brilliant things about this endlessly rewarding record is the way that Edkins addresses important topics (gentrification, isolation, depression) without ever resorting to obvious sloganeering. Consider, for example, the metal-dipped pile driver “Dig a Hole”, where the line “I just keep staring at the sun, the sun, the sun, the sun” can be taken as either an admission of utter defeat or a sign that the future is brightest when you keep the faith. Given the way things have unfolded for the men of METZ, here’s betting the latter reading holds more weight.
“Sometimes the lyrics are an exorcising of feelings and where my head’s at,” Edkins says. “And sometimes it’s not really clear what it is that I’m talking about until someone at a show will talk to me about it and provide some clarity for me. It’s really neat to hear the way that people will bring their own stories to the songs. I kind of use them as a therapy session to get everything out. Either it’s clear to me right then or it becomes clear to me later.”
METZ plays the Cobalt on Friday (December 8).