If the Northwest folk-pop like Fleet Foxes and Poor Moon and Sera Cahoone Sub Pop has been cranking out recently, METZ is likely to be a great antidote for you. The Canadian band is as untethered a rock outfit as your likely to hear in 2012. Their eponymous debut for the record is a fierce blast of noise, a half hour of music that may run brief but is long on brash mood, blaring guitars, and industrial-sized drums.
METZ digs in with a combination of irrepressible, even impatient, energy coupled with a careful, methodical attention to detail. "Headache" plays those factory-floor drums against a single, repeated skronky note that gets buried under angular guitars. But it's that one fuzzing note that carries through the entire song, even behind the echoed howl of the vocals. "Sad Pricks" starts and stops on jagged riffs that clash to life, but bend and twist in their small, fitful bursts before smoothing out into slashing earworm hooks in the verse. "Knife in the Water" doesn't start and stop so much as it sways and speeds like a stumbling, angry drunk -- fitting as the repeated, frustrated refrain here is "Fall down!"
METZ makes its formula clear from the outset. The drums will seem larger than life, and the guitars will bunch up on each other while the vocals scream their way through treated walls of sound. If it repeats, it does so in different permutations, so while it may remind you of the Jesus Lizard or a more industrial take on the Pixies, it never sounds like an out-and-out retreat. METZ have a zeal to their noise that's hard to fake, and an honest, downright soulfulness in these bitter screeches. It's an album that revels in its own tantrums, and yet reaches out to us to let us scream along, airing our own set of grievances as part of this communal outburst. It's the kind of frustration that's more infectious than insular.
And yet, the production poses a problem for the expanse of their sound. METZ gives the impression of a rock band that absolutely slays live, that in a basement show could bring down the whole damn building. But where their forefathers tapped Steve Albini to bring their edged sounds to screaming life, here most of the production feels like an approximation of Albini size and scope that ends up collapsing on itself. Great songs -- see"Wasted" or "Wet Blanket" -- get lost in a confusion of brittle, treble-light guitar noise. The vocals, brazen shouts on their own, are often too treated in fuzz and echo to make them intelligible. The drums have an impressive heft -- all rumbling toms and snares that sound like they're hit with tree trunks -- but they're given their own reverb that makes them feel more distant than full.
METZ is, in short, an almost-amazing album, an album of extremely well built and executed rock songs undone by a production that all too often calls attention to itself. And that's too bad, because METZ has one of the best new sounds going, a sound they'll no doubt show the world on tour. Then, hopefully, their next record can commit that live fury more faithfully to tape.