Metz frontman Alex Edkins is the first to admit his band never expected the outpouring of critical acclaim and subsequent success that followed its thunderous self-titled debut.
With that in mind, the Canadians’ humbly titled follow-up, II, isn’t designed to reinvent the sludge-encrusted wheel the three-piece has become known for. There is no big-name producer on the credits, and no half-hearted attempt at a radio-friendly single. If anything, Metz’s second release is even more gloriously messy than their debut. Ultimately, these are musicians chasing a sound that feels right to them – and refusing to compromise in the process.
“I think it was just important to us to stay true to why we do this at all,” says Edkins. “We tried to make something that the three of us would like, and not think about what’s going to sell more copies. That’s really all it was. It was us wanting to almost put blinders on, and not think about the fact that all of a sudden we had quite a bigger audience because of the reaction to the first record.”
As well as blocking out any external pressures that may have been lingering in the rehearsal room, Metz put themselves under a self-imposed songwriting exile over a six-month period, forcing them to take a break from their notoriously hectic touring schedule. The results are manifested in a record that is even more breathtakingly concussive and cohesive than the last.
“[We were] going in and working on songs that were better structured than we’d ever done before,” reflects Edkins. “That was a new process. Before it was always jamming and jamming, whittling down the songs and arranging them that way. This was different. I think it had its definite pros. There’s a little more melody in there.”
Like a punch to the gut, Metz make music that is immediately visceral. Buzzsaw guitars and sandpaper vocals grip on for dear life without relent, but for the occasional burst of ambient noise or off-kilter harmony. It’s a hard-edged interplay between tension and release, as therapeutic for raucous punters to thrash around to as it is for the band to make it.
“I think it’s like having a shrink or something, but for free. It’s good for our heads,” laughs Edkins. One can’t help but recall the now-infamous incident where Metz’s music was, in fact, detrimental to their heads. Bassist Chris Slorach split his skull open after headbanging straight into his guitar. Not one to cause a fuss, he simply covered the wound with duct tape and finished the set – undeterred by the rock’n’roll cocktail of blood and sweat dripping down his face.
“It’s a huge release for all three of us,” Edkins elaborates. “As far as the band goes, I think it’s a really good outlet for all of our personalities. A lot of the content is often coming from frustration. I don’t think of it as anger, but some of the darker things we’re able to get out of our system.”
With a five-year gap between their live and recorded debut, Metz’s first album was painstakingly crafted, designed to ooze brutality with rapid-fire precision. After all, it takes immense effort to disguise a tightly oiled machine as pure chaos. With II, however, Edkins and co. decided to embrace their ragged edges.
“I’m really turned on by records that have all of the mistakes left in,” Edkins says. “Things where they’re not trying to make a perfect take, or a perfect song; leaving it all there to see. We did that more on this second album than we did on the first one. I think on the first one, we were attempting to get something right, you know? It’s not that we weren’t holding high standards, but I think our definition of ‘good’ has slightly changed, where the feel is more important than the actual execution. I think it’s one of those things where there is no right way now. Whatever is feeling good, that’s the right way.”
In between bone-crushing tracks of post-hardcore explosions, II is decorated with miniature soundscapes that glue the record together with eerie immersion. Metz have always applied experimental practices to recorded sound, but it has never felt so fully realised than on their latest album.
“It’s kind of a collage of things I’ve found and recorded,” says Edkins on ambient tracks such as ‘Zzyzx’. “We were helping a friend demolish their house, so there’s the sound of wood snapping and a crowbar pulling out wood planks from the floor. It’s fun to mess around with that and tweak it out; speed it up, slow it down.”
As their career goes from strength to strength, Metz are sticking to their guns, making the music they want to hear. That’s always been the goal, and it most likely always will be.
“It’s always been such a selfish endeavour in some ways. It’s never been about other people,” laughs Edkins again. “It’s incredible that people connect to it. I just hope people take away the fact that we’re honest, and making something from the heart that we care about a lot. We’re not pandering to any expectation. We’re just three guys doing what they like to do and having the most fun they can doing it. That’s it, really.”
Metz play St. Jerome’s Laneway Festival on Sunday February 7, along with a headline show at the Oxford Art Factory on Wednesday February 10. Tickets for the OAF show are available here.