Canuck noise-punk act METZ raise the bar by finding a Strange Peace in uncertainty

Alex Edkins is willfully obtuse when it comes to his lyrics.

The guitarist and frontman for Canadian noise-punk trio METZ will tell you that they drive him crazy to write, they’re the last things added to the material and are done so to fit “the phrasing” of the songs after the fact.

He’ll also tell you that most of the time they fully reveal themselves, their meaning way after the fact and that even then he’s more than happy for people to marry their own interpretations to them.

That said, he does also admit that the band’s third and superlative latest release, Strange Peace, was written under a cloud of “uncertainty” that coloured things — the sound, those words reflecting that.

Part of that was the positive awareness during the songwriting process that his life was about to change, due to the birth of his first child.

The other? Well, it was assembled early last year as our neighbours to the south had just put into power a tangerine turd sack with the intelligence of a toddler addled by gas-huffing and the moral compass of the parents who provided it.

So, on this Monday morning after the Golden Globes and the unofficial, official declaration of the candidacy of Parsident Oprah, we can expect the next METZ album to be called Unicorns and Rainbows?

“Let’s hope,” Edkins says with a laugh. “I saw that last night. I’m ready for it, man, I’m ready. Let’s go.”

Again, Strange Peace is anything but what it says it is, anything but sunshine and daffodils — an angry, ugly, discordant slab of gnarly, noisy awesome. It hearkens back to the days when Amphetamine Reptile and Touch, Go and Sub Pop, the label METZ are on, ruled the roost, raised the ruckus in the muck of alt rock.

And there’s a good reason for that. Yes, the album is something of a progression for the Polaris-shortlisted three-piece, which also includes bassist Chris Slorach and drummer Hayden Menzies, but it also finds them working with the man they were seemingly made for, the producer and artist who helped those aforementioned record Co.s be what they is.

One Mr. Steve Albini — the Chicago-based he of such bands as Big Black and Shellac, and the man behind seminal recordings by everyone including (deep breath) the Pixies, PJ Harvey, The Wedding Present, Urge Overkill, Tar, The Jesus Lizard, Tad, Nirvana, Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, Silkworm, The Breeders, Six Finger Satellite and Helmet. To name but a few.

You’ve probably heard or read that, though, as it was something not only seemingly preordained by the gods of sonics, but something that has become the fixation of anyone who spreads the good, glorious word on Strange Peace — to the point you can imagine Edkins and friends are, four months after the album’s release, rightly sick of talking about.

He laughs.

“Well, man, this was the thing, when we decided to do it we knew that it was going to be basically everyone’s talking point, so we’re not surprised,” he says.

“But certainly I won’t be sad to not be talking about him.”

And Edkins freely admits that in the decade-long life of the Ottawa-born band, the album really could be considered a “departure” because of the “rawness of the sound,” due primarily to Albini’s straightforward recording process, which Edkins describes as, “I’m going to push record and we’re going to live with what we get.”

He continues. “That was something that was a challenge for us because I think all three of us are guilty of overthinking every little thing on a record until it drives us crazy.”

And while Edkins admits the band completely bought into the process, it still wasn’t entirely without a fail-safe as they then took what they got back to their longtime collaborator, mixer and engineer Graham Walsh, which allowed them to obsess over things to their hearts’ content.

“Oh, yeah,” Edkins says with a laugh. “As soon as we took them away from Steve we went back to our normal old selves.”

And Strange Peace has now become utterly and entirely a METZ album through the past few months of touring the record.

After a brief period of figuring out how best to work it into their setlists, it now makes up a third of  what they throw down, will throw down when they hit Calgary Friday for a show at Last Best Brewing as part of this year’s BIG Winter Classic.

Already known as one of indie rock’s finest live acts, Edkins admits that the inclusion of Strange Peace into the proceedings has raised the bar.

In fact, he calls pre-holiday tours of Europe and the West Coast the “favourite tours we’ve ever done.”

“The response was something that we’ve never seen before,” he says, noting that the “vibe in the room” also pushed the band to new heights.

“I think the response has been overwhelming, actually, this last couple of runs.”

And it can only get better.


(Photo courtesy Ebru Yildiz.)

METZ perform Friday at Last Best Brewing as part of this year’s BIG Winter Classic. For tickets and the complete lineup please go to www.bigwinterclassic.com.

Mike Bell has been covering the Calgary music scene for the past 25 years with publications such as VOX, Fast Forward, the Calgary Sun and, most recently, the Calgary Herald. He is currently the music writer and content editor for theYYSCENE.com. Follow him on Twitter/@mrbell_23 or email him at mike@theyyscene.ca.