It takes balls of steel – or a devil may care recklessness – to be releasing a compilation of demos, off-cuts and spare parts just three albums in to your career. Canadian outfit METZ, if nothing else, have demonstrated at least one of these things by releasing their new album, Automat.
It’s a car crash of styles, owing to the fact that it contains lots of METZ’s pre-label music, which has been out of print since it was released, and other songs released here for the first time in physical format. All of the tracks here have been remixed, remastered, or both.
METZ are, and always have been, the trio of Alex Edkins (guitar/vocals), Chris Slorach (bass), and Hayden Menzies (drums), Their style has always been fairly consistent, drawing from noise-rock, industrial, heavy metal and hardcore punk.
So it’s no surprise that opener Soft Whiteout is sheer animal fury. The guitars near industrial levels of aggression, with violent scrapes and clangs that bounce off the walls. Ripped On The Fence is both vicious and somewhat psychedelic – with a fiery guitar meltdown to close out the song. At six minutes, it’s the longest on the set, and offers a different side to a band most commonly associated with furious, ass-kicking noise-punk. It has depth, and nuance, and it plays out much like modern psych-metal heroes Baroness.
The demo version of Wet Blanket, which is probably their most well-known song, is a delight. It actually exposes some of the skater-punk elements of their sound, and it’s (perhaps unsurprisingly) the best thing on the set. It still rocks, even in this embryonic stage. Later tracks like Dirty Shirt and Pure Auto show the increasing levels of aggression that METZ have incorporated into their latest material – with the instruments pushed past breaking point, and the needle pushed past the red.
The sinister sprawl of Eraser makes for one of the more surprising moments on the set – the chorus (which is just the title, roared over and over) evokes, if anything, the mid-’90s heyday of industrial music, when bands like TKK, KMFDM and Ministry were the new thing. METZ have long played with those sounds, but repurposed to fit their punk song structures. Perhaps groove is an avenue METZ might be prudent to explore?
As far as compilations and rarities sets go, this is no cynical cash-in, but neither is it absolutely essential, even for fans of the band. There’s a lot of cool material here that is definitely worth exploring, but nothing that will demand a second listen for anyone other than the most hardcore of fans.