The band talks Steve Albini and personal change
Since their inception, METZ have displayed a penchant for balancing noisy, no-holds-barred rock, with downright catchy songwriting. But on their latest project, Strange Peace, the Toronto imports decided to hone a new artistic sting, embracing a more artistic edge and exploratory tendencies.
Enlisting producer Steve Albini, the band stretched the contours of its sound to even crazier, more abrasive domains, with tracks echoing hard-edged post-punk and artsy noise-rock. We spoke with METZ’s singer and guitarist Alex Edkins ahead of the band’s Montreal show last month about their collaboration with Albini and the band’s artistic process.
Those who foam at the mouth for METZ’s textural guitars and fuzz-laden production quality won’t have a hard time digesting Strange Peace. Sonically, the album depends heavily on the wall-of-sound technique Phil Spector innovated in the 60s; a fully-fledged example of the noise-rock band taking on more challenging sounds. The piercing auditory arrangements are still there, but METZ has decided to sprinkle in some fancy studio embellishments here and there. Nuanced synthesizer lines quietly occupy the background in some tracks.
Among the most transformative changes METZ underwent between Strange Peace and its sophomore record, 2016’s II, is relocating to a new base of operation. This time around, the band hired noted engineering wizard and hardcore visionary Albini to record at his Electrical Audio recording studio in Chicago.
“Albini was for sure a great fit. It was a really fast process for us too,” Edkins said. “We recorded the whole thing in four days, and we were there for five.”
“It was one of the most productive weeks of my life,” Edkins added. “METZ has played with Albini’s band, Shellac, a few times, so he was familiar with our music and he knew we were familiar with his.”
Strange Peace features 11 of 14 studio recordings, which could point to more material from these sessions being released in the future.
METZ seem to be part of a new noise-rock convention with a noticeably unrestrained and reckless inclination to the music. This is mainly echoed in the inordinately anarchic ethos that pervades the music. Despite the creatively rendered ideas, the waves of noise that permeate the band’s general sound are perhaps too chaotic and inaccessible at times.
Nonetheless, Edkins was especially pleased by the well-organized, relatively smooth structure of the recording process. You wouldn’t expect this, given the unhinged nature of METZ’s music. This condensed time frame no doubt pushed the band to its limit. No wonder the album was jammed out in one sitting. It’s clear the band pulled heavy influence from tumultuous personal events that overwhelmed its members.
“I was going through a lot of personal changes. I was in a state of shock while writing the lyrics in the midst of Trump’s presidency,” Edkins said. “I also had my first son. So, there were obviously a lot of crazy things going on. The title, Strange Peace, is relating to that calm before the storm—before something bad happens.”
Graphic by Zeze Le Lin