Springing into the scene in 2012, Metz – the trio of Alex Edkins, Chris Slorach, and Hayden Menzies – have previously delivered three epic albums of intense scatterbrained noise rock. They bring a combination of Japandroids-level energy, marked by psych-rock strands of Ty Segall and John Dwyer, but even have time for more translucent pop a la Cloud Nothings and Nirvana. With their latest, Atlas Vending, the band hasn’t changed much about their approach, and there’s really nothing wrong with that.
On album opener “Pulse”, slow-plodding drums build slowly into Edkins’ dense strumming before he delivers a twist of Peter Murphy-esque vocals: “I woke up to hear the dial tone / Let the sound get stuck between my teeth.” This immediately makes clear that this is going to be a heavier trip than 2017’s surprisingly accessible Strange Peace. With this latest offering, the threesome spend most of their time layering abrasive guitars over thundering drum beats with an embedded bass that sometimes gets a little hidden but nevertheless comes pounding back frequently. This doesn’t mean this record is devoid of the choruses that littered Strange Peace or even their excellent debut METZ, but with Atlas Vending the kicker is the focus on the bleakness of life.
METZ have always been considered one of those acts strictly for the loud crowd, not a mixtape band you’ll send to that crush (unless of course that crush loves noise rock), and everything about Atlas Vending keeps that true; it’s front-to back-constant energy. The band has always toyed with post-punk, but never gone full-on until now – although Atlas Vending is still firmly in the noise rock spectrum.
Second track “Blind Youth Industrial Park” ups the ante with Edkins screeching “Blind youth / we could always make the pieces fit / blind youth / there ain’t no going back to it,” over a loud and visceral EVOL-like screwdriver-to-the-instrument sound. It works wonderfully in the band’s favor, pushing them into familiar but nonetheless exhilarating territory as they match each other and feed off one another’s energy.
On their meatier choruses like “When you’re done holding on / what’s left in this place for us? / When it’s gone / turned it off / what becomes of all of us?” from “The Mirror”, the trio still show respect for typical song structures and that they know how to churn out a hook when needed. “Hail Taxi” shows off the pummelling drum techniques of Menzies over Edkins’ howl, and “Draw Us In” changes pace only slightly with a more reserved instrumental narrative – it’s as close as you’re going to get as a slow burner for a band like Metz.
If there’s a bone to pick with Atlas Vending is how unrelenting it can be, which is almost definitely the point. Metz don’t write and perform ballads or acoustic wankery; this fourth album is more of the same, which should delight most fans of the band. But if there was a reason for anyone unfamiliar with Metz to try out, then the moment to point them towards is the monumental closer “A Boat to Drown In”, which clocks in at just under eight minutes. It’s unquestionably one of the best songs to come from the trio in a catalogue of highlights; when the band pushes themselves to these lengths the music becomes rewarding for everyone. There’s a driving-with-the-windows-down hook to compliment the ominous lyricism: “Dead eyes / life in your hands now / and if you see headlights man / you better run for cover.” Beneath this is a joyous drum beat that never quits, and guides the song as it transitions into a slam and bang breakdown that acts as a jam session with intent. This is as therapeutic as Metz can get – while also keeping that callous nature at the forefront.
Atlas Vending is unapologetic in its minimalism and desire to keep the band firmly in their wheelhouse. For the uninitiated this might be a bitter pill to swallow, as its brooding force can be quite intimidating. After four albums, however, no one would want anything different from Metz, because what they do they do very well. There’s no point on Atlas Vending that feels wasted, no meandering or time-sucks; it’s just pure adrenaline rock expertly produced and delivered piping hot.