Canadian noise rock trio METZ release their new album Atlas Vending today. It’s been a long three years since Negative Space, but is it worth the wait? Damn right it is. I have enjoyed all three of the bands full-length albums released before this, but they all took their time to click with me before I fell head over heels. Not this time, I am obsessed with Atlas Vending after one listen.
Covering contrasting themes such as paternity, crushing social anxiety, addiction, isolation, media-induced paranoia, and the restless urge to leave everything behind, each of Atlas Vending’s ten songs offers a snapshot of today’s modern life and the result is a record that sounds colossal, eloquent, and sincere. The band have managed to tap into the conflicted relationship between rebellion and revelry with the album’s balance of their signature fury with shoegaze-y melodic tenacity.
The LP begins with perhaps a strange choice of opener. “Pulse” swaggers in, the drums sound like a heart-racing before the guitars arrive and punch you in the gut. It’s like a panic attack painted in noise. I say it’s a strange start, purely because if you are expecting the rest of the album to sound like this, you’ll be surprised. “Blind Youth Industrial Park” doesn’t let up in pace or punch, but it brings something brand new to the table: a melodic chorus. Now I hate to compare bands to Nirvana, especially when they are on the Sub Pop label, but I just can’t help it here. Alex Edkins voice is at its best on this record, with a hoarseness that can only be delivered from the gut and out of passion. Like Nirvana’s “Negative Creep” merged with their version of the Vaselines “Son of a Gun”, it truly is a blinding track. The bass is so fuzzy my teeth would likely fall out seeing this song played live.
Yet, we’re still only at the beginning. There is so much more greatness to come.
“The Mirror” is five minutes of attack with screeching guitars and relentless drums almost industrial in its sound. It’s dark and bitter but then pauses to build a layered momentum, beginning with clanging guitars, then pummelling drums, leading to a chorus of voices and a bassline that feels, dare I say it, uplifted. Yes, METZ have a lighter or more organised sound on Atlas Vending, but they’ve managed to do that without losing any of the heaviness. It’s a win-win situation.
At just 1:37 in length, “The Ceiling” is METZ poppiest punk song to date and it is marvellous. Edkins sounds like a rebellious teen singing about finding true love with a riff and chorus that would make the Buzzcocks proud. The only downside to this little number is that I want to go out and dance to it and I can’t!
But there’s no yielding to complacency on Atlas Vending, and the erratic nature of love and romance is expertly captured in the alternately brutal verses and seductive choruses of “Hail Taxi”. If METZ’s objective is to mirror the inevitable struggles and responsibilities that come with adulthood and parenthood, they’ve succeeded.
I was kind of expecting Kim Gordon or Thurston Moore to show up on “Sugar Pill” as the riff is so Sonic Youth, and I am not complaining one little bit. It’s been a while since I’ve heard a band that have the perfect balance of songs you can sing-a-long too but will simultaneously make your ears bleed.
“Framed by the Comet’s Tail” is loaded with slow and sludgy build-ups of tension followed by spontaneous releases of energy that typify METZ’s live shows.”Parasite” storms in and smacks you about the face before running off— a bit like those Tango ads from the ’90s which got banned due to kids bursting their mate’s eardrums. Remember those? (Other fizzy fruit drinks are available).
Atlas Vending journeys through increasingly nuanced and turbulent peaks and valleys all the way to the climactic closer, “A Boat to Drown In”. The lyrics speak to this arc as well, with the final song addressing life’s struggles all the way through to death, as Edkins snarls “crashed through the pearly gates and opened up my eyes, I can see it now” before the band launches into the album’s cascading outro. The song is about leaving bad situations behind, overcoming obstacles that once held you back, rising above, and looking to a better future. The title refers to immersing yourself fully into what you love and using it as a sanctuary from negativity and a catalyst for change.
“A Boat to Drown In”, at 7 minutes and 37 seconds, is the band’s longest song to date, and it doesn’t overstay it’s welcome. There are points during its mesmerising, instrumental second half where it feels like it’s never going to end, but you don’t want it to. The lyrical theme of a desperate escape from bleak circumstances makes it the perfect closing point of the album and resonates with the world of people who cannot wait for 2020 to be over. The song was very effective as a single (and its fantastic video helped in this respect), but as the epic climax of a 40-odd minute musical journey, it is infinitely more so.
Bolstered by the co-production of Ben Greenberg (Uniform) and the engineering and mixing skills of Seth Manchester (Daughters, Lingua Ignota, The Body) at Machines with Magnets in Pawtucket, Rhode Island, METZ deliver the most dynamic, dimensional, and compelling work of their career.
Atlas Vending is now available from Sub Pop. LP preorders through megamart.subpop.com, METZ’s merch store and select independent retailers in North America will receive the limited Loser Edition on pearlescent grey and silver vinyl. Vinyl preorders in the UK and Europe from select independent retailers will receive the Loser Edition on light rose coloured vinyl. A new t-shirt design will be available as well. And in Canada, Atlas Vending will be available from Royal Mountain Records.