The union of ferocious post-hardcore band Metz and cantankerous producer Steve Albini seems foretold in The Great Book Of Rock ’N’ Roll Inevitabilities. The Canadian trio specializes in a sound that’s both cutting and pummeling, and Albini famously has a knack for capturing bands at their grittiest. Not to mention Metz bears the influence of Albini’s band Shellac, and all signs point to a perfectly symbiotic partnership.
Strange Peace bears that out. The band recorded the album live to tape at Albini’s Electrical Audio studio in Chicago, which the first track makes plain: A distant voice says, “You are rolling,” then Metz leaps into one of its most ferocious songs ever, “Mess Of Wires.” Albini’s hand is immediately clear: a massive-sounding rhythm section—all booming drums and sinewy bass—and guitars with serrated distortion. Albini’s style can flatten guitars into tinny noise, but here Alex Edkins’ guitar tracks—and there appear to be a few per song—stand on the level of Metz’s ace rhythm section of drummer Hayden Menzies and bassist Chris Slorach.
The band tracked 14 songs in four days, a quick pace that reflects a hard-won confidence earned over its preceding albums, 2015’s II and 2012’s Metz. Where the band barely relented on those albums, Strange Peace shifts its approach a bit: “Caterpillar” recalls Drive Like Jehu’s airier moments, like the long opening of “Do You Compute.” “Sink” also simmers, at least for a bit, with Edkins’ harmonics floating above Menzies’ massive beats. Album closer “Raw Materials” has a passage toward its last two minutes that’s downright poppy, as Edkins plays a melodic four-note lead over the rhythm section. For a moment, Metz veers into lightness before sliding back into a snarling maelstrom.
Metz could fall into the trap of making the same album over and over, but Strange Peace shows the band taking steps to subtly expand its sound. The attack remains, but it’s not as relentless.