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Editorial Review

Coming to a slow, sophisticated roar
By Megan Buerger
Friday, November 16, 2012

Metz likes it rough. As one of Toronto’s freshest and fiercest hard-core bands, it produces full-mouthed, gritty, uncluttered yet deliciously noisy punk rock. The band members don’t just play, they roar.

But don’t confuse noisy with noise; Metz aims high. The trio resists anything excessive or convoluted, choosing not to hide behind synthesizers or samplers. Instead, the band strips punk rock down to its naked, vulnerable core. The result is a sophisticated, precise sound that puts the instruments center stage.

“We wanted to focus on these three primary tools and what we could build with them,” singer Alex Edkins says of the guitar, drums and bass. “I guess we feel like good punk rock shouldn’t just raise your heart rate. It should hit you in the gut.”

Metz has been together for four years but released its eponymous debut album only last month. The record was a long time coming, but the band wasn’t interested in rushing it. The group wanted to get it right.

To some degree, Metz is what happens when the pressure for overnight success is lifted. A band is able to create, edit and bloom. Until last month, all three members (Edkins, bassist Chris Slorach and drummer Hayden Menzies) kept day jobs because they vowed they would quit only after they had honed their sound to a level that warranted touring.

“We’re past the point where touring for touring’s sake is very appealing,” Edkins says. “We’re more strategic now. With this album, we’ve got purpose. And we just want to get the music to the people who want to hear it.”

Getting to this point took time. Edkins and Menzies got together in Ottawa five years ago. For a change in scenery, they moved to Toronto, where they met Slorach. Edkins says that the chemistry among the three men, all in their early 30s, was instant but that the maturation was gradual.

“We found this music because we were bored,” he says. “We were bored with what we heard and wanted to see what else was out there. We found hard-core; it wasn’t boring. We just had to find our place in that world, and that takes time. In our case, a long time.”

The album was worth the wait. A passionate package of nine multidimensional songs -- including the robust opener, “Headache,” and the muffled and throaty “Nausea” -- it’s a reflection of diligence, editing and tender loving care. It taps the grungy spirit of Nirvana and the muscle of Mudhoney but with a gusty, raw limpidity that is distinctly Metz.

The three men often draw parallels between their vision and that of Dischord Records, the independent label that put the District’s hard-core scene in the national spotlight in the 1980s. As kids, they prized the movement’s do-it-yourself mentality and aspired to build a similarly intimate community in Ottawa and Toronto. When the band was in town to play DC9 in August, it swung by Dischord’s headquarters and came upon the label’s co-founder, Fugazi frontman Ian MacKaye, sitting on his front stoop. Sycophancy ensued.

“It was like we were all 13 again,” Edkins says, “drooling and asking all these questions.”

The band returns to Washington on Saturday for a show at the Red Palace. Playing the city has a “certain heaviness,” Edkin says, because of its history with the genre. There’s a healthy pressure to make Dad proud.

Despite fanatic encounters with rock vets such as MacKaye, Metz is finding success in its own right. Operating under an arguably old-school theory that good music should sound best live, Metz has established itself as a band that sounds great through your headphones but phenomenal onstage.

“I love the comments that are like, ‘I heard the record and loved it, and then I came to the show and it was 100 times better!’ ” Edkins says. “It’s the best compliment you can ask for. That tells me that we can play live, and it will sound like nothing is missing.”

That’s not such an easy feat these days when so many bands rely on sophisticated studio equipment to polish and refine their sound. But Metz has never set out to cut corners. For the band, music is a beautifully selfish endeavor.

“This record is 100 percent us because our lives didn’t depend on it,” Edkins says. “We all had normal, happy lives outside of this band, so there wasn’t that motive to become famous. Trust me, if I wanted to make a hit record, I sure wouldn’t do it like this.”