All the antagonism and belligerence of punk, cum noise and grit
What would Atlas vend? Life? Geographical locations? Orbital integrity? The proper distance from the sun to sustain life? Photo ops atop his godly broad shoulders? METZ themselves probably don’t even know, yet, Atlas Vending is the insoluble title of their fourth full-length LP. Formed in ’08, originally out of Ottawa, but now in Toronto, the Canadian punk trio of guitarist/vocalist Alex Edkins, bassist Chris Slorach and drummer Hayden Menzies are downright belligerent, and they’re signed to the legendary Sub Pop label, the famous progenitor of grunge. And, unlike Atlas, they’re more vendors of precarity and pulverized rubble than of stability and sustainment.
The record opens with booming drum battery, as if Menzies was vindictively trying to beat ‘em into submission. It forms a consistent, metronymic line for which the guitar then mimics in the same groove, debossed out by the percussion. Then, cymbal splashes come in on the same frequency, and it all rises and rises until all order shatters into a dissonant confluence of thrash and flail. It ought to be advised that it may be dangerous to play this in some locales, particularly those in which sadistic select are looking for an excuse to inflict damage.
Edkins’s vocals sound as if chafed with sandpaper and mottled with asphalt in “Blind Youth Industrial Park,” which is an appropriate song title considering the essentially industrial aesthetic in it. Instrumentally, it’s as if concrete and rebar and steel beams were granted a voice, or what they’d listen to if endowed with anthropomorphic ears. Imagine that. All the instrumentation crackles, as if all is aflame and in violent paroxysms of panic as Edkin blares out polarizing shouts. He’s at the top of his lungs sometimes, like in “Hail Taxi,” wherein people just know there’s spit flying from his lips.
Jumping to “Draw Us In,” one wonders who they are apostrophizing to. Who draws who in? And to what? Maybe they’ve vicariously represented themselves as the audience, looking to fixate them in an even firmer thrall. Yet it’s hard to tell what the lyrics are saying, most of it is pretty incoherent. But it’s not really solely about the lyrics, it’s about the holistic effect of the thing. METZ achieves their effect when it’s like the song is struggling to form out of abrading rubble and debris, ultimately conjuring a ruinous sound…like a metalsmith’s shop working in cohort with an assembly line in a factory.
For all its glory, its shortcoming begins to reveal after about midway. The songs seem to be an image of the last and of those to come. It may be diagnosed with that rueful SSS: Same Song Syndrome. People get the sense that all songs conform to the same formula–introduce the guitar riff of the track or drumline that will remain fixed, escalate, escalate and fat, chaotic crescendo that will slowly fizzle out to outro. For example, Edkins deploys some of these writhing guitar bends throughout the LP, yet in the final track “A Boat to Drown In,” more of that venerable guitar-bending is there, but this time it repeats over and over, ad nauseam, for about three minutes straight. It’s nagging and excessive and comes as a bit of a let-down, being the finale of the LP.
Despite the homogeneity of the tracks, it’s unremittingly gritty and pugnacious. METZ has forged a masterfully abrasive LP. Siphoning the antagonism and belligerence of the punk sensibility and the subversive and raucous unorthodoxy of noise, Atlas Vending will induce moms globally to contend with the volume of the record to castigate kids to turn it down, will have neighbors feel the thrum of the reverberating subwoofers across the street, will have all else muffled out by sonic laceration. As Edkins says himself, “We try to maintain right on the verge of disaster, just tipping over. Right on the precipice.” He was probably just being modest in that moment. They detonate the entire precipice itself.