On their freshly released Strange Peace, METZ go deep on feeling lost in the city they call home, and that's fair enough; rising rent and relentless venue closures have carved the place into an uncanny valley of its former self, and it's a grind. Despite all this, or specifically because of it — you have to work in this city — the band opted to mark the occasion with two nights at Lee's Palace, and opened the weekend with a big, cathartic release.
METZ were joined by Suuns and Toronto hardcore powerhouse S.H.I.T.; it felt surreal watching the latter open the night to a near-stagnant pit while delivering the blistering wrath of Toronto's right and honourable underground. If it was a well-curated subversion of the festival culture that surrounds METZ now, the confrontation didn't connect. Fans were in the room, but all the energy felt contained to the stage, the hardcore onslaught landing like some weird sound check right until vocalist Ryan Tong whipped his mic stand to the ground in a fitting bit of set-closing punctuation.
If S.H.I.T. served the noisier segment of the crowd, Suuns catered to METZ's locked-in indulgence. With the lights down low, they dug into the pulsing psychedelia of Hold/Still and Images du Futur. If less in the world of METZ's marathon pummels, their tightly wound kinetic workouts and tension riding was better suited to the audience, and by the time METZ came onstage to serve up the tug of war elasticity of "The Swimmer," the crowd was primed to match METZ's intensity with immediate moshing.
METZ have been workshopping their sound on festival stages and headlining tours ever since, after circulating a series of seven-inches, the band's lumbering spectacle of noise rock reached the masses when Sub Pop-released their self-titled full-length and thrust them into overground success in 2012. So it's encouraging to see that, three albums in, they're still making time in between ragers to remind slam dancers to watch out for each other. On Strange Peace, guitarist Alex Edkins points a finger in the general direction of corrupt leadership and problematic voices, but for every finger METZ points, there are four pointing back, and the accountability makes every song the band commands all the more enjoyable; the pit was a nucleus of non-stop energy all throughout their set.
While synthesizers intermittently colour Strange Peace, the band left the more delicate equipment at home for this one, wisely letting leaner overhauls bring the newer songs into the larger universe of METZ's discography while rarities and classics from their first two records got extended treatments that matched the band's newfound preference for radical left-turns: the A-side from last year's "Eraser" seven-inch broke into a chiming, eight-minute simmer, "Spit You Out" searched more desperately for the broken place it originally set out to find and "Headache" stretched into a hulking brutalist migraine.
METZ left everything on the floor, so when they wrapped with the knot-ridden harmonies of Strange Peace closer "Raw Materials," there was no hint of an encore — if you wanted more, you'd simply have to come back for night two.