Metz – Up on Gravity Hill

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Metz Up on Gravity Hill review

Rhythmic intensity has been a guiding principle for Toronto trio Metz throughout their decade-plus career. On the 29 lean and muscular minutes of their self-titled 2012 debut, the powerful drive of the band’s rhythm section, bassist Chris Slorach and drummer Hayden Menzies, never relents—nor have they loosened their slack on the three albums released in the eight years thereafter. From one record to the next, they’ve shuffled some of the moving parts in their approach—drawing focus toward vocal harmonies, enlisting engineers like Steve Albini, writing longer songs—but their brawny core remains constant. “For us it’s always been a pretty gradual thing,” vocalist/guitarist Alex Edkins said about how the band’s progression over time, while acknowledging that they also want “to make records you can live in more and give you a range of emotions.”

The taut, aggressive sound of three locked-in musicians—a musical chemistry honed over a dozen years, five albums and change—is unmistakable from the outset of their fifth album, Up on Gravity Hill. The punch and pummel of the band is very much the same of the one we heard on previous records like 2015’s II, but the finer details reveal that a lot, indeed, has changed. Tapping into shoegaze as much as it does post-hardcore, psychedelia side by side with noise rock, the six-and-a-half-minute “No Reservation/Love Comes Crashing” is as radical a transformation as Metz have ever undergone in a single song, rich in melody and depth, complete with the subtle addition of violin from Owen Pallett. “There’s no going backwards,” Edkins sings in one transcendent climax. “We’ll find our destination and search for tomorrow.

Up on Gravity Hill finds Metz pushing themselves into terrain only faintly visible on the horizon from where they stood on previous records. If their evolution indeed continues apace at the gradual rate that Edkins suggests, they’ve managed to cross a crucial threshold where the rewards of that steady growth feel exponential. The album arrives after the longest gap between records to date, in which members of Metz spent time with other projects—Edkins with Weird Nightmare and Noble Rot, Slorach with The Armed. While Up on Gravity Hill doesn’t necessarily reflect the sound of those projects in particular, it does feel like the work of a group finding inspiration beyond the narrow parameters they once set for themselves, exploring sounds that enchant as much as pummel.

To say this is Metz’s prettiest album might overstate the matter, but it’s not incorrect, necessarily—even its gnarliest and garagiest moments, like early singles “99” and “Entwined (Street Light Buzz)”, traffic in slow-burning subtleties, mesmerizing cascades of intricate jangle and harmony as much as power-chord scratch. Edkins frequently trades abrasive bash-and-clobber for a more melodic approach throughout, whether via stark minor-key arpeggios in “Glass Eye,” taut post-punk riffs in “Superior Mirage,” or an infectious tangle of high-on-the-neck licks on “Wound Tight.” But the actual prettiest song arrives in closer “Light Your Way Home,” a hazy post-metal lullaby that finds Edkins harmonizing with Black Mountain’s Amber Webber in the most tender moment in the band’s career to date: “It’s never the right time/ to make it right/I’d set it all on fire/ to light your way home.”

Metz draw from a deeper palette of color on Up on Gravity Hill, and channel a more complex set of emotions, which adds up to one of their most richly rewarding records to date. But what makes it all so much more satisfying is that they do so while maintaining their heavy core—that rhythmic punch that makes all of their music so quintessentially Metz. They capture something brilliant and more complex without ever losing sight of the raw urgency that’s helped to carry them this far.

Label: Sub Pop

Year: 2024

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Metz Up on Gravity Hill review

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