Mike Echo Tango Zulu

photo by Colin Medley

This show’s ticket stub should have come with a hazard-warning. No two bands today are more capable of ripping apart your eardrums and then blowing up the tattered remains than my dream duo of Vancouver’s own White Lung and Toronto’s METZ.

But before my dream could have come true, I had to get through Cindy Lee. That’s not a knock against former Women member Patrick Flegel’s new band, which also features Morgan Cook and Julie Taylor from Vancouver’s scrappy garage-poppers Yung Mums. In fact, learning that Flegel came from Women, which implied connections to and approval from Chad VanGaalen who did in fact master Cindy Lee’s new album Tatlashea, piqued my interest a bit. But I’d been frothing at the mouth to see METZ and White Lung. Those two bands alone would have made for a stacked bill (really, it could and should have been a co-headlining show), so Cindy Lee seemed out of place not only due to the completely different energy they bring but by the mere fact of having been included on the bill.

Having known how many local musicians (including members of Peace, Johnny de Courcy and the Death Rangers and L.A. Cops) have been in and out of Cindy Lee in varying degrees of involvement, I was surprised to see Flegel take the stage by himself. Armed with only a guitar, his incredibly brief set, which may have ran twenty minutes at most, bore almost no resemblance to his dank, ghostly recordings. Actually, as a one-person jam session in which he sounded like he was sketching out riffs, it didn’t resemble a cogent performance at all. It didn’t help that Cindy Lee had to compete for the audience’s attention against game 2 of the Canucks vs. Sharks which played on the television near the bar.

Unlike Cindy Lee, White Lung never have a problem gathering a crowd. The band blitzed through a lightning fast set as usual, but this time, they weren’t the sharply defined precisionists I’d come to expect: singer Mish Way’s building-razing roar couldn’t rise above the band’s noise let alone the deepest recess of Hell. Anne-Marie Vassiliou’s drumming was still merciless and thunderous, but she couldn’t tame the chaos into any kind of order. Even Kenneth Williams’ coarse, chunky guitar lines and white-hot solos seemingly couldn’t puncture the thick maelstrom of sound.

Although White Lung fell short of my expectations, METZ wiped my brain clean of any missed steps earlier in the night. I describe METZ the same way to everyone: they’re the sounds of fighter jets taking off and barreling through soot-filled skies before crashing and burning. These Toronto boys play to kill, even if it means going down with you. METZ turned the Biltmore into ground zero with their downward spiraling, tailspin guitars and rotary cannon bass. Every drumbeat exploded on contact like stepping on a landmine. The engine roars of Alex Edkins’ guitar rang out relentlessly like glass-shattering sonic booms. The only cessations in METZ’s ballistic rampage came as stormy calms before the band circled around and dive-bombed the audience’s ears again.

My favourite thing about seeing young bands live is that they usually don’t have a lot of material, so they’re more than likely going to play everything they have. While that could lead to predictable shows, when all of their songs are as good as METZ’s impenetrably dense debut self-titled album, it more than balances out. Sure enough, METZ’s heaviest hitters dropped like bombs: though every song kept the audience moving, none kept them more on edge than “Rats”, “Get Off”, “Wasted” and “Headache”.

It’s a wonder METZ could not only channel but exceed the volatility of their record with only one guitar, one drum kit and one bass (that is, with no overdubs). When METZ come shooting at you, there’s nothing you can do but throw down your weapon in surrender. Every ounce of energy you give them, they throw it back in your face fifty-fold.

METZ’s entire self-titled album bleeds the nihilistic despair of a pilot who knows he’s on a collision course with infernal death. The sense of panic in their music is so overwhelming sometimes, you may find yourself wanting to radio for help, fully aware of the futility in doing so. It’s a turbulent ride, every song a ticking time-bomb, but once the actually demure trio’s F5 whirlwind of gusty hard rock settles down, you discover that there was never really anything to fear. It’s certainly one of the most exhilarating experiences all the way through. But as Edkins sings on “Wet Blanket”, “You’ll never be the same.”

Leslie Ken Chu

Leslie Ken Chu