METZ – “II”

Grade: B-

Key Tracks: “Acetate” “Kicking a Can of Worms”

METZ named this album “II” because they knew it would serve as a sequel. They came out swinging on their self-titled debut album, and fell into the rarity of an instant classic punk release. Even in a crowded genre, the album defied genre. “METZ” was like a butcher, taking a typical post-punk album and rolling it into one long strand, making incisions every few inches. Their music is extremely metrical, in a way that punk and post-punk usually prides itself on going against. “II,” unfortunately, doesn’t quite keep the energy. But it is a proper sequel.

Sequels are difficult – how much do you acknowledge the original? On the spectrum of “Godfather Part II” to “Hangover Part II,” METZ here fall somewhere around “22 Jump Street,” or “Led Zeppelin 2,” in the acknowledgement that yes, it’s more of the same, but you liked it the first time. METZ have a formula to their music that’s distinctly their own, but they’re already deviating from it.

The worst moments of “II” are the ones where METZ sound like they’re retreading themselves. The band, surprisingly, suffers from the “Give ‘Em Enough Rope” struggle of recapturing a debut album’s sheer energy. The songs presented here are sometimes more forceful than others, and sometimes more well-mixed than others. “Acetate” and “Landfill” have energy to them, while “Spit You Out” and “Nervous System” could use a little boost. And while the balance between heavy instrumentation and vocals is usually balanced, on “Wait in Line” it is too heavily in favor of the music. The lyrics throughout edge on intelligible, but “Wait in Line” is the only track where they’re too muted.

Still, the band recognizes that they can’t completely recreate their first album, and they allow themselves some flourishes. There’s something close to a solo on “Spit You Out,” and there’s a tremolo bit on “Eyes Peeled” that could be mistaken for a solo. They break out of their own system a bit, more than they allowed themselves to do on “METZ.” The vocals on “The Swimmer” are more frantic than they were before. There’s signs that the band knows this is a brand that can’t keep going forever. And at the end of it, “II” still rocks pretty hard. They might not be able to keep this formula up for long, but it’s still working in their favor.

If you like this, try: There’s a hundred different ways I can go with this one, but I’ll keep it basic. One of the best of the year – Sleater-Kinney’s “No Cities to Love

-By Andrew McNally

Locrian – “Return to Annihilation”

(Photo Credit: The Sleeping Shaman)

Grade: B+

Key Tracks: “Eternal Return,” “A Visitation From the Wrath of Heaven”

“The ends justify the means” is not a phrase commonly associated with music, but it defines what Locrian sets out to do. The noise rock trio’s largely stellar new album is seven songs long, many of which build up furiously into large and loud ending moments. The final track, “Obsolete Elegies,” builds up for twelve minutes before unleashing a slow but heavy outro for the album. Locrian are a tough and complex band, one that most listeners are going to write off pretty quickly.

With a title like “Return to Annihilation” and song titles like “A Visitation From the Wrath of Heaven” and “Exiting the Hall of Vapor and Light,” Locrian comes off like a metal band. Instead, they are an overdrawn noise rock group sitting on the better side of Godspeed You! Black Emperor. Their songs are in no hurry to reach their conclusion, in a fifty minute, seven-track album. Their music is more intense, and often more complex than Godspeed. Locrian’s songs start off on bleak notes, often accentuated by droning guitar and dismal keyboards. The album’s cover certainly helps, one of the bleakest covers in years. I unfortunately did not listen to the album with headphones, but I can imagine that it creates a surrounding experience. The droning of some of their songs grow into their abrasive conclusions, that sometimes feature some screamed lyrics, but not always.

Yet some songs have a certain urgency to them. The album isn’t entirely drones. Opener “Eternal Return” jumps right out of the gate with volume and screaming, ending noisily in only two and a half minutes. The second track, “A Visitation…” is one that builds up, but has more of a defined purpose and less of a bleak nature than the tracks that follow. The fact that many of the songs have a similar structure but vary in tone is beneficial, as the album never gets too bleak or too repetitive, but is instead a dense, heavy, and pleasurably frustrating listen. There is a complexity to “Return to Annihilation” that will never dissipate no matter how many listeners. The album might not hit some of the more disturbing elements it aims for, but it is still a deeply confronting album that works at each of its volumes. Locrian plays for a very limited niche of people looking for challenging and well-conceived noise-rock, but they do it very, very well.

If you like this, try: “METZ” by METZ (2012). Their song structures are much more traditional, and they’re much more upfront with their aural assaults, but it’s an incredible piece of noise rock. The album really makes the listener sweat.

-By Andrew McNally