(Photo: David Waldman)

Heading into a sophomore album, generally there are two routes facing indie noisemakers like Metz—either expand outward for a shot at wider popularity, or burrow inward and create a more distilled version of the thing that got the group to this point. With “Acetate,” the lead single and opening track from II, Metz proudly announces it took that second option.

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There was a method to the madness of the Toronto trio’s 2012 debut, taking mangled noise and peppering in precise doses of ’60s pop and barroom rawk. II is missing that counterintuitive dimension, resulting in the directness of a back-to-basics album. If that self-titled first outing was like picking at a scab, Metz’s second effort is equivalent to ripping off a Band-Aid. Either way, it’s still music to bleed to.

Whether on thrashers like “Nervous System” or gnarled drones like “Kicking A Can Of Worms,” II has the blunt force of three guys who locked themselves in an abandoned storage unit and didn’t stop recording until they bashed their way out. Still, some new textures materialize from this claustrophobic fury, which is a testament to the band’s own production (with an assist from Holy Fuck’s Graham Walsh) and the interplay it has developed from two years of relentless touring.

“Landfill” is as elastic as it is metallic, with Chris Slorach’s bottom-scraping bass providing a meaty slab for Alex Edkins’ shoegaze knife attack. Drummer Hayden Menzies offers songs a heaving sense of expansion and contraction throughout as he jerks from manic propulsion to elephant stomps. “Spit You Out” lumbers and claws like a Resident Evil boss, proving even when Metz isn’t concussive, it’s still corrosive.

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Somehow, Edkins’ vocals emerge at the top of this dogpile, serving as perhaps the most caustic element of the whole album. He spends the proceedings either spewing acid all over the microphone or barking like Johnny Rotten taking a run at In Utero’s most feral freakouts—and in the case of “Acetate,” alternating between the two.

It all makes for a staggering array of feedback, scrapes, and screams, but what once separated Metz’s noise from everyone else’s was the winking sunniness the group has laced into these tantrums as a momentary salve. This time, when melodic clarity bursts through the streamlined hardcore blitz, like on “I.O.U.” and “The Swimmer,” it’s hardly recuperative.

That unforgiving nature is fitting for an album loosely inspired by Edkins’ pessimistic outlook on everyday life, even though the songs themselves provide few clues as to what, specifically, Metz is revolting against. Make no mistake, though, II is revolting. And there’s really no need to analyze it beyond that. After all, a demented grin is open to interpretation, but there’s no misconstruing a rabid snarl.

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