METZ / Drahla / Heavy Lungs – The Fleece, Bristol (21st November 2017)

A new venue and city tonight for me as I prepare to make the five hour round trip to see Toronto’s finest punk rock band hit the UK. It’s been two years since Metz last came to our shores and with their third album Strange Peace in the bag, they are taking on a mammoth European tour. This album has been on repeat since it landed and I’ve been utterly mesmerised; I can’t wait to see how it translates on stage.

The Fleece, a Grade II listed building first used as a sheep trading market (hence the name), lies in the heart of Bristol. Nestled up a little back street, it has a 450 capacity and is dark and dingy looking – the perfect setting. With warm and friendly staff, it is a great hive of activity as soon as the doors are open. In fact there was already a small queue when we arrived and it seemed tonight’s local opening act Heavy Lungs have their own crowd of fans raring to go.

Relatively in their infancy, Heavy Lungs have already notched up some great support slots including Bristol’s own Idles, not bad considering they haven’t released their debut EP yet. Bounding onto the stage their front man completely in white and looking slightly like he’s escaped from an asylum, they kick off their ferocious yet addictively dancy, punk rock set. Tight yet boisterous “Stutter” was a stand out track which saw their rabid drummer laughing insanely on backing vocals. The crowd are lapping it up and jigging along. The likes of Black Flag instantly spring to mind as this four piece power through their set, but with a slightly more current edge and swagger that would make it all too easy to compare to a young Frank Carter in his Gallows heyday. With maybe just a touch too much “Dad dancing” and not quite the intimidation that I’ve come to expect from a punk band, it was a voracious set nonetheless. That being said, Heavy Lungs are certainly ones to watch.

Leeds three piece Drahla are up next, a band I’ve heard good things about but just haven’t managed to catch yet. Initially taking up bass then moving on to guitar, Luciel Brown and Rob Riggs share vocal duties. After a few (quite a few unfortunately) sound issues, Drahla settle into a captivating post-punk set. Building on layers of intense grungy riffs, frenetic drumming (Mike Ainsley) and melodic unassuming lyrics, we are treated to tracks from new EP Third Article. Groovy bass tones have the crowd nodding along in approval as the swell of garage rock consumes the room and the band hammer it out picking up momentum. After initially being buried, Luciel’s charming, indie vocal tones come to the fore overlying gritty and atmospheric soundscapes. When Rob takes the lead, things take a more frantic, urgent direction. I was blown away.

The room is now packed as we await main act METZ. I’ve been told in the past the sound this three piece produce is off the scale to the point of physical pain so I secure my earplugs and brace myself at the barrier. As the band lock in and launch straight into “The Swimmer”… holy fuck, they were not wrong! I can feel every drum beat, every guitar note and every bass tone reverb off every inch of my skin; every fibre in my body is vibrating as I’m slammed against the wall, not by the ensuing mosh pit but by the sheer intensity of sound.

Track one off Strange Peace, “Mess of Wires”, has the crowd going nuts as the galloping, thunderous intro plays out. How to compare? Try throwing Nirvana into a jet engine with Jesus Lizard and a few chainsaws, fire it up… and you’re not even close. But this is not just noise, through the distortion and cacophony comes visceral melodies and acrid lyrics (courtesy of Alex Edkins). Hayden Menzies’ belligerent, ardent drumming is enthralling and a sheer joy to witness, even though I feel the kick drum is about to shatter my sternum with every beat. Bass man Chris Slorach gets more air time than a trampolinist as he bounces and thrashes the living daylights out of his instrument.

The barrage of sound continues through an immense set, sweat and beer flying. “Get Off” and “Spit You Out” causing pit carnage. Launching into “Mr Plague” and “Eraser”, not coming up for air, the band don’t waver for a second, tap dancing on an array of pedals, drone like distortions leave no gaps in sound it’s all consuming and shows off their extreme dexterity and talent as musicians. “Drained Lake” is as punk as they come, crashing, tinny guitar tones are an assault and aural pleasure all at the same time. Urgent and ferocious are the vocals, the song quickening with every passing second, what a rush! A quick breather as someone loses their glasses in the pit, Alex (his own glasses steamed up and splattered in sweat) comes out in sympathy and encourages everyone to look at their feet. Chris however counts down from five, shouts “too late” and fires back into the set.

Track after track are thrashed out expanding their whole career. “Raw Materials” has an urgent, garage rock feel – even a very early Blur twinge to it. Visceral “Headache” and personal favourite “Cellophane” intensifies the atmosphere, Alex shaking his head frantically showering the room in sweat. The crowd are loving every second, singing and bouncing along. There’s a great diversity of people in here, some very obvious hardcore fans and those who have popped along out of interest, but one thing is certain, everyone is enraptured by this guttural performance.

Alex asks for the lights to be dimmed and a much needed almost ethereal soundscape is delivered by the band before the powerful “Kicking a Can of Worms” kicks off – literally. Chaotic and angry “Nervous System”, “The Mule” and “Acetate” bring this intense, insane set to a close, the band dropping off side of stage to huge applause.

Summoning up reserves of energy, the band bounce back on for an encore led by “Wasted” which kicks off the bloodthirsty pit one last time. Against a huge wall of deafening noise rock, bodies, sweat and beer fly everywhere (you know the score). A huge roar goes up and three very happy, sweaty Canadians leave the stage surrounded by love and respect.

As I remove my earplugs and the metaphoric blood streams down my neck, I turn to my better half and we say simultaneously “If I never see/hear another band again, I’ll die happy” and I’m already wondering how to put this epic night into words.

METZ: official | facebook | twitter | instagram | bandcamp

Drahla: facebook | bandcamp | youtube

Heavy Lungs: facebook

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