It's fitting that Toronto power trio METZ got their big break by leveling crowds at the annual CMJ Music Marathon conference last month in New York.
These historians of hardcore do things the old-fashioned way, evidently unbelieving in just about everything that's happened to music since the advent of the Internet. Most of their discography is 7-inch singles. If they use a computer to record their music, you couldn't tell. Signed to Sub Pop, they most resemble the clamorous rock godheads that once anchored that label's seminal roster and singles club of the late '80s and early '90s: Sonic Youth at their most punk, Mudhoney at their primal grungiest, Nirvana circa anything but Nevermind.
METZ's Friday-night appearance at the tiny Kung Fu Necktie dive in Fishtown corroborated their anachronistic appeal. The succinct set burned through nine songs in 30 minutes - the kind of numbers one might have last expected of a headliner in the Washington hardcore scene a few decades ago.
Aside from the stellar outtake "Dirty Shirt," METZ played strictly from their recent debut album, its delectably punishing riffs and polyrhythms a foundation upon which they forged a manic intensity. Singer-guitarist Alex Edkins sang not a single syllable that failed to engage the entirety of his neck, while drummer Hayden Menzies flexed a battery of muscular beats. Bassist Chris Slorach, who spun tirelessly about the stage like a teenage punk half his age, paused to apologize personally for all his sweat and shout spittle to a front-row fan.
"I keep seeing you wipe your face off," he said. "Sorry about that."
Most openers would have paled in comparison, but Philadelphia's own Heavy Medical did an exceptional job of setting the evening's tone. With two thunderous kits and a distorted bass blown masterfully out of proportion, the threesome obliterated eardrums for 15 high-impact minutes before gracefully relinquishing the stage. Locals looking for a down and dirty fix between METZ visits ought to take note.