After the synth-driven, very polished Pagans in Vegas, Metric returned with a more guitar-driven, rock & roll-centric approach on their seventh album, 2018's Art of Doubt. Metric have never been shy about shifting their sound, and each time they do their core strengths never fade. Emily Haines' powerful voice and evocative lyrics, their rock-solid rhythm section, and their ability to craft immediately hooky modern rock; these things are out in full force on Art of Doubt. This time, the guitar playing of James Shaw makes the leap to a starring role. He's been great at playing a supporting role on their last few albums, but here his slashing guitar lines, rippling fills, and atmospheric pedal work give the songs a sometime gritty, sometime spacy edge that harks back to the 2005 album Live It Out. To match his energy and fiery playing, the whole band sounds energized in a way it certainly wasn't on Pagans in Vegas. Songs like "Dark Saturday" and "Art of Doubt" are whip-smart rockers that punch like heavyweights, with Shaw laying down spiky guitar and Haines pushing her vocals to the far edge. Less aggressive songs like "Dressed to Suppress" and "Risk" may not batter the speakers, but they do have a almost menacing Strokes-y swagger; "Love You Back" struts with a self-assured nature and they deliver a healthy number of slightly melancholy pop songs that tug at the heartstrings while injecting warm melodies into the bloodstream ("Now or Never Now" and "Seven Rules" are a couple of fine examples). They haven't done away with the synths entirely, as they feature heavily on the ballads (like "Anticipate" and the dreamy, album-ending "No Lights on the Horizon") and provide a sleek underpinning to most of the rest of the tracks. It's a thoroughly modern sound but it never feels overcooked, and the passion brought to the songs by Shaw -- and especially the always reliable Haines -- is impressive. Metric synthesize the stadium rock of Fantasies, the moody hookiness of Pagans in Vegas, and the new wave spunkiness of their early albums into something that's recognizably their own, instantly memorable and one of their best overall albums yet.
AllMusic Review by Tim Sendra