Some bands slowly mature into something remarkable, and some manage to be amazing right out of the box. Toronto's METZ clearly fall into the latter category. They began reaching their full potential on their second album, 2015's II, but they were already a band to be reckoned with on their self-titled debut in 2012. And while METZ announced the trio's talents to the world thanks to them being signed by Sub Pop, the release of the 2019 collection Automat demonstrates that from the moment the band first stepped into a recording studio, they were uncommonly tight, forceful, and imaginative. Automat collects 12 non-LP tracks from the METZ back catalog, including the first three singles they recorded in 2009 and 2010 for We Are Busy Bodies Records, and from the moment "Soft Whiteout" kicks into gear, the group's tight turning radius, ridiculous amount of physical power, and ability to craft raw noise into something ferociously beautiful is placed front and center. Drummer Hayden Menzies and bassist Chris Slorach are an intimidatingly good rhythm section, providing foundation and framework for songs that are rock-solid despite the outward chaos, and guitarist Alex Edkins suspends a riot of sounds over it, full of slashing chords, bursts of feedback, sheets of atmospheric distortions, and clouds of carefully sculpted effects-box cacophony drifting across the horizon. The precision of these performances sounds like math rock, the bulldozer impact is borrowed from metal, and the overall clamor would get them filed under noise rock, but as much as their debt to their influences can be worked out, the final product feels unique, and the sheer passion they pour into their work is matched by very few of their contemporaries. Acts that match intelligence and a skill for sonic violence the way METZ do are few and far between, and even fewer can bring them together with this sort of skill set. If you got to know METZ from 2015's II or 2017's Strange Peace, Automat will amaze you as you ponder how long they've been this good, and if you haven't been introduced to their work, starting at the beginning isn't a bad idea at all. Either way, you need this music.
AllMusic Review by Mark Deming