The Globe, Cardiff, Tue 28 Aug
In the age of Google and social media, when online discoverability is king, calling your band John (in honour of the first name you both share) is an admirably perverse decision. However, there’s little else about the duo that suggests a desire to remain inconspicuous and under the radar; on the contrary, they’re the heaviest thing to come out of Crystal Palace since Christian Benteke’s first touch.
Singing drummer John Newton urges us to come close enough for him to be able to see the whites of our eyes, but to do so is to run the risk of being spiked with a drumstick splinter or sprayed with sweat. Industrial Action and Cultural Trip suggest that the man could make a fearsome racket just playing toothpicks on a jam jar lid. Little wonder that he and his namesake have been hand-picked by noisemongers du jour Idles for an autumn jolly around Europe.
In one sense Drahla are in familiar company – they’ve toured with the headliners before – but in another they’re very much the odd ones out on tonight’s bill, as the only band with an evident appreciation of nuance rather than merely all-out assault. Like awkward teenagers, though, the Leeds-based outfit largely try to fit in with their peers, attempting to act the part while suppressing (one suspects) their more natural inclinations and instincts.
A shame, because buried beneath bassist Rob Riggs and drummer Mike Ainsley’s beefy rhythm section lies their secret weapon: Luciel Brown’s daydreamy, deadpan speak-singing. It’s no coincidence that Drahla are at their best on Fictional Decision, Form Of Luxury and especially Silk Spirit – songs that dial down the messiness to give greater prominence to both Brown’s Kim Gordon impression and the tight, propulsive post-punk element of their sound.
Metz, by contrast, have about as much interest in dialling down as Spinal Tap’s Nigel Tufnell. In an early interview with Pitchfork, the Torontonians’ guitarist/vocalist Alex Edkins revealed, “We try to take everything we do and make it redline”. Clearly, that ethos continues to be one they live by. Their latest LP is titled Strange Peace, and their concept of peace is strange indeed.
Metz’s sound is a savage hybrid that recalls everything from The Jesus Lizard and In Utero’s most extreme moments to No Age and Drive Like Jehu (whose John Reis they’ve collaborated with). Having found their natural home on Sub Pop from the outset, they’ve now teamed up with their natural producer, Steve Albini, for Strange Peace. Quite how they went down at the Reading and Leeds Festivals at the weekend, on a bill surrounded by woah-woahing pop-punk sprats and headed by Papa Roach, is unclear, but hopefully at least a few teenagers will have returned home with a new-found penchant for noise-punk as well as soiled underpants.
Spit You Out, which induces vigorous bouncing and sees Edkins demanding we put our hands in the air, suggests that perhaps they weren’t totally out of place. More representative, though, is Strange Peace’s opener Mess Of Wires, a juddering, pummelling brute as likely to induce seizures as some of their videos (see Eraser, in particular). The set rushes by in a blur of smashing, crashing, bodyslamming and stagediving with barely any respite, culminating in Acetate and genuine blast from the past Wet Blanket – and a whole room of people gleefully refusing to act their age.
words BEN WOOLHEAD photos ARABELLA ITANI