LIVE: Metz / Protomartyr / Spring King @ Scala, London

By Jack Hadaway

Metz are one of those bands that seem like they are straddling several genres at once at that can definitely be seen on both the bill and within the crowd. Metz seamlessly blend elements of grunge, hardcore punk and noise-rock into one idiosyncratic sound which appeals to a hugely diverse crowd.

The night opens with the oddly chirpy Spring King, a high-tempo surf punk-esque quartet from Birmingham whose track ‘City’ was the first song ever played on Apple’s Beats 1 radio apparently. The band arrive around ten minutes late and it’s pretty clear that nobody knows who they are due to the barely filled room. Spring King use the crowd’s reservedness to their advantage and rattle through their setlist with significant gusto which leaves many stunned. The band, launch into track after track without repression and sustain a high energy performance throughout. As a unit, the group stand in a line parallel to crowd and share vocal support, although it is the drummer who seemingly provides the most vocal to the mix.This set-up, which to some band’s might not work as well, creates an impressive level of cohesion considering Spring King’s complex output. Last year’s single ‘Can I?’, from their EP Demons, shows the band at their best, with a chorus that delicately layers four different vocal harmonies around one another. Upcoming release, ‘Who Are You?’ also gets a great reception from the audience as well as the more poppier ‘Mumma’. Spring King leave the stage after steaming through 8 tracks in about 30 minutes and clearly feel privileged to have been included on the bill, thanking Protomartyr, Metz, the venue, London and a largely converted crowd.

When Protomartyr hit the stage, the vibe completely flips from cheery Radio 1 flavoured indie-punk to edgy, gritty and sometimes even miserable post-punk. The moody foursome hang around on stage for about five minutes setting up their gear before subtly creeping into their setlist. From the outset, it is clear that there is some sort of rift between the singer and the rest of the band. Throughout the set, he is hardly ever without a can of beer in his hand and at some points it becomes difficult to distinguish whether he is intoxicated or whether that is his unique, eerie and deflated vocal style. When playing their material, Protomartyr sound intense, well-crafted and gloomy, it is hard to identify a single error in their technical abiliity. Especially on tracks like ‘Why Does It Shake?’ where the band flawlessly build the room’s tension to a dizzying level. Protomartyr could not deliver a higher quality of sound. Which makes it confusing then that their stage presence is uncharismatic, quiet and at times a little unnerving. In between songs, Protomartyr act somewhat hostile to one one another with the vocalist, who for some reason is wearing a suit, being unceremoniously cut off by his bandmates when attempting to address the crowd. Although, when the audience do catch a snippet of the ramblings it does come across as indecipherable.

This style does not so much let Protomartyr down, it just comes across as strange especially when the packed crowd are voicing their support for the band with little response from the performers. However, highlights of the set are ‘Cowards Starve’, ‘Dope Cloud’ and the aforementioned ‘Why Does It Shake?’, all from their latest record ‘The Agent Intellect’, the latter being the lead single.

Lastly, headlining trio Metz enter a darkened, smoke-filled stage and briefly introduce themselves before catapulting into ‘Headache’ which garners an instant moshpit from the re-invigorated crowd, many of whom have been standing relatively dormant until this moment. The trio sound incredible, churning out hit after hit to a highly responsive room, even goading people to come onto the stage by announcing that the band ‘didn’t want the barrier but had to have it for legal reasons.’ The band spend the whole show masked by smoke and darkness with some clever lighting creating a really energetic feel to performance. However, it’s the genius triple combination of ‘Spit You Out’, ‘The Swimmer’ and, fresh from last week, ‘Eraser’ that elevates the group to another level. At all times, guitarist and vocalist, Alex Edkins, sounds snarly, aggressive and explosive. At no point do Metz sound like they have compromised any piece of their sound for their live performances. Even on catchier tracks such as ‘Wait in Line’ Metz still deliver animalistic fury as well as on slower paced cuts like new album closer ‘Kicking a Can of Worms’. Here, Metz are bathed in a hypnotic blue which intersperses which, when merged with a strobe, creates a euphoric yet chilling experience. The biggest response from the night comes for ‘Acetate’, the first track on Metz’s new LP, II, which instigated a massive circle pit as soon as the scuzzy bass lick kicks in. Metz depart the stage for a matter of minutes before coming straight back to give their most renowned track ‘Wet Blanket ‘a quick whirl and then it’s all over and Metz have done their job brilliantly.

Not a single person leaves the venue without an exasperated smile on their face. All three bands have sounded great tonight, Metz just know how to bring the right blend of fuzz, power and hooks to the table,