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The Lowdown: Toronto-based alt-rockers Metric have returned with their seventh studio album, Art of Doubt. The band mostly steer away from the synth-centric style of their previous record, Pagans in Vegas, but with mixed results. On Art of Doubt, they embrace their six-string roots and occasionally dip into electronic territory.
The Good: Art of Doubt is an improvement from their previous endeavor, which was a rather bland foray into a synthetic landscape. And this album’s best moments are its guitar-based tracks. Opener “Dark Saturday” is a standout that’s reminiscent of late ’90s alternative, and frontwoman Emily Haines’ vocals evoke Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ Karen O.
“Dressed to Suppress”, the record’s second single, is also fueled by guitars and one of Haines’ best vocal performances on the album. It’s also one of the more interesting tracks on a lyrical level, touching on topics such as performative happiness and the conflict that can come packaged with the search for love.
The Bad: Although Art of Doubt boasts some of Metric’s best songs in recent years, the record is not without its many fumbles and shortcomings. As a whole, it feels bland and somewhat uninspired. The band seldom take risks, playing it safe for the majority of the nearly hour-long runtime. “Love You Back” features a “la-la-la” hook that comes off as trite and unimaginative, and ballad “Seven Rules” is built around a lackluster guitar arpeggio that lends a monotony to the track.
Art of Doubt feels inconsistent in its stylistic approach, as well. It ranges from bubbly synth-pop on “Now or Never Now” to an ominous thrasher just one track later to “Underline the Black”, one of the album’s few songs in a major key that’s suggestive of 2012’s Synthetica. Perhaps Metric were attempting to make a record that explores a variety of sounds, but it comes off more as unfocused than genre-bending.
The Verdict: Despite presenting a more interesting record after 2015’s tedious Pagans in Vegas, Metric undoubtedly falter on their latest release. Their emphasis on guitars has certainly helped them, but Art of Doubt feels lacking in creativity. It’s a safe album, but safety can be insipid.
Essential Tracks: “Dark Saturday”, “Dressed to Suppress”, and “Risk”