Known as the first band to use synthetic percussion in a punk rock context, Metal Urbain used heavily distorted guitars, aggressive vocals, a synthesizer, and a drum machine to create some of the most original music of the punk era. Formed in Paris in 1977, this quartet had a unique approach that called into question the very nature of rock & roll itself. Despite their lack of usual rock instrumentation, they aligned themselves with the punk rock scene symbolized by the Sex Pistols, rather than the anti-rock camp of Throbbing Gristle. The elimination of a conventional rhythm section (i.e., acoustic drums and bass) helped to illuminate the possibilities for experimentation within the rock aesthetic and paved the way for further exploration throughout the post-punk era.
Metal Urbain were a band of many firsts. In addition to the aforementioned advances in the area of rock instrumentation, they released the first single on the legendary Rough Trade label. On their first single, 1977's "Panik," Metal Urbain's unvarying drum machine program created a relentless attack that pushed the upper regions of punk rock aggression to new heights. Their follow-up single, "Paris Marquis," was released on Rough Trade Records and was the first release for what became the most innovative and eclectic label of the post-punk era. Metal Urbain's vocals, sung exclusively in French, called for revolution to reveal the fascist elements of the political structure. They continued to carve their unique niche with their third and final single, "Hysterie Connective," released in 1978 on Radar.
Metal Urbain broke up in 1979 with Eric Débris, Herman Schwartz, and Pat Lüger continuing in a similar vein with Metal Boys and Doctor Mix & the Remix, releasing records on Rough Trade. The following year, Les Hommes Mort Sont Dangereux (which translates to "Dead Men Are Dangerous") was released on Byzanteen Records and compiled their singles along with some BBC sessions. In 1985, L'Age d'Or was released on CD and double LP, compiling previously released material with additional demos, live material, and remixes. Nearly 20 years later, Acute Records released Anarchy in Paris!, a compilation of the band's '70s releases. The same label also reissued the output of Metal Boys and Doctor Mix & the Remix. ~ Peter Schaefer