The highly productive King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard is like a chameleon of today’s rock & roll scene. When we first reviewed them a few years ago King Gizz clearly was a 60’s psych rock outfit but as the years progressed albums in other genres kept piling up. In 2017 they managed to release five albums (!) each in a completely different style. It was too much for us to handle, so we took a break. Yet, after hearing the punishing single Organ Farmer we thought it was time to pick up the trail again. Infest the Rats’ Nest is King Gizz’s fifteenth studio album since their formation in Melbourne, Australia in 2011 and follows up on Fishing for Fishies that was released earlier this year. While its predecessor is among the band’s most light-footed work, Rats’ Nest is a ferociuos 180 degree turn to the depths of thrash metal. Like climate activist Greta Thunberg, King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard are mad, mad at humanity that is, for blindy marching towards its own destruction. So now we have an ideal soundtrack to march on.
The band shrunk in size for this album. Instead of the usual seven only Stu McKenzie (vocals, guitar), Joey Walker (bass), and Michael Cavanaugh (drums) made it to the lineup. Rats’ Nest thus became a surprisingly focused record with some effective gritty arrangements. Drum salvo’s and fast metal riffs kick off the opening track Planet B. In a furious pace McKenzie sings, “There is no Planet B. Open your eyes and see!” and sets the agenda for the rest of the album. However, in between he also sings lines like “…shoot the dingo while the shit goes out the window!”, which is sort of… strange. Hmm, well King Gizz’s still has to uphold the reputation to be Australia’s most absurd rock band. March for the Rich is less hooky and is built around a more groovy riff with some spacy prog sounds to top it all off. On Superbug the band again dives in head first with some straightforward thrash as a clear ode to ‘70s-heavy metal godfathers Black Sabbath and Deep Purple.
On the second part of the album the social commentary is replaced with a sci-fi narrative about a group of people who see no other choice but to leave earth to search for planet B, which just happens to be Venus (or planet V). Although it seems a bit hostile: “[…] Outside air will bring you death. Just make sure you hold your breath”, the group make the trip anyway. On Venusian 1 the musical homage gets a more Metallica-feel. After we hear about a heroic trip on the fist pumping Perihelion the group land on Venus and find themselves in a hellscape on Venusian 2. King Gizz goes in Slayer-like overdrive mode here. ‘Venusian 2’ holds some fastest guitar work on the album. The overdrive continues on Self-Immolate and Hell. On these final two tracks a story of man vs. planet survival unfolds which logically ends up in a victory for the planet. Malicious thrash leads out the album together with a confronting statement for the stubborn human race: “Hell‘s where they wanna be! INFEST THE RATS’ NEST”.
Rats’ Nest in essence is a brutal message about an impending global catastrophe. King Gizz takes the ‘environmental bull’ by the horns, slaps it around our faces and ultimately transforms it into an insane cosmic story. Many will probably agree on that. Yet, the sonic shift to the metal genre will make some frown. The Austailian outfit is known for their eclecticism but a radical shift like this could easily be seen as a misstep. Infest the Rats’ Nest feels like a gimmick. A very obvious one that is. Metalheads will therefore ignore this album. Same goes for parts of King Gizz’s fanbase who are not accustomed to this heavy sound. Gimmick or homage be that as it may, chances are the band itself just wanted to make the childhood dream of making a hardcore metal album come true. So they did. Infest the Rats’ Nest holds a great variation of some berzerk riffs that are very fun to listen to. So don’t overthink it, just go with the flow!
Label: Fightless, 2019
- Planet B (3:56)
- Mars for the Rich (4:11)
- Organ Farmer (2:39)
- Superbug (6:43)
- Venusian 1 (3:20)
- Perihelion (3:11)
- Venusian 2 (2:44)
- Self-Immolate (4:28)
- Hell (3:39)
Review by Wander Meulemans // 261019