On ‘Infest The Rats’ Nest,’ King Gizzard masters metal

Not long ago, I reviewed a new single, “Planet B,” from Australian psychedelic rock band King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard. At the time I said, “[I]f this single is any indication of the band’s future plans, King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard’s second album for 2019 might just be the best metal album of the year.”

Well, King Gizzard not only managed to deliver one of the best metal albums of the year with their latest record, “Infest the Rats’ Nest,” but also one of the strongest releases from any band so far this year. Clocking in at just under 35 minutes, “Infest the Rats’ Nest” is a masterpiece, blending the diverse genres of thrash and doom metal with garage and psychedelic rock.

For those who haven’t experienced the sonic journey that is this band, King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard is a seven-piece group consisting of Melbourne natives Stu Mackenzie on lead vocals and guitar, Ambrose Kenny-Smith on keyboards and vocals, Cook Craig and Joey Walker on guitar, Lucas Skinner on bass, and Michael Cavanagh and Eric Moore on drums—yes, two drummers. Throughout the band’s decade-long career, King Gizzard has been known for taking risks and experimenting with new sounds to keep each album fresh. Across 12 albums, King Gizzard has experimented with such vastly different styles as folk, progressive rock, jazz, microtonal music, bluegrass and now (finally), metal. It is safe to say that King Gizzard is releasing some of the most artistically creative music in modern rock.

“Infest the Rats’ Nest” is no different. Like many of King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard’s releases, this album has a guiding concept. Also like many of the band’s other releases, the concept is incredibly dark. Picture this: The Earth is a dying planet, thanks to climate change. The rich have colonized Mars, while the poor and middle classes continue to suffer on a planet filled with people that are harvesting organs, and where a super-virus is starting to slowly extinguish all life on the planet. So, the common people decide to construct a rocket and use it to colonize Venus, only to burn alive in the planet’s 800°F atmosphere and go to hell. Intense, isn’t it? 

The accompanying music that describes this chaos is just as bizarre. “Infest the Rats’ Nest” begins with the first single that was released in anticipation of the album, “Planet B” (please read my earlier review for more information about the song). We then transition into a pulsing, groovy track called “Mars For the Rich.” With its classic metal-inspired riff and hooky chorus, the song is a banger through and through. Next up is “Organ Farmer,” a two-minute freight train of a track with thumping blast beats and rhythmically technical guitar riffs that could give “Master of Puppets” by Metallica a run for its money. “Superbug,” the slowest song on the album, follows; it is a six-minute dirge about a super-virus that cannot be eradicated by antibiotics. 

The second half of this record focuses on the exploits of Earth’s hopeful yet doomed ordinary people and their quest to colonize Venus. “Venusian 1” describes their initial journey, ending with a line that references the earlier track “Planet B” (“There is one Planet V.”) Following this track is the catchiest song on the album, “Perihelion.” With its haunting chorus and pounding guitar riff, the song almost reminds me of something the band Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats would write. “Venusian 2” describes the initial approach towards Venus, while “Self-Immolate,” which the band released as the second single for this album, describes the awful death of intrepid amateur astronauts as they burn alive in Venus’ atmosphere. King Gizzard pummels the listener with blisteringly fast drums and guitars, all while Stu sings about lusting for volcanoes, making the song quite the trip to listen to. Finally, the album closes with “Hell,” where the explorers land in the underworld. At this point, Satan directs the explorers towards “the rats’ nest,” a metaphor for Mars. At the end of the album, the humans that died in Venus’ atmosphere come back from the dead to attack the rich on Mars, hence the titular phrase, “infest the rats’ nest.”

Each of the songs includes at least one lyric that instantly became ingrained in my memory (this never happens to me, as I tend to remember the melodies in a song more easily than the lyrics).  Whether it’s a phrase as simple as “Blood minestrone,” or the lyric “Fifteen infantry paratroop into the propylene new scene/Hell’s where they want to be,” or perhaps my favorite line on the whole album, “Outside it will bring you death/Just make sure you hold your breath,” the band’s lyric writing is one of the strongest elements on this record.

This album is a fantastic addition to King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard’s already incredible discography. Let’s hope that King Gizzard continues to thrive and make a name for themselves as innovators in the rock genre, and that there never comes a day when kids describe the band as “dad-rock.”

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