Columns, Opinion, Reviews

SideTracked: Thrash-metal love letter: King Gizzard’s most successful experiment

Cover of King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard's album Infest the Rats' Nest
Infest the Rats' Nest

Infest the Rat’s Nest – King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard

Released 8/23/2019 / Flightless Records

Genres: Thrash Metal/Heavy Psych/Stoner Metal

To the uninitiated, King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard might seem like a giant meme. Obviously their name plays into that, but even while diving into their catalogue it can seem like the band is in on some joke you aren’t. They have 15 studio albums, five of which came out in 2017. Among these are such riveting titles as “Flying Microtonal Banana” and this year’s “Fishing for Fishies.” 

I wouldn’t call myself a King Gizz fan, in that most of these experiments fall pretty flat for me. Occasionally, though, they can really deliver. 

“Infest the Rat’s Nest” is King Gizzard’s first full-album foray into metal, and it is far and away my favorite thing they’ve released to this point. Nearly all of King Gizz’s material is built around some crazy concept, from microtonal experiments to an album designed to loop into itself infinitely. By comparison,“Rat’s Nest” is pretty straightforward: Earth is dying from human-caused climate change, the rich are leaving for Mars, superpowered bacteria are destroying the remaining population, and the band is conveying all of this through crazy guitar riffs and double bass drumming.  As absurd as the concept is, it’s actually realized very effectively. This might be the only album the band has released that I wish had more material. 

Part sci-fi epic, part thrash-metal love letter, “Infest the Rat’s Nest” is an absolute joy. It wears its influences pretty clearly on its sleeves: You can hear Motörhead, Slayer, and a tinge of Black Sabbath on “Rat’s Nest.” But it’s the way King Gizz puts their own spin on these sounds that is interesting. The vocal effects in the chorus of “Perihelion,” the synth that glitches out right before the first verse on “Mars For The Rich,” the intro to “Superbug” — as satisfying as the riffs here are, these are the moments that really make the album. 

My biggest criticisms of the record lie in the narrative it presents. The first side of the project sets the story up fantastically, but the B-side doesn’t deliver a matching payoff. I enjoy all five of the songs in a vacuum, but within the context of the record they feel somewhat redundant. “Venusian 1” and “2” are too close together, both in their placement on the record and in their sounds. “Self-Immolate” is probably my least favorite song on the album, partly because I couldn’t find myself caring about the fate of the Venusian settlers and partly because it occupies such a similar lane to “Organ Farmer.”

It may seem nitpicky to criticize a record for its story rather than its music, especially when the music is this good. With such an out-there concept though, I think every aspect of the album needs to be firing on all cylinders to keep you from remembering just how goofy it is.

“Infest the Rat’s Nest” isn’t a perfect album, but it’s certainly an entertaining one. Fans of the bands mentioned above will find a lot to love here, and I guarantee these songs will stick in your head for weeks.


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