With all the genre-hopping that King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard has done in less than a decade of activity, the prospect of them dabbling in thrash metal for their fifteenth(!) album somehow isn’t too surprising. The quirky chord patterns and sci-fi concept give the results more common ground with Voivod than Slayer, but there are more muscular guitar chugs and gruffer vocals than anything that the Australians have done before. They also couldn’t resist the urge to let some doomier influences slip through if the ultra-fuzzy tones and occasional swing tempos are anything to go by.
These factors keep Infest the Rats’ Nest from fulfilling any genre purist notions, but they end up highlighting the band’s strongest assets. King Gizzard has always been noted for their energetic musicianship and shifting to a heavier style pushes them to even wilder extremes. There aren’t as many of the group’s usual frills due to the album only fully featuring three of their seven usual members, but the dynamic never feels lacking. Everything sounds full and vibrant and the performances maintain a consistently tight yet off-the-cuff quality.
The songwriting may also be some of the band’s tightest to date, which is fascinating when you consider the literal pop albums they’ve released in the past. The faster songs draw from similar Motorhead-style beats, but each offers a distinct flavor as “Planet B” makes a driving first impression while “Self-Immolate” makes the most of those Voivod flourishes. That said, the mid-tempo songs may be the album’s best as “Mars for the Rich” puts in a fun hard rock swing, “Perihelion” benefits from a scaled-back gallop, and “Superbug” completely lapses into doom worship.
I must also give this album props for its concept. The idea of exploring terraformed planets can make it seem like an escapist space adventure, but its roots in contemporary issues such as income inequality and climate change give it considerable weight without getting too preachy. It’s more focused than any narrative that King Gizzard has attempted before and feels much more relevant than the conspiracy crap that most thrash bands pass off as ‘political’ lyrics these days.
If Infest the Rats’ Nest isn’t King Gizzard’s best album, then it’s at least among their most exciting. The band’s psychedelic tendencies keep them from making a full commitment to metal but this stonerized thrash sound is unlike anything else out there. It feels natural and a mix of tight musicianship and concise songwriting ensures plenty of replay value. I can hope for further development but if this just ends up being a one-off bit of genre tourism, then I can at least thank them for stopping by.
“Mars for the Rich”