ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED ON THE 405 (NOW DEFUNCT)
After reviewing the sweet but placid Fishing For Fishies back in May, I concluded my write up by calling for Melbourne’s King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard to expand upon the thrilling thrash metal surprise of their then-new single 'Planet B.’ Without fail, Stu MacKenzie and the gang have delivered the goods in typical King Gizz fashion by diving down a hellish rabbit hole that seemed like an inevitable destination for a band with a name like King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard, to begin with.
Stepping back from my own fandom and viewing the Aussie septet’s ever-growing discography (15 records and counting) from afar, it's hard to deny that their interpretations of various musical styles are rather surface level. However, their discography is a solid lanching point—a quantity, but decent quality sample platter for listeners whose pallets have yet to experience musical worlds like boogie rock, jazz, and of course, psych-rock. With Infest the Rats’ Nest, fans of the band have finally received a taste of thrash and an opportunity to explore the genre’s pillars. Though their latest offering does not reinvent the wheel of thrash metal, King Gizzard provides an unabashed impression of “Insert beloved thrash metal band name,” which is an incredibly bold move when considering how fervent (and uptight) genre purists can be. That being said, Infest the Rats’ Nest is no indication of the band becoming the next Metallica or “fucking Slayer!” But you can’t knock these seven goofballs for having a blast as they journey through the music they enjoy listening to and of course, love playing.
Expanding upon frequent themes like environmental disaster and the potential for utopia (or dystopia), Infest the Rats’ Nest is a considerably brutal and in-your-face call to “open your eyes and see” the ecological turmoil that is being levied upon our planet by the very hands of humanity, whereas Fishing For Fishies was a soft nudge to see and do something about this impending doom. The first half of Infest The Rats’ Nest, begins with the blistering 'Planet B,' which discusses the current state of mother nature. Though it proposes the possibility of “colonization” of other planets in our solar system, the track pessimistically yet righteously maintains that “There is no Planet B.”
While 'Planet B' maintains that preserving Earth is the only avenue possible for human survival, the hypothetical of a “new Earth” is still explored through the following track, 'Mars For The Rich.' Veering slightly from thrash and moving closer to stoner metal which the band has ever-so-slightly hinted at in the past, 'Mars For The Rich' is a psychedelic excursion highlighted by crunchy riffs and a pessimistic outlook at colonizing the only other planet in the solar system that has shown any possibility of possessing life.
The album’s third and best single, 'Organ Farmer' furthers examines humanity’s destructive ways through ghastly imagery regarding the brutal nature of the meat industry. With the band’s frontman Stu a known Vegan, this track in all of its disgusting wrath, is unironically one of the most earnest songs the band has ever written. Supercharged by frantic drums and incessantly deranged guitar riffs, the track’s blood-slathered message is driven even deeper like an unassuming cattle-gun that’ll catch you off guard, just as it did to that poor cow you so viciously devoured at McDonald’s last night.
With 'Super Bug,' the band’s 15th studio album experiences a jarring change of pace. Here, they explore the very real possibility of a parasite—immune to antibiotic and pesticides–ushering in the extinction of the human race: “Superbug gave a shrug / And ate all your prescription drugs / And never, ever, ever stopped / Deadly contagious / And inter-generational / Never ever ever stops / And never ever gives a fuck.” This is not a bad song whatsoever. But its considerably slower-pace throws off the album’s undeniable adrenaline that had been established up to this point. This is especially true considering the unhinged vigor of the album’s remaining cuts, beginning with 'Venusian 1'.
With part one of Infest the Rats’ Nest venting with social commentary, the remainder is well-oiled for the self-destructive narrative to come—a story about a group of rebels who are forced to leave Planet Earth, with settling on Venus as their only option. ‘Venusian 1' brings about the jarring comparisons between the fiery mass that is the planet Venus—and Earth—an impending fiery mass. ‘Perihelion’ furthers this death-defying tale by detailing our heroes’ entry point into this fiery hellscape, while ‘Venusian 2' represents the album’s climax as they settle into their new home—or at least try to. Even though this particular section of Infest the Rats’ Nest is the core of the album, it’s, unfortunately, a bit too meander-ish, with each of these three tracks failing to distinguish itself musically from one another.
Though the record briefly loses its footing, King Gizz re-ups on the cosmic insanity with the final two tracks. On the single ‘Self-Immolate,’ our heroes’ desperate attempt at survival is all for naught as they become clouded by futility and the desire to seek peace through the inevitable—self-immolation. ‘Self-Immolate’ would have been a satisfying way to conclude this raucous album as it eerily mirrors ‘Planet B,’ but King Gizzard is a band that likes to go above and beyond, which is most certainly the case with the volatile fireworks of ‘Hell.’ Here, the Australian outfit has saved their most vicious thrash effort for last. With an animalistic first half, the final thirty seconds is where its molting core is revealed. Three minutes in, King Gizz shifts from an onslaught of blistering guitar riffs to a head-banging blast beat groove that cannot be contained—making it a satisfying end to this explosive journey of desperate space travel and ecological disaster.
Even with a jarring pace and social commentary that is a bit on the nose and yes, dorky, Infest the Rats’ Nest is admirable because it has fun amid foreseeable chaos. They’ve made their loudest most angry album of the year and yet, have embraced the reality that they are not reinventing the wheel of thrash metal through this record, All this to say, Infest the Rats’ Nest is especially impressive when you stop to think about the fact that they had just released Fishing For Fishies just four months ago. Yes, all in one year, King Gizzard has provided the boogie (albeit a weak one), while also delivering some praiseworthy thrash explosiveness, which not many bands are bold or talented enough to do. By no means is Infest the Rats’ Nest the best ‘heavy’ album of the year, that honor is shared by Lingua Ignota and Baroness. But it’s not crazy to suggest that Infest the Rats’ Nest is one of the most valiant efforts of 2019, one that has only furthered the wondrous mystery of Melbourne’s beloved band.
THE 405 RATING: 7.5/10