Review: King Gizzard And The Lizard Wizard ‘Infest The Rats’ Nest’
Words by Riley Fitzgerald
From the outset it was clear. Infest The Rats’ Nest was going to be different. King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard’s fifteenth album was to be a departure. The psychedelia, blues and garage on which they had made their name would be done away with. Rats’ was going to be heavy metal.
The turn in direction wasn’t unprecedented. Many amongst the band are thrash metal fans. We’re not talking about obscurities here either. Rammstein, Metallica, and Slayer were all cited influences. On top of this, Gizzard, being an exploratory outfit by nature, were by no means hemmed in from travelling there, Nonagon Infinity dabbled in metal and other previous records held similar moments. Yet these seemed like coy nods, not hallmarks of a future direction.
‘Planet B’ and ‘Self-Immolate’ changed this. When the standalone singles were released earlier this year the two songs were met with an overwhelming response from fans. After this, it seemed like the writing on the wall.
So if all had been foretold, why then the apprehension? In one sense there’s always a resistance to change. Another is that of many the styles Gizz brushed with in past have fallen more closely to the core of rock’s idealism – art over commerce, music as something more than entertainment and all that. The original rock bands of the psychedelic era were, after all, were acts which not only wanted fame but were driven to elevate their audience in seeking it. They played from the heart, pushed boundaries and in making music somehow believed they could change the world.
The first wave of metal groups came from the generation that followed. They negated the Sixties’ utopian ideals while making no bones about the pursuit of wealth. They didn’t see their mission as striving to make art and returned music to its previous preoccupation of making appeals to adolescent fantasy. As often as these pioneering acts were brutal in their predictability and entirely at odds with the critical standards of the day, they succeeded nonetheless. Ever since this initial conquest metal’s behemoths have always dominated a hefty swathe of popular music regardless of external factors.
Fans are always a stickler for genre comparisons like these but bands, the good ones anyway, are usually locked in a constant struggle to escape them. Which gets to the root of Rats’. Gizzard project their personality on what they play. The music of Rats’ carries the same heated vibrations as any Gizzard record. How the listener takes it – whether it turns out to be a nice burst of novelty or an album that the listener lives with – might just depend on their tolerance for heavy metal in the first place. How many decibels of the stuff can you take?
Even if that’s not a lot you cannot fault this band in their execution. What these seven have done so well album-to-album is take a simple but interesting idea and see how far they can run with it. Rats’ is no exception. Playing with frenzy and lunatic charm, the band refuses to operate within the one-dimensional and airless parameters of genre recreation. The group instil their music with a great deal of their own personality. Bucking the attributes of more typical genre lyrics they even throw their increasingly prominent eco-political philosophies into the fore as well.
The manner they deliver these songs is enough to keep classic Gizz purists from getting their noses out of joint. Those within the core of the band’s fanatical following will worship it regardless. (One fan has already dubbed it a ‘stoner-thrash metal eco-warrior masterpiece’ and they are not alone in expressing such sentiment). To Gizz’s devout it’s merely another instalment in the ongoing conceptual narrative of The Gizzverse, an alternative reality something between Gong’s Radio Gnome Trilogy and the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
The real untamed question here is whether the metal masses will pick up on it. They beckon for subjection but it’s unclear whether a crossover is underway. (No doubt this record in conjunction with another US tour will pique the interest of more than few new fans.)
Judging strictly against its intended purpose Rats’ succeeds in what it sets out to do. In adopting thrash metal, Gizz have injected the genre with an all-too uncommon degree of social consciousness. Sonically speaking Rats’ is a restatement of band’s agility on a conceptual level.
Drop the stylus or hit play, hear Stu belt out twisted gonzo political lyrics in guttural growl while the others shred dystopic guitar licks or pummel out breakneck rhythms all around him, and it feels good. The band had better keep a tight handle on it, however. Having unleashed a beast like this they may find it takes a life of its own. It would be a tragedy to see the group pinned down by the commercial success of a metal monster because the world doesn’t need any more greedheads in the mould of Metallica. Eco-warriors though? It could use a few more just fine.