Review Summary: Blood Minestrone.King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard
are one of the most bizarre bands around right now. They have 7 members, including two drummers, released 5 albums in 2017, and have explored a ridiculous range of genres, from bluegrass to psychedelic jazz to garage rock. It's fair to say that the band have never really paid any attention to what anyone else thinks they should doing, and Infest the Rats' Nest
is no different. Lead single, 'Planet B', was dropped a few weeks before their previous album, Fishing For Fishies
, and the violent stylistic difference between it and the band's discography sparked interest to say the least. King Gizzard had actually gone thrash metal.
A band like King Gizzard, ever a musical chameleon, could realistically be expected to put together a good effort at a metal record, but what the band offer on Infest the Rats Nest
surpasses expectations on nearly every front. Opting for a typical thrash metal album length, the band's 9 tracks eclipse about 35 minutes of run time, but a lot happens across that fairly brief musical adventure. Lead singles 'Planet B', 'Self-Immolate' and 'Organ Farmer' set the tone for the record pretty well - rampant metal tracks that really wouldn't sound out of place being played in a sweaty basement in the late 80s. However, these tracks avoid the pitfalls encountered by many modern thrash bands seeking to resurrect a more classic, conventional thrash sound. King Gizz's eccentricities, such as the bizarre time signatures on 'Self-Immolate', or the ferocious "There is no Planet B" hook on the opener make for some genuinely engaging twists on a well worn formula, with the odder aspects of the band's writing approach shining through in lead guitar passages and percussion. These tracks feel fresh even though the base ideas at play here are nothing that groundbreaking, and offer a pummelling spine to the record to please even the snobbiest of metal fans.
The band don't shy away from playing with other genres across the LP either - 'Mars For The Rich', a track lambasting Elon Musk's bourgeois plans for space colonisation, features a groovy, hard rock-esque hook and chorus riff, providing a catchy base for one of the record's more amusing lyrical themes. Similarly, the low-key intro to 'Superbug' feels more conventionally rock-y, almost seeing King Gizz channelling Metallica's Black Album
, before the song diverts into it's strange and almost droning, colossal chorus. The back end of the album is packed with absolute blinders - 'Venusian 1' and 'Venusian 2' are straightforward riff-packed monsters of tracks, the latter's bass driven riffing feeling more than a little Motorhead
. 'Perihelion' is a meld of this bludgeoning thrash and the front end of the record's hard rocking swagger, featuring a chorus which feels just a little bit power metal. This choral diversion is a welcome bit of melody in a record that teeters on the edge of being a little one-note vocally, and makes for one of the most memorable moments in the back half of the album.
The closer, 'Hell', might just be the best track on the record though. There's a heavy hint of Slayer
here, between the spiralling lead guitar riffs, and spacier passages that give way to some of the most furious percussive blasts to be found across the album's 9 tracks. The song fades at around the 2:20 mark, before a macabre guitar ostinato fires into a militaristic stomp, featuring some of the harshest vocals on the album and bringing the album to a crunching end.
This isn't an album without flaws though - there are points where it feels like the mixing lets down the excellent double bass pedal work going on underneath the gorgeous guitar tone that pervades the track listing. The vocals, for all the fun their James Hetfield pastiche brings, can be a little one note, and really could do with some more melodic variation to distinguish one track from the next. But crucially, what King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard
do here is add yet another weapon to their stylistic arsenal, and with great aplomb. Thrash can be a hard genre to get right in a memorable way, but the band's eccentricities, lyrically, melodically and rhythmically, make Infest the Rats' Nest
a fresh and engaging contribution to the genre. By not really playing by the rules, whilst borrowing the best of the genre's forefathers, King Gizz have crafted one of the year's most compelling metal records. It only remains to be seen which genre they decide to bastardise next.