Metalheads, meet King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard: a seven-man psychedelic Aussie outfit who have achieved international success thanks to their incendiary live shows and ridiculous work ethic.
Since their formation in 2010 they’ve managed to release 14 studio albums (five of them in 2017 alone), including a Red Dead Redemption-inspired foray into spaghetti western music, a krautrock exploration of the microtonal variations found in non-western music musical notation, an album that can be looped infinitely, a jazz record, a folk record, and plenty of other madcap experiments. They’ve now decided to record a thrash metal album, because you don’t name your band King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard without having a “Screw it, why the hell not?” mind-set.
King Gizzard fans, meet thrash metal. After its heyday in the ‘80s (when it was basically synonymous with ‘metal’), thrash’s status in the world of heavy music diminished thanks to the emergence of brutal new sub-genres like death and black metal. It has recently risen to prominence again, however, thanks to a new generation of hungry, high-energy acts like Power Trip and Iron Reagan crossing over from the world of hardcore to indulge their love of wailing solos, breakneck riffing and rolling kick drums, injecting life back into the genre with new ingredients from their own hardcore scenes.
And now King Gizzard are stepping up. They’re no strangers to experimentation - their last album was a foray into boogie-woogie called ‘Fishing For Fishies’ – but it’s one thing to mess around with jazz scales or Ennio Morricone guitar effects, and quite another to write and record a full-length LP of such a complex, heavy and, above all, breakneck speed genre without sounding like a ‘My First Metal Album’ made by a bunch of kids.
Thankfully this isn’t the case. Sure, there’s plenty of mindless early-Metallica worship in the descending riff of ‘Self-Immolate’ and the rhythmic upheaval of ‘Organ Farmer’, and bandleader Stu Mackenzie has suddenly developed an impressive James Hetfield-style bellow. But, for the most part, both he and his troupe of misfits sound way too much like King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard to ever be mistaken for anyone else.
Instead of seeking out new, squealier guitar tones, the band stick to their distinctive ripped delay, which pairs neatly with tracks like the chuggy ‘Mars For The Rich’. Mackenzie’s lyrics about climate change, planetary exodus and science running amok might be the most politically charged he’s ever written, but remain pretty zany and packed with sci-fi imagery. Though occasionally struggling with pace, duel drummers Michael Cavanagh and Eric Moore anchor all the chaos around them (albeit with an added dose of double bass).
Also, despite its ‘King Gizzard play thrash’ concept and marketing, ‘Infest’ frequently veers off this path to explore other musical avenues. The aforementioned ‘Mars For The Rich’ pays homage to Black Sabbath’s ‘Children of the Grave’, while the chorus of ‘Perihelion’ is pure European power metal. But the true highlight is ‘Superbug’, a lumbering voyage into the molten universe of stoner rock. There’s no speed or complexity here, just a bonged-out blues riff cut from the same weed-stained cloth as Sleep’s ‘Dragonaut’ and a plunging guitar drop to rival Melvins’ ‘See How Pretty, See How Smart’. Hopefully one of their next 25 albums might be a fully fleshed-out foray into doom.
Like most King Gizzard records, it runs out of steam in the second half, but when ‘Infest’ rips it rips as hard as some bands who have been making this music for decades. Like the modern thrash revivalists, King Gizzard combine youthful energy with enough of their own inimitable style to make this excursion into the cobwebbed world of thrash fresh and interesting. Let’s hope this isn’t just a one-album pitstop.
Words: Josh Gray
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