King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard
815 V St. NW
Washington, DC, 20001
Doors 8:00 PM
King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard
The planet is in trouble. Dire trouble. But fear not: Melbourne seven-piece King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard return to save us all, this time armed only with blast beats, an arsenal of well-oiled guitars that are locked and loaded, and a desire to melt faces clean off.
Their fifteenth studio album, Infest The Rats’ Nest is by far The Gizz’s hardest and heaviest album to date. How metal is it? Very Metal. Maybe even more.
Released just six months after the uplifting blues-rock boogie and deep electro explorations of Fishing For Fishes and drawing on the mid/late 1980s golden period of thrash metal - Metallica and Slayer, certainly, but also lesser-cited bands such as Exodus, Kreator and Overkill - Infest The Rats’ Nest sees a wholly unexpected creative detour into new sonic terrain.
King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard aren’t mere dabbling dilletantes either. Their love of this ferocious music runs deep, and was previously explored on 2017’s apocalyptic concept album Murder Of The Universe, hinted at during 2016’s award-winning Nonagon Infinity’s more bludgeoning moments and elsewhere in numerous hardcore psychedelic freak-outs in their back catalogue.
“In year 4 there was an older kid who was into Rammstein,” explains Stu of his early discover discovery of metal’s extremities. “I made friends with him and we put together a performance at our school assembly where we headbanged to ‘Du Hast’. I got whiplash, which I thought was pretty cool. That was my introduction to heavy metal, and soon Rammstein led to Metallica, Metallica led to Slayer, Slayer led to Kreator and Sodom. The German bands really kicked my ass and scared the hell out of me too. Later on, when I picked up a guitar I realised that shit was too hard to play, so I got into rock ‘n’ roll and garage. That was liberating.”
Infest The Rats’ Nest is the sound of King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard scratching the thrash metal itch, fully and unequivocally. Ferocious and direct, ‘Organ Farmer’ is built on drums that gallop away like a battalion of wild horses over the horizon and a triple guitar attack set to stun. It’s the type of sub-three minute song you wish Hetfield and co. still made. ‘Venusian 1’ goes at it even harder, a shredding collection featuring an army of guitars. A guitarmy, if you will. This is an album dripping with disdain and disgust for a planet consuming itself in a mass act of cannibalism. ‘Superbug’ sings of the type of lurgy that will one day destroy us all, while the utterly nihilistic ‘Self-Immolate’ sees riff piled upon riff and Stu Mackenzie delivering a vocal display to stand alongside the likes of Tom Araya or Max Cavalera. “I’m a pretty shit singer but I do think of my voice as an instrument,” laughs the frontman. “You’ve got lots of tones and different sounds in there you can experiment with.”
Elsewhere recent single ‘Planet B’ is a frantic, bludgeoning beast of a song, a scorched earth blitzkrieg that depicts a world burning through its natural resources (“Open your eyes and light the fluid / Get into a petrol siphon / Low on meals, browning fields / Bury children...”) and charging headlong into a population exodus that may only be solvable through the colonization of other planets. Breakneck closer ‘Hell’ meanwhile is the last black bile- spewing word on musical brutality. King Gizzard meet the fears and anxieties of a planet head on; here is a place where uncompromising music meets the concerns of contemporary cli-fi, that emerging movement of writing centred around ecological disaster and its repercussions.
“The A-side of the album is set in the near future and is about real shit going on right now – especially ecological disaster,” explains Stu of the album’s grand themes. “We’ve got a lot of things to fear. The B-side tells the story of a group of rebels who are forced to leave Planet Earth and try to settle on Venus. I spend a lot of time thinking about the future of humanity and the future of Planet Earth. Naturally these thoughts seep into the lyrics.”
After a punishing release and touring schedule of 2017-18, Infest The Rats’ Nest was recorded by a pared-down King Gizzard line-up. The band have always enjoyed a fluid approach to writing and recording and with guitarist Cook Craig and keyboardist/harmonic player Ambrose Kenny-Smith touring with their other band The Murlocs, bassist Lucas Skinner enjoying first-time fatherhood and drummer Eric Moore running the band’s own label Flightless (other bands they have released include Thee Oh Sees, Amyl And The Sniffers and Tropical Fuck Storm), they were down to a three-piece.
Infest The Rats’ Nest sees Stu and guitarist Joey Walker share all the guitar and bass parts, with (other drummer) Michael Cavanagh recording all the drums. This small set-up ensures tight arrangements and maximum velocity - and another curveball from this most unpredictable (yet consistent) of bands.
Because the stats on King Gizzard’s colourful career are stacking up fast: 14 albums in 7 years (including five in 2017 alone), 9 of them charting in the Top 20 in Australia, where they are now arguably the country’s most innovative, important and productive rock band. International critical acclaim. Headline festival appearances. And – perhaps most importantly – a fervent worldwide fanbase who share endless memes, mixes, videos, graphics, theories and discussions, all through which they explore and expand what they have termed ‘The Gizzverse’.
King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard are no longer simply a band, they are an organic cult. Is it vital then that they never repeat themselves, and continually surprise listeners?
“I think what is important to me is that we keep ourselves interested,” concludes Stu. “So this band is a highly-selfish endeavour in that respect. I try not to worry about what others think too much, but the people around us and the people who come to our shows do wield an influence too. I think I just wanna make music all the time.”
There’s no rest for the wicked. Raise those devil’s horns and prepare the spaceships, motherfuckers.
King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard are: Stu Mackenzie (vocals/guitar), Ambrose Kenny- Smith (harmonica/vocals), Cook Craig (guitar/vocals), Joey Walker (guitar), Lucas Skinner (bass), Eric Moore (drums) and Michael Cavanagh (drums).
Album discography: 12 Bar Bruise (2012), Eyes Like the Sky (2013), Float Along – Fill Your Lungs (2013), Oddments (2014), I'm In Your Mind Fuzz (2014), Quarters! (2015), Paper Mache Dream Balloon (2015), Nonagon Infinity (2016), Flying Microtonal Banana (2017), Murder of the Universe (2017), Sketches of Brunswick East (2017),
Polygondwanaland (2017), Gumboot Soup (2017), Fishing for Fishies (2019), Infest The Rats’ Nest (2019).
Ben Myers / Yorkshire, UK Summer 2019
From practicing in their family shed as teenagers in rural Australia, to touring the world with Fleetwood Mac, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, King Tuff, and King Gizzard, it’s been a strange trip for the four Findlay sisters. As Stonefield, they’ve got three albums and thousands of miles under their belts, plus plenty of perspective on what it’s like to fight to make a place for themselves, and tell their own story.
Written largely on the road in America earlier this year, the songs on BENT are filled with reference and reflection--the kind that comes from months spent far from home, living on four wheels. The surreal isolation of trudging through white-out snow and snaking down deserted highways served as the perfect backdrop for the band to look inward, taking stock of the journey they’ve taken thus far as musicians, and as people. “It’s a culmination of experiences, emotions, and stories collected over time,” explains lead singer and drummer Amy Findlay, “A growth of honest, raw, energy that has been burning within us and waiting for its moment.”
Recorded in just five days with Joe Walker and Stu Mackenzie from King Gizzard at their studio in Melbourne, the album is almost 100% live. Besides being an impressive feat and the flexing of a confident band operating at the height of their powers, that immediacy lends the album a distinct, crackling energy--thunder, lightning, and muscle-bound horsepower. “Sleep” opens the album with guitars covered in five inches of sludge and distortion and something that sounds like a far-off siren, or the high-pitched howling of the wind. It serves as a warning, a call to arms, kicking things off with a next-level version of the massive, unholy racket the band has become known for over the course of their last three albums.
The sonic inspiration taken from listening to Black Sabbath, Beak, Deep Purple, The Alan Parsons Project, and Mike Oldfield inject BENT with its sternum-shaking heaviness and ever-present swagger, but also its exploratory fearlessness--letting the songs loose to twist and turn, sticking to no one’s rules but their own. Take the proggy, keyboard-soaked intro at the top of “People,” or the cheeky combination of tinnitus-inducing hard rock and hip-shaking boogie at the core of “Dead Alive.” “Don’t make me think I’ve lost control / I know exactly what you said / Don’t make me think it’s in my head,” Amy sings during the latter, keeping the lyrics as defiant as the music.
“The album is about our own experiences and stories,” explains Amy, “Songs about the fear of walking home alone at night, stories of what it’s like being an all-female band and the power of supporting one another." With that being the lyrical subject, the music that came out is definitely our heaviest.” It’s clear that darker thoughts were on the Findlay sisters’ mind-- “Route 29,” with its suspenseful synth intro was inspired by the creepy The Route 29 Stalker podcast the band was listening to as they drove the namesake road on their way to a gig with King Tuff, and the cascading synth line and slinky restraint of the hi-hat on “If I Die” can only distract so much from the song’s terror-stricken lyrics.
It’s on the album’s last two songs that the band makes their strongest statement, using “Shutdown” to explore the doubt and search for validation that comes from moving and working within an industry that often makes the band feel like outsiders, lacing lines like “Is it easy for you living / When you don’t have to prove your meaning” in between a battle-cry chorus and detonations of guitar and keyboard. And “Woman” takes it to the edge with a chorus of “I am enough / I am woman,” spelling it out for anyone that hasn’t been paying attention.
BENT has all the chills and spills you would expect from an album that mines inspiration from some of the darker experiences of being misrepresented, belittled, and underestimated. By taking control of the narrative, and pumping it up with stack-blowing, guitar hero riffs and razor-edged vocals, it becomes an album of power, control, and confidence--projected in the face of a world that too often forces the opposite.