Format — LP
King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard have dabbled in heavy metal before; their masterpiece Nonagon Infinity was metal adjacent, and other bits here and there across the group's expansive and ever-growing catalog have hinted at their love for pummeling rhythms, massed guitar riffing, and fantastical lyrical conceits. On 2019's Infest the Rat's Nest, the band go full metal. Often working in a small version of the band under the direction of vocalist/guitarist Stu Mackenzie, they've made a heavy-as-molten-lead song cycle about the death of Earth and the colonization of nearby planets by those who can afford it. It's fast, loud, and gnarly with traces of Metallica, Black Sabbath, Judas Priest, and a number of second-tier British and American bands from the late '70s and early '80s who fused the energy of punk with the dual-track guitar solos, dystopian words, and riffage of early metal. The concept the band lay out is strong, the lyrics tell a compelling, if harrowing, story -- and Mackenzie sings his guts out. He howls like Rob Halford, growls like James Hetfield, and swaggers like Lemmy as the rhythm section of Joey Walker and drummer Michael Cavanagh push things forward like they are running a race while being chased by demons. Cavs even displays some fine double bass work on a few tracks. Mackenzie's guitar playing is flammable, maybe even a little more than usual. His leads on "Self-Immolate" feel like they might void warranties on speakers, the riffs on tracks like "Hell" and "Planet B" are like hammers to the brain, and he basically sounds like he's on a mission to be all three of Iron Maiden's guitarists at once. The album is gloomy, doomy, and haunted by evil thoughts, and even the occasional moment like the Motörhead-style romp "Mars for the Rich," which sounds like the best kind of windows-rolled-down summer metal, are shot through with despair for the human race. King Gizzard aren't sugarcoating anything, either musically or thematically, and that makes for their most timely and political album yet. It's also one of their most musically compelling and impressive, too, and that's saying a lot.