Across seven years and 15 albums, King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard have created several LPs that circulate around various genres and specific themes.
The acoustic album? Paper Mâché Dream Balloon. The infinite looping album? Nonagon Infinity. The spaghetti-western story album? Eyes Like the Sky. The list goes on. Next week, however, the septet are preparing themselves for another bold new direction – one in which the genre and the concept go hand in hand. Infest the Rats’ Nest is about one thing and one thing only: thrash metal.
After toying with heavier genres in the past, Infest is the first album in which the band are hurling themselves down the rabbit hole – and, according to frontman Stu Mackenzie, it’s an album that could only have been made now in the band’s career.
“Growing up, a lot of the music that I loved was in the realm of heavy metal,” explains the band’s singer, chief songwriter and guitarist. “I loved Rammstein, Rage Against the Machine, Metallica, Slayer – stuff that was aggressive and is still potent now. It’s been a part of my musical DNA forever. Without breaking down any of the musicality, I just appreciated the energy.
“As I got older and started playing in bands, I moved away from metal – mostly because I was never really good at guitar. The riffs were too hard – I learned Bo Diddley songs instead. For whatever reason, though, King Gizz has made this kind of progression where a heavier sound has kicked in.”
Mackenzie is referring to albums like I’m In Your Mind Fuzz, Nonagon Infinity and Murder of the Universe, all of which featured music significantly heavier than the band’s typical psychedelic rock fare. In the case of Nonagon, it even picked up the ARIA award for Best Hard Rock/Heavy Metal release – falling more in the former category than the latter, but the ruling stood. “Obviously, I knew it wasn’t heavy metal – but I was still in that mindset,” says Mackenzie.
“I was getting inspired by stuff like Motörhead, and more of the proto-trash sort of stuff. It was taking that energy and injecting it into what we were already doing. I suppose the reason we didn’t try and make anything that genuinely sounded like that sort of thing was just our own skillsets, more than anything. We’re a little more comfortable in our instruments now that we can tackle it head-on.”
Infest the Rats’ Nest is described by the band as their loudest, fastest and heaviest album ever. The MO of its creation, however, was never as simple as “make a metal album”. This is King Gizzard we’re talking about, after all. There’s a little more nuance than that. “We wanted to take what we were doing further,” Mackenzie explains. “We wanted it to be more extreme and more intense – just to see how it would take shape. Let’s just see what happens. It was us challenging ourselves to create something that was more brutal.”
Having already given several of the album’s cuts a road-test, the rest of Rats’ Nest is sure to be rolled out over the course of the next few months of touring. Beyond that? For what might be the first time in a long time, Mackenzie is not sure what the next move is for he and his bandmates. “I find albums very easy to start, but often hard to finish,” he says.
“When I do finally put a lid on a record, usually a bunch more ideas come out. The second your mind switches gears, the ideas really start to appear. The music we have floating around right now is quite varied at the moment. This could mean a lot of new projects, or a lot of this material could end up being discarded. It’s all kind of up in the air right now… and, to be honest, that’s okay.”
King Gizzard & The Lizard’s 15th album, Infest the Rats’ Nest, is out via Flightless Records on Friday August 16.