The Best Albums of 2019, #12

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12. King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard, Infest the Rats’ Nest (Flightless)

Metal nerds hate genre tourists. Hate them. The whole “culture”, if you want to call it that, is so afraid of outside influences and musicians who dabble in metal that it’s paranoiac. According to many, you have to be all-in, a lifer, a battle-vest wearing skid to even begin to qualify to make heavy metal music. I always think I’ve long since grown out of that idea, though am always faced with temptations to regress. Regardless I’m continually embarrassed by people who get upset over any sort of “appropriation” of their precious metal culture, whether it’s a pop singer admitting to liking Tool, a Kardashian wearing a metal band shirt, or an Australian psychedelic rock band making a metal record.

I was never a big fan of King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard. They were capable of plenty of good ideas, but the manic approach they take to everything, including releasing several new albums per year, always left me with the feeling that their recorded product was half-baked. It got to the point where in 2016 I couldn’t even be bothered to keep up with what the band was doing. And when I heard they made a “heavier” album, my eyes almost rolled out of my head, the instinctive “false metal!” alarm going off in my head for the first time in forever. It wasn’t until a pal told me I absolutely had to hear Infest the Rats’ Nest that I begrudgingly gave it a listen, and whaddya know, I was wowed. Not only were these guys hammering out some very convincing thrash, doom, and prog metal, but the overall concept of the album struck me as being very bright, and definitely better than a lot of lyrical hogwash the metal genre churns out week after week. Essentially Infest the Rats’ Nest tells a story in two halves. Side one deals with the plight of humanity and our planet, highlighted by the Motörhead-esque class war tale “Mars For the Rich and the doomy “Superbug”, which feels lifted from Sleep’s bag of tricks. The second half jumps ahead, 2001 style, to the not-so-distant future where an attempt is made to colonize Venus, with horrifying results. The aggressive music is exceptionally executed, and the somewhat lo-fi recording lends the music a greasy, early-’80s quality that a lot of new metal music has lost touch with. It’s smart, it’s loud, and it’s loads and loads of fun. It is heavy metal at its truest.