Infest The Rats’ Nest: Environmental Thrash

One music genre that I struggle with is new rock and metal. There’s usually just too much noise and screaming and it gives me a headache, not to mention I have no idea what is going on lyrically or even musically half the time. On the other hand, I really WANT to enjoy heavy metal; the aesthetic is so raw and emotional, and great heavy metal music (think Iron Maiden) can be extremely motivational and profound. So I’ve spent a long time searching for new metal that I can actually enjoy, and that long and tedious journey finally led me to Infest the Rats’ Nest, a thrash metal album conceived by King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard (don’t ask me about the name, I have no idea). Immediately this album set itself apart: it was clear and concise, with real musical composition that was understandable, it featured an environmental theme focusing on humanity’s destruction of the Earth, and although it was still more aggressive than I was used to at first, it was so catchy that I couldn’t stop listening, and it’s one of the most insanely energetic albums I have ever been able to listen to.

Surprisingly, King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard usually produce psych rock and noise rock, which shares a lot of commonalities with thrash metal: it’s loud, over-the-top, energetic, and features a lot of interesting instrumentation. However, I can’t seem to enjoy any King Gizzard project as much as Infest the Rats’ Nest, and I think it’s because it’s the only album that strikes a great balance between the actual music and the content. This album in particular features a great concept that is executed flawlessly, unlike other albums that are all over the place, both in ideas and composition. The story of Infest the Rats’ Nest starts with a burned out planet Earth, largely destroyed by the unsustainable and destructive practices of the human race, portrayed best by these lines from the opening track Planet B:

Urbanization

Scarification

Population Exodus

There is no Planet B

Open your eyes and see

Not only do these lyrics hit close to home in the current day and age of environmental concern, they are so raw and accurate that it takes you by surprise. I never would have thought that thrash metal was the place to convey an environmental message, but listening to this song for the first time was mind-blowing: it makes perfect sense that the destruction of Earth, our home, should be portrayed with cynical clarity and thrashing aggression. These lines are especially powerful due to the perfect delivery by the lead singer and the accompanying gut-wrenching guitars and drums.

On the next track, Mars for the Rich, the perspective is that of a farmer left on a scorched Earth, poor and doomed to die a horrible death, while he watches the rich traveling to Mars on TV. The irony is strong after the haunting message of Planet B, and shows how although there is no planet B for the human race, there is for the rich and privileged.

Mars for the privileged

Earth for the poor

Mars terra-forming slowly

Earth has been deformed

The next track of interest is Superbug, which is exactly what it sounds like: a virus that is immune to antibiotics and ravages the Earth, infecting the population and lasting for generations. The concept of this song is best summed up by these lyrics:

Superbug gave a shrug

And ate all your prescription drugs

and never, ever, ever stopped

Unnecessary

Anti-Bs

Likely killed humanity

This track is almost prophetic given today’s situation, although it was bound to come true eventually given how accurate is and how careless humanity is with antibiotics, especially in relation to factory farming. One thing I love about this song is how gritty and terrifying it is; the Superbug is portrayed as indiscriminate and inevitable, while the narrator anguishes about the Superbug in his blood, knowing that he is doomed and so is the rest of humanity. Again, I think this song really emphasizes how perfectly thrash metal and environmental consciousness complement each other, using grim lyrics and devastating instrumentation to convey the looming destruction of the Earth.

The second half of the album is just as interesting, if not more sci-fi oriented, and continues on the environmental themes of the first half. I would love to discuss it more but unfortunately this post is already quite long; therefore I recommend giving it a listen yourself. Pay attention to the message of each song and how they all connect, while also noticing how well the music complements the message, then feel free to leave a comment and we can discuss it further. Regardless, Infest the Rats’ Nest is a stand out metal album, the only one of its kind, due to both the quality of the composition and the effective presentation of its unique environmental message.

Thought Contagion: A Call-Out

Nearly nine months after their last single dropped, the British alt-rock band Muse finally released new content, a single called Thought Contagion. The lyrics revolve around the spread of ideas, holding that if an idea gains enough traction, then there’s no way to stop it from invading everyone’s lives, even if they don’t believe it–and even if it’s a bad idea.

Muse is no stranger to heavy-handed lyrics. Their last three studio albums–The Resistance, The 2nd Law, and Drones–relied heavily on current events for their lyrical themes, and their second-to-last single Dig Down included the line: “When God decides to look the other way/and a clown takes the throne….” It’s nothing if not overt.

At first, I was really bogged down by the heavy-handedness of Thought Contagion. Three verses of sentence-fragmented metaphors describing a dismal, apocalyptic scenario are broken by the choruses of, “You’ve been bitten by a true believer…by someone who’s hungrier than you…by someone’s false beliefs.” Not a lot of subtlety there, and it’s wrapped up in a lot of pessimism, such as, “Brace for the final solution.” Yikes.

It’s suffocating to focus on these lyrics. We all know what it’s like to have idea after idea crammed into our heads. It’s impossible to get away from hearing the ideology of people who just know they’re right. Idea after idea after idea, and they’re in our classrooms and homes and offices, in our social media and news and ads, in our movies and books and art. No one could spend a single day without at least inadvertently encountering the ideas of someone who believes they’re right with every fiber of their being. These ideas could be about religion, politics, science, philosophy, sex, art–if someone can have a belief in something for which they’d be willing to die, you can bet they’ll be yelling it loudly from all platforms of social media in an attempt to get it across to even one person.

While there’s nothing more annoying than listening to “someone’s false beliefs,” some of those false believers are getting through to other people. In a country where polarization is a driving force of media, anyone who was neutral on anything at some point has been “bitten” by one side or the other, shrinking the middle ground and forcing both sides of any issue imaginable to resort to extremes, in both beliefs and in the actions for which they call they call.

Muse can do better stylistically than the lyrics of Thought Contagion, but maybe this time they’re not going for poetic–they’re going for a call-out. They’re back on the dystopian track, taking our current situation and stretching it to its logical extreme: if we stop thinking for ourselves and let the momentous force of zealous ideologies take us over, then “it’s too late for a revolution.” Thought Contagion reminds us to take a breath, step back from the inundation of media (as much as we can), and think things through before blindly getting caught up in the storm of shouting matches before the shouting matches turn to nuclear wars.

 

Bringing Classic Rock to Millenials

It has become the sad reality that classic rock is reserved to the small sub-groups of zealous fathers at tailgates and epic movie montages. This occurrence is not only unfair to the legions of talented musicians that are being forgotten, but also to the millions of people in the world missing out on critical stepping stones in the development of music as we know it. Although how we somehow went from Led Zeppelin to Calvin Harris in the Top 40 escapes me.

I am fortunate enough to say that my dad exposed me to Steely Dan, Boston, Black Sabbath, and tons of other classics as a kid on a regular basis. I became a musician, attended a music school for several years, and started a handful of bands over the years, which also helped drill a ton of musical knowledge into my brain. I’ve heard pretty much every Zeppelin, Floyd, Bowie, and Hendrix song a hundred times, and the music I listen to daily includes Heart, the Allman Brothers, Frank Zappa, Rush, and Yes. I recognize that this is a little unusual and I find this to be a major issue for today’s youth. People are losing the ability to mentally process anything other than computerized, electronic sounds and are missing out on a ton of rad guitar solos, earth-shattering vocals, and real musical innovation that changed the face of music completely.

To claim to be “into music” and not be able to name a Beach Boys song is not okay. Though this music is from decades ago, it continues to be every bit as revolutionary now as it was when it was created. We have to remember that these classic rock pioneers completely redefined music and influenced more social and cultural movements than we can imagine. When you listen to The Ocean by Led Zeppelin, you immediately recognize their influence in pretty much every modern rock band. The Beach Boys were clearly the influence for the current beach rock movement, Hendrix ‘s raucous style inspired Jack White and John Mayer, and Pink Floyd was the beginning of psychedelic rock, a genre now championed by Tame Impala. There are countless ways in which rock legends continue to influence modern music, and there are also countless ways in which their contributions are overlooked, leading to the mass production of utter shit music (sorry, Pitbull & co.).

Maybe if everyone just went out, bought themselves a copy of Dark Side of the Moon, locked themselves in their rooms, and listened to it on repeat until they understood the true meaning of music we would live in a world without synthetic, soul-less, over-produced, falsified pop music that puts a completely altered idea of music in the brains of the masses. So many people have grown up knowing only this, and it is my hope that some far-out guardian angel comes into their lives and introduces them to Janis Joplin and The Doors and allows them to see the light. Peace, love, and rock ‘n’ roll.