Metal music is having a moment right now, thanks to a convergence of old and new. Iron Maiden is touring with a show inspired the band’s mobile video game, Metallica is playing all around the world with Greta Van Fleet in tow, and TOOL is sitting atop the Billboard charts for the first time ever—and that’s just from releasing its prior catalog on streaming services ahead of a new release later this month.
But heavy metal won’t survive (much less thrive) as a genre in the years to come unless a youthful vanguard takes the reins and pushes it further into the modern day, wherein styles are only important insofar as how well they blend together.
If that is, in fact, the measure of metal’s future, King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard will perhaps have a starring role in its next act. During a sprawling, 100-minute set at the Greek Theatre in Los Angeles on the second Tuesday in August, the seven-piece outfit from Melbourne, Australia showed off the depth and breadth of a stylistic repertoire that’s managed to keep its music interesting over the course of 14 full releases since September 2012.
To be sure, there was plenty of metal in all of its rhythmic variety on display below the famed Griffith Observatory. The band kicked things off with the thrilling thrashing of its recently released single, “Self-Immolate”. The fronting pair of Stu Mackenzie (vocal, guitar, bass, keyboard and flute) and Joe Walker (vocals, guitar, bass, keyboard) kept the air heavy with a run through “Mars For the Rich”, “Venusian 2” and “Inner Cell”.
The drumming duo of Michael Cavanagh and Eric Moore, with Lucas Skinner perched adjacently on bass, did its part to push the tempo and bridge the gap to more metal after a slightly lighter (but just as psychedelic) detour through “Inner Cell” and “Loyalty” from Polygondwanaland—one of five (yes, five) albums the band released in 2017.
Despite signs and security guards discouraging fans in the pit from moshing and crowd surfing, King Gizzard’s supporters defiantly moshed and surfed to their hearts’ content, as any proper gathering of metalheads would. It helped that the group egged them on by taking agitating tracks like “Alter Me III”, “Altered Beast IV”, “Road Train”, and, for the first time on this tour, “People-Vultures” for a stomping romp.
That left ample time for King Gizzard to tap into the Tame Impala-meets-MGMT vibes that could help the band break through to the mainstream. With Ambrose Kenny-Smith manning harmonica, keyboards and vocals and Cook Craig taking turns on bass and keys, the group strolled through the dreamy vibes of “The Bird Song” and “This Thing”, warped between the Wild West and 2001: A Spacy Odyssey on “Acarine”, and got down with some dancy blues-rock on “Boogieman Sam” and “Cyboogie”.
And that was just what they pulled from their April 2019 release, Fishing For Fishies. Those genre-bending (not to mention mind-melting) capabilities may well expand King Gizzard’s unique niche to include music lovers who think they might not be inclined to bang their heads.
But King Gizzard can only truly keep metal alive by playing, well, metal. To that end, the young Australians didn’t disappoint with a show-ending run that sandwiched the slightly downtempo “Perihelion” between the spine snapping of “Planet B” and “Hell”.
That the band’s three most recent singles are all thrasher metal tracks bodes well for Infest the Rat’s Nest, King Gizzard’s newest album, continuing along those lines. In truth, that prolific streak of production can only help it conquer multiple musical worlds for the benefit of the heavy metal scene. So will its willingness to serve up some of its work as open-source material, as it did in releasing Polygondwanaland in 2017. In a sonic field that is slowly but surely cycling in new blood, someone has to pick up the recording slack until the wave crests. Why not King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard?
The group, though, doesn’t seem to be resting or relying entirely on its own laurels to life metal back up on its own. In essence, King Gizzard gave back to their home country’s booming crop of rockers by featuring fellow Australians in ORB and Stonefield, the latter shining as Oceania’s more hard-core answer to HAIM. Both openers did well to warm up the crowd while showcasing 1970s sounds fit for 2019.
With and without those supporting acts, King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard will continue its whirlwind world tour across the United States through the summer before hopping across the Atlantic to set Europe ablaze into the fall. All the while, the boys from Melbourne will continue to push metal’s burgeoning renaissance with vim and vigor that at once hearkens back to the genre’s halcyon days decades ago and incorporates the kind of versatility required to survive in today’s landscape.
For a full list of upcoming King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard tour dates, head to the band’s website here.
Check out a gallery of photos of King Gizzard at the Greek courtesy of photographer Josh Martin.
Setlist: King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard | Greek Theatre | Los Angeles, CA | 8/13/19
Set List: Self-Immolate, Mars for the Rich, Venusian 2, Inner Cell, Loyalty, Horology, People-Vultures, Alter Me III, Altered Beast IV, The River, Wah Wah, Road Train, This Thing, Beginner’s Luck, The Bird Song, Acarine, Murder of the Universe, Boogieman Sam, Cyboogie, Planet B, Perihelion, Hell