King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard: ‘PetroDragonic Apocalypse’ Lore Breakdown
King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard needs no introduction at this point. The Australian collective have become a household name in today’s modern rock landscape thanks in no small part to their prolific output, genre-defying style and massive live shows. And speaking of genre-defying the band’s range is truly astounding. Psychedelic rock, garage rock, synthpop, jazz, progressive rock, hip hop and most importantly, metal are one of many genres the band has tackled throughout their decade-long career so far. And I singled out metal in particular because their newest album PetroDragonic Apocalypse; or, Dawn of Eternal Night: An Annihilation of Planet Earth and The Beginning of Merciless Damnation (which from now on I will just call PetroDragonic Apocalypse) is their second foray into the genre in album-form after 2019’s Infest the Rats Nest.
Just like the aforementioned 2019 release, this is a concept album about the environment and how it’s ruining the planet. This album spices it up a bit however by incorporating fantasy elements and a less political tone, which I think goes along well with the music. While Infest the Rats Nest was a pretty straightforward blend of Stoner Metal and Thrash Metal that owed a lot to bands like Motorhead and Black Sabbath, this album goes for a more Progressive Metal sound while still keeping in elements from Thrash and Stoner Metal. As someone who honestly didn’t care that much for Infest the Rats Nest, I can safely this album is a big step up and one of my favourite albums from the band period, which is saying a lot considering their vast output as well as following up a legendary run of albums from last year spanning the whole month of October (and that’s not even forgetting the smorgasbord of styles that was the album Omnium Gatherum a couple of months earlier).
It doesn’t take long for the album to get its foot off the ground with Motor Spirit, a blistering 8-minute epic that cycles through gruff Lemmy-style vocals courtesy of Stu Mackenzie and thrashy drumming, Danny Carey-esque percussion complete with chanting of the song title in a throat singing style, a massive stoner-y breakdown in the middle with tasty guitar solos to go along with it and a buttload of odd time signature changes and polyrhythms. It never lets up even during its slower moments and that remains consistent throughout the remainder of the tracklist. The song also establishes the environmental hook of the album and that is with people’s obsession with oil and fuel and how that leads to the downfall of society and the environment. All around, this is a great start to the album and a good taster of what’s to come.
The song quickly transitions into Supercell which is the most Infest the Rats Nest-sounding cut on display here. Just like Motor Spirit, it never lets up, with swirling harmonized leads emulating that of a storm (we’ll get to that), thrashy riffs, fast-paced drums and soaring backing vocals during its infectious chorus. The song does rear its proggy head eventually once the shifting time signatures and exotic percussion come into play but at its core, it plays itself like a no-frills thrash metal song similar to that of early 80s Metallica and it’s a lot of fun. The song also establishes the titular Supercell, which is a series of thunderstorms created as a result of the Motor Spirit that’s roaming free around the planet and destroying its surroundings.
A quick drum fill opens up Converge. It keeps up the energy from the last two tracks really well and it has some pretty cool moments (the first time we get a Converge refrain kicks a lot of ass for instance) but as a whole, it feels less compelling than every other track here in my opinion, especially on the vocal front. Lyrically, it focuses on the remaining survivors onboard the ISS (International Space Station for those curious) watching in horror as the Supercell storms on Earth start to converge into even bigger storms and making things worse, in no small part thanks to them.
A seamless transition goes straight into Witchcraft and this song is a big turning point for the album story-wise. A bunch of witches far away from the storms are performing incantations as a method to stop the storms. An accident occurs however because of a black cat named Beowulf and a small harmless skink gets caught up in one of the witches’ spells and turns into a massive creature capable of mass destruction. Musically, this track goes along well with the occult-like lyrics being a very hypnotizing, polyrhythmic feast on the ears that comes off like something off their 2017 album Polygondwanaland just a lot heavier. This is also the first song on the album to use the ubiquitous “WOO” that’s become a trademark in Gizz’s sound and that’s never a bad thing in my book.
A massive growl ends the song and leads perfectly into the lead single off the album, Gila Monster. Easily the most anthemic and accessible song of the bunch, it makes good use of the aforementioned “WOO”, has some seriously killer riffage and even has room for a full verse from vocalist/harmonica player/saxophonist/keyboardist/you get the idea Ambrose-Kenny Smith, who up until this point has only had small vocal parts in both Converge and this song’s chorus. The massive creature from the last track is the Gila Monster and is ready to wreak havoc on the land. The song goes into detail about the monster, both from a first-person and third-person perspective and how big of a deal it is, not just for planet Earth but also potentially for the remaining survivors up in space.
After a crushing outro in 11/8, the song transitions seamlessly into the first of two 9-minute epics on the album as well as the second single Dragon and my god, is this one a journey. By far the proggiest the album gets, this song goes through many different sections complete with seriously impressive drumming from Michael Cavanaugh (I thought I’d bring him up now because this is easily his best performance on the album), fiddly guitar parts straight out of a Mastodon album, Latin chanting, odd time signatures and polyrhythms galore and heavy as hell breakdowns. The Gila Monster has now been formed into a vicious Dragon and has even more control of its surroundings than it already did, being able to take advantage of the Supercell storms and having the ability to fly, doing it so that destroying the Earth is made even easier. The song’s use of biblical allegories, more specifically the mention of the Hebrew prophet Isiah does a great job of establishing how much of a threat the creature really is and also adds much-needed depth to an otherwise straightforward song lyrically.
And thus, we have come to the final song. The second 9-minute epic and in my opinion the best song on offer and that is the fittingly titled Flamethrower. The opening drum fill and riff that leads the song off is the heaviest I’ve heard the band sound to date, almost reminding me of Destroy Erase Improve-era Meshuggah and it’s a sight to behold. The same could be said for the Dragon which in this song has found its way to space and with the power of Motor Spirit uses its fire-breathing abilities to take down the ISS and therefore paving the way for “the Beginning of Merciless Damnation”. After the four-minute mark, the song shifts gears and turns into a lengthy jam where Cavanaugh gets to really flex his roto-toms alongside a hypnotic, guitar line. Before you know it however, the guitar line turns into a synth line and the once-live drum kit morphs into an electronic one. The song ends with a reprise of the Motor Spirit chant from the opener while the synths and drums get increasingly more intense and ominous. The song eventually fizzles out and leaves us eagerly waiting for the band’s next album.
PetroDragonic Apocalypse is further proof of King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard’s staying power and is all around a splendid release. Taking what worked about their last foray into metal and improving on it tenfold, the band takes the listener on a seamless journey through an apocalyptic wasteland that is as grim and dark as it is fun and delightfully campy, in a B-monster movie sort of way. This album is a non-stop barrage of nasty chugging riffs, technical drum fills, disorienting time signatures and polyrhythms and morphing song structures that will delight both metal fans and prog fans as well as Gizzheads alike.