“Gila Monster,” the first taste of new music from King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard‘s upcoming metal album PetroDragonic Apocalypse or Dawn of Eternal Night: An Annihilation of Planet Earth and the Beginning of Merciless Damnation, is indeed as wild and headbanger-friendly as its name suggests.
In the SPOD-directed video for the song, which was debuted on stage during Gizzard’s spring European tour well before the new album announcement, hood-clad group members inhabit a fantasy world of snow-covered forests and a candlelit inner sanctum complete with a bubbling cauldron. The proverbial Gila is alternately praised and feared as a “Biblical beast of ancient lore” who “grows more” with each meal, leaving a “cloud of dread” and a “cold hand of death” in its wake.
Halfway through, frontman Stu Mackenzie finds himself being chased on horseback by two demonic wolves, only to transform into bandmate Joey Walker soloing wildly on a Holy Explorer guitar at the top of a mountain amid a lightning storm (fun fact: this guitar was crushed in an elevator last June during load-in for a concert in Barcelona and has only recently been meticulously repaired).
“I wanted to shoot Lord of the Rings 4 but also make a video game, so I mixed both mediums and came up with this majestic journey for truth and power in a cursed world,” says SPOD of the video. “I mixed 3D animation, modeling, and live footage in a 3D video game program to create this marvelous voyage of man and beast. Friend or foe?”
Musically, “Gila Monster” is four-plus minutes of trash-infused riffage and gang vocals (“Gila! Gila”), with keyboardist/vocalist Ambrose Kenny-Smith handling the choruses and one of the later verses (“Growing immensely and vastly in size / summoned from the wicca to their demise / sprouting wings / demonic features / horny for bloodlust / lord of pagan creatures”). In true metal fashion, the band switches tempos on a dime for 60 final seconds of bleak, impossibly heavy shredding.
Gizzard made a prior foray into metal on 2019’s Infest the Rats’ Nest, and Mackenzie admits the band has felt the allure of returning to this style ever since. “When we made Rats’ Nest, it felt experimental,” he recalls. “Like, ‘Here’s this music that some of us grew up on but we’d never had the guts or confidence to really play before, so let’s give it a go and see what happens.’ And when we made that album we were like, ‘Fuck, why did it take us so long to do this?’ It’s just so much fun to play that music, and those songs work so well when we play them live. So we always had it in our minds to make another metal record.”
To do so, Mackenzie reconvened the same trio that wrote and recorded Rats’ Nest — Walker and drummer Michael “Cavs” Cavanagh — with the goal of writing one song per day (other members later added overdubs and contributed to the lyrics). “We came into the practice space with no riffs, no tunes, no ideas, and started from scratch,” he says. “And we jammed, and recorded everything, and pieced the songs together from that. I’d sketched out the story the songs would tell, and I’d portioned it out into seven song titles, with a short paragraph of what would happen in the song. I guess we kind of made the record backwards.”
PetroDragonic Apocalypse, the band’s 24th studio album since forming in 2009, features seven tracks, three of which (opener “Motor Spirit,” “Dragon,” and “Flamethrower”) are more than eight-and-a-half minutes long. An early demo of the track “Converge” was previously released under a different name on the Bandcamp-only Demos Vol. 3 + Vol. 4 last summer. Vinyl and audiobook editions of the album include an exclusive eighth song, the 14-minute-plus “Dawn of Eternal Night” featuring longtime collaborator Leah Senior. PetroDragonic Apocalypse can be pre-ordered through the band’s Gizzverse store.
The narrative at the heart of PetroDragonic Apocalypse is “about humankind and it’s about planet Earth but it’s also about witches and dragons and shit,” Mackenzie reveals, adding that Gizzard has “almost finished” work on a related seven-track concept album started around the same time and also brought to life via the improvisation-based, one-song-per-day approach. The band added in its monthly Gizzymail fan communiqué that the second album “is definitely unlike anything we’ve ever done” and that it has “been getting very synthy.”
“I’m not a tortured artist — I’m more of a mad professor,” Mackenzie says. “And after a bunch of records crafted out of jams, we’re very much ready to make records in the old-fashioned way of writing the songs before we enter the studio, once these ones are done.”
PetroDragonic Apocalypse is the follow-up to three different October 2022 releases: Ice, Death, Planets, Lungs, Mushrooms and Lava, Laminated Denim, and Changes. King Gizzard returns to North America on May 28 at the Boston Calling festival, where it will perform alongside Queens of the Stone Age and Paramore, among others. From there, it will embark on multi-show residencies in four North American cities, culminating in the band’s biggest U.S. show to date on June 21 at the 17,000-capacity Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles.
Here is the track list for PetroDragonic Apocalypse or Dawn of Eternal Night: An Annihilation of Planet Earth and the Beginning of Merciless Damnation:
“Motor Spirit” – 8:33
“Supercell” – 5:06
“Converge” – 6:16
“Witchcraft” – 5:04
“Gila Monster” – 4:36
“Dragon” – 9:45
“Flamethrower” – 9:21
“Dawn of Eternal Night” featuring Leah Senior (audiobook/vinyl exclusive) – 14:22