King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard – Chunky Shrapnel Album Review

Flightless Records – 2020

To fully appreciate the extent of King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard’s rise to underground superstars you need to not only realise what they’ve achieved in just a small space of time, but how much work has gone into achieving it.

Since they released their first album, 12 Bar Bruise, way back in 2012 the definition of what King Gizzard are has been blown way out into the world they now make their own. Starting out as a garage rock-esque outfit that made football stadium sing-alongs such as the aptly titled ‘Footy Footy’. They quickly transitioned to involve a more experimental psychedelic sound with 2013’s ‘Float Along Fill Your Lungs’ opening with the 15 minute mind bending journey that is ‘Head On/ Pill’.

They’ve been labelled with the ‘psych-rock’ tag for most of their career but they’ve done plenty more than that, delving into the realms of Polyryhthmic Math Rock on 2017’s Polygondwanaland. Adding flairs of Jazz with ‘Sketches Of Brunswick East, a collaboration album with Mild High Club’s Alexander Brettin. The bluesy boogie-woogie vibes of last years ‘Fishing For Fishies’. And their latest venture into a new world of sound with the thrash metal thriller ‘Infest The Rats Nest’.

They’re now on a small stature of 15 albums in their 8 year tenure, with more music apparently on the way. And it certainly hasn’t been a case of quantity over quality as each album has its own personality and freshness all whilst showcasing King Gizzard’s collective songwriting ability in a new style each time.

Aside from their dense album output, they’ve also become notorious for their hectic and high energy live shows. With lead singer and guitarist Stu Mckenzie becoming “possessed” whilst playing, throwing himself and his guitar in every direction whilst simultaneously hitting every note. The below video might help explain.

Chunky Shrapnel follows the band across their 2019 European tour and to their biggest headline show to date at Alexandra Palace in London. What this live album does is perfectly blend together the chaotic live performance appeal with the finely composed movements of intricate songwriting from the albums.

It showcases a band that are on top of their game, for whatever style the choose. The pounding riffs of ‘Planet B’ or ‘Hell’. The chaotic noise-rock composition of ‘Murder Of The Universe’ backed up by a text to speech robot. The bluesy piano ballad of ‘Let Me Mend The Past’. They’re all unique in genre, but still meld together so well that you can’t help but admire their songwriting range and ability to quickly switch between these styles in a live capacity.

The theme of music that blends together isn’t an uncommon one in the King Gizzard world. There’s a theory that all of their albums tell part of a story, all from different points in time of the story. ‘The River’ and ‘Wah Wah’ were recorded 1051 miles apart on two separate nights, Luxembourg and Madrid respectively, but they still move seamlessly into one another, with elements of ‘The River’ still creeping up at various points in ‘Wah Wah’. This then transitions again into one of the best performances on the album in ‘Road Train’. The pounding drums and grinding riff feels like you’re being punched in the face, and smiling about it the whole time through your bloody teeth.

Theirs also some incredible displays of musicianship sown throughout. The insane drum solo from one of their two drummers, Michael Cavanagh, on the song ‘Parking’. The three part excerpt of ‘Inner Cell’, ‘Loyalty’ and ‘Horology’ from ‘Polygondwanaland’ is one of the most intricate pieces of music on the album, with varying time signatures, ever change guitar riffs and perhaps one of the most hardest hitting moments on the album with Stu Mackenzie’s addition of a vocoder to the line “This is a test, I am Lord, I am death”.

Away from the chaos of all the gigs the album scatters in some new ambient compositions to allow you to breath. ‘Quarantine’ is a spacey sci-fi infused transition piece that wouldn’t feel out of place on an old episode of Doctor Who. And ‘Anamnesis’ is perhaps the most peaceful piece in the King Gizzard discography. A twinkly piano dances with a wailing synth to create a truly beautiful moment in the album. It would be interesting to see if they expand on this sound in future releases.

And what would be a more King Gizzard way than to end a live album with a 20 minute jam? ‘A Brief History Of Planet Earth’ as they’ve called it starts out with an excerpt from the infamous ‘Rattlesnake’ and eventually devolves into a bluesy boogie jam with members of the band occasionally shouting “Ooh Yeah!”. It’s worth noting that in the film that this soundtrack accompanies, the band takes this opportunity to one-by-one go for a crowd-surf and eventually swapping instruments with members of the support bands.

The albums title is certainly fitting as this live album is packed full of only the chunkiest elements of the King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard phenomenon.