King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard is a hard band to classify as anything. Psychedelic rock, art rock and acid rock are decent attempts at trying to describe the overwhelming variety of genres that King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard, also known as King Gizz, has experimented with. The six-member Australian group has grown their fan base mostly thanks to their musical explorations beyond the scope of rock.
Since 2019, the group has released four studio albums and each of them is shockingly different, yet all high quality. “Fishing for Fishies” (2019) was their exploration into boogie and blues rock, yielding very fun and electronically influenced dance and rock bangers. “Infest The Rats’ Nest” (2019) was one of the most pleasant surprises of 2019 and one of the band’s best albums. It was also their first foray into thrash metal, with King Gizz fans and metalheads celebrating jointly as many considered it one of the best metal records of the year.
“K.G.” (2020) is the precursor to their latest studio album release “L.W.” (2021). The albums are subtitled “Explorations into Microtonal Tuning, Volume 2” and “Explorations into Microtonal Tuning, Volume 3,” respectively. Microtones play a key role in the melodies and chord progressions in each song on these records, as they did in “Flying Microtonal Banana: Explorations into Microtonal Tuning, Volume 1” (2017), one of their five studio album releases in 2017.
Microtones are the result of notes played at a frequency between semitones — for example, a note played between A and A# or between D and D#. Microtones are rarely used in Western music because many Western instruments, such as the piano, cannot play microtones due to their natural tuning; the instruments either have to be tuned or modified to play microtones.
In the music video for “Honey” (2020), we see vocalist/guitarist Stu Mackenzie playing a very neat acoustic guitar with its frets aligned to play microtones. So, with cool moments like this song found all around “K.G.” (2020), another edition of this microtonal adventure ended up being another solid album in King Gizz’s discography. This nine-track record also envelops their post-2017 discography well, combining elements of psychedelic rock with boogie and thrash metal to create an organized mess of sound.
Kicking things off is “If Not Now, Then When?”, which goes immediately into the electro-boogie that we can recognize from “Fishing for Fishies.” Mackenzie’s vocals are very high-pitched, giving it an even more robotic feel. Despite the song’s groovy nature, its lyrical message is chilling. The song calls for action against the world-destroying consequences of humanity, singing “When the forest’s nearly gone/When the hole’s in the ozone/When the bees are gone/If not now, then when?”
Then there’s the thrash metal twist of “Pleura,” which contains a very topical theme amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The pleura itself is a part of the lungs and the song represents lung damage that victims have endured as a result of COVID-19. As with songs all across their discography, “Pleura” is from the point of view of a character, this one being a person who wants to return back to “normal life” in light of the pandemic restrictions. One of the most hilarious moments on the album is at the conclusion of the track when the heavy guitar riffs continue and Mackenzie sings, “Cheat me out of living my life?/ I exercise my right to die,” which immediately transitions into the light and heavenly intro of “Supreme Ascendency.”
The second half of the record is even messier than the first but does not falter in terms of quality. The tracks “Static Electricity” and “East West Link” are high-tempo songs filled with woodwind instruments and acoustic guitar melodies that sound sitar-esque, which recall the feeling of a desert course in Mario Kart. Then there’s the garage rock-style “Ataraxia,” using cymbals heavily to create a subtly lulling feeling over an electric guitar riff.
Overall, “L.W.” seems more inspired than “K.G.” from a lyrical and artistic standpoint, even if the album seems less organized. And, of course, like after every King Gizz release, its fanbase will be heavily anticipating the band’s next release, with no good guesses of where it will go next.