Ice, Death, Planets, Denim, Change, and Reptilian Wizards
Issue 5, Volume 113
Australian psychedelic rock band King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard is most well-known for its genre variety, shifting from psych rock to thrash metal and even to hip-hop from album to album, and its uniquely quick release schedule, with waits between releases rarely exceeding six months. King Gizzard released five albums in 2017, each of which were unique in style and critically acclaimed. Now, King Gizzard has blitzed their fans with three new albums in October of 2022 alone, separated only days apart in releases. And just as the 2017 year of King Gizzard releases delivered delightful tunes for fans, these 2022 rapid releases maintain that familiar quality, despite some setbacks.
King Gizzard would start the flurry of their “Gizztober” releases with their 21st album, “Ice, Death, Planets, Lungs, Mushrooms, and Lava.” Following suit from “Omnium Gatherum,” the band’s album released earlier in the year, “IDPLML” is a jam album with the added gimmick of each song centering around one of the seven Greek modes of music. Before the album’s release, lead singer Stu Mackenzie would reveal that most of the recording process for “IDPLML” was completed in just over a week, with the band working off of no pre-existing material. The quick production time shows, both for better and for worse. The tracks are long, with no song under five minutes. The extensive instrumental sections take up sizeable chunks of “IDPLML,” and they mostly suffer from over-repetition and blandness. The lyrical quality also suffers on the album, often lacking the sophistication characteristic of much of King Gizzard’s discography. Continuous reuse of lines as lyrics is not uncommon on “IDPLML,” as shown on tracks such as “Ice V,” where the line “Will we survive Ice V?” is repeated for two minutes straight. Despite these drawbacks, “IDPLML” shows flashes of the creative, collaborative, and intricate music King Gizzard can make at full power. Each member gives their all on the album’s instrumentals, interlacing guitar, keys, drums and flute into dense, stimulating compositions. The band’s jamming talents are demonstrated on the lackadaisical tune of the brass, guitar, and organs in “Mycelium,” and the jazzy guitar riffs on “Magma.” Frontman Stu Mackenzie’s enchanting vocals complement the tantalizing instrumentation, making “IDPLML” a delectable musical cocktail. Despite a some tracklist bloat and lackluster writing, King Gizzard continues to show their musical prowess with the mesmerizing jams they pump out on “Ice, Death, Planets, Lungs, Mushroom and Lava.”
“Laminated Denim,” the second of the Gizztober albums, would release only five days after “IDPLML.” The album acts as a spiritual successor to KGLW’s first 2022 album, “Made in Timeland,” with “Laminated Denim” retaining “Timeland”’s structure of two 15-minute long songs and its title itself being an anagram for “Made in Timeland.” Just like “IDPLML,” “Laminated Denim” is a jam album with a greater focus on psychedelic rock over the progressive rock, jazz, and funk of “IDPLML.” Long instrumental sections also take up major parts of the album’s two tracks, and though they are more consistent in their overall quality yet not as inventive as the visionary compositions of “IDPLML.” “Laminated Denim”’s first track, “The Land Before Timeland,” is a jovial tune with a vivacious arrangement of harmonica, drums, guitar, woodwinds and brass. On the other hand, the second track, “Hypertension” is tense and foreboding, and mostly made up of minor guitar riffs and drums. Laminated Denim manages to pull off the jam concept far better than “IDPLML,” with the arrangements of both tracks feeling careful, elaborate and continuously catchy throughout. King Gizzard’s instrumental ability truly shines in “Laminated Denim”’s guitar riffs, never failing to enamor listeners with their dextrous chord progressions. All in all, “Laminated Denim” is a superior dessert to a promising “Ice Death” main course, continuing the trend of complex and enthralling compositions of “IDPLML.”
“Changes,” the final Gizztober album, stands out among the rest in terms of its sheer quality. It has been in production since 2017, so the arrangements are multi-faceted and intricately laid out, with throughline D major and F# major chords and scales lending a consistency to the project. As each song oscillates between the two, “Changes” spans an incredible mix of psych rock, jam music, and jazz-funk with its prominent synths and soothing, sublime vocals from Stu Mackenzie. Highlights include the 11-minute dynamic, groovy ballad, “Change,” the rhythmic tunefulness of “Astroturf” teeming with hard-hitting woodwinds and brasses, and the energetic electronic grooves of “Gondii.” “Changes” stands out in its structure and polish, in contrast to the spontaneity and improvisational nature of “Laminated Denim” and “IDPLML.” It ends the Gizztober trilogy with a bang.
Despite unnecessary song length and unpolished instrumentals, King Gizzard remains innovative in their instrumental and vocal work. The quality of “IDPLML,” “Laminated Denim,” and “Changes” in spite of these issues continues to show that no matter how swift or spontaneous the creation process, King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard always come out with something worth listening to.