King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard seamlessly weave discography together on ‘Chunky Shrapnel’

King Gizzard Flightless Records Courtesy Album
Flightless Records/Courtesy

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Grade: 4.5/5.0

Beloved Australian psychedelic rock band King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard have pulled another trick out of their hat: a new live album, Chunky Shrapnel, to tide fans over amid show cancellations and postponements. Released April 24 to accompany the band’s live documentary, the record is composed of a mix of new tracks and selected live versions of songs from the European leg of the group’s 2019 tour.

Known for releasing multiple full-length records in a year, King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard released 15 studio albums from 2012 to 2019, a whopping five of which came out in 2017. Chunky Shrapnel is a wonderful amalgamation of the band’s discography, including robust live productions of psychedelic rock, progressive rock, jazz, hard rock and thrash metal. 

The record begins ominously with “Evil Star,” a new track that growls to life, ample with distortion and other mysterious sounds. Despite the song’s strange instrumental composition, it transitions smoothly into a rendition of “The River,” off of the band’s 2015 album Quarters!

King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard made sure to include live staples such as “Wah Wah” and “Road Train” off of their 2017 album, Nonagon Infinity. Even more so than the original, the live version of “Road Train” is a certified banger, with a barrage of heavy drums and a bass that won’t quit. And on “Wah Wah,” frontman Stu Mackenzie’s forceful vocal delivery takes things to the next level, particularly when he screams, “You cannot escape my dealings/ I will make you cry.” Nonagon Infinity runs as an infinite loop, with “Wah Wah” blending perfectly into “Road Train.” This is an important facet that Chunky Shrapnel mimics successfully, though the two tracks were recorded at different shows.

The transitions between songs are so well-composed that, despite being from entirely different performances, the whole record sounds like one cohesive show. Chunky Shrapnel is a good name for the record, with each song beefed up and thrown at eagerly waiting listeners.

The two other new tracks are quietly tucked in between their heavy-hitting and loud live counterparts. Titled “Anamnesis” and, fittingly, “Quarantine,” the songs are purely instrumental and have strong progressive rock elements and spaced-out synths. 

“Quarantine” shifts gears with a jolt into “Planet B,” a track from the band’s 2019 thrash metal album, Infest the Rats’ Nest. “Planet B” ends with a two-minute pounding bass riff, one that isn’t originally part of the song but fits naturally. “Anamnesis” flows into a triple play of songs from 2017’s Polygondwanaland, a heavy progressive album. This live trio is the clear highlight of an already-packed release, unbelievably rich in melody and accented with a soothing voice, yet still backed by the intensity of the band’s bassist and two drummers.

The record’s last song is an unreleased live track, titled “A Brief History of Planet Earth.” It begins with “Rattlesnake,” off of 2017’s Flying Microtonal Banana, but spirals into a 19-minute behemoth of an instrumental song. This track is well-placed at the end, acting as an extended send-off for the listener.

From the lengthy drum solos, such as the entire two-minute track “Parking,” to the added pedal effects, it’s the small changes to otherwise known and loved songs that make Chunky Shrapnel go above and beyond the basic live album. Instead of having live versions that sound painfully similar to the band’s studio counterparts, Chunky Shrapnel proves that it can marry a multitude of genres and performances without becoming a disjointed mess.

The record’s execution is near-flawless, balancing long, beautiful compositions with hectic, energetic performances. The quality of the live songs is the ideal balance of raw and refined, somehow surpassing the bar set immensely high by the band’s studio recordings.

Each King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard album is inherently different, but they are unified by a distinctive drumming style, vocal delivery and guitar technique, which all flow together on Chunky Shrapnel. The record is exactly the bone fans need, broadcasting the band’s live prowess and giving longtime fans and new listeners alike something great to look forward to.

Pooja Bale covers music. Contact her at [email protected].