King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard revamps microtonal psychedelia on ‘K.G.’

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Grade: 3.5/5.0

Australian psychedelic rock band King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard has returned at last with its 16th record after a 14-month break. The unnaturally long waiting period left fans wondering what would follow the band’s 2019 thrash metal album Infest the Rats’ Nest, as the band is known for releasing at least one — if not multiple — new album within a year of the latest. Released Nov. 20, K.G. finds the band returning to its microtonal roots, a loving marriage of folk psychedelia and acoustic microtonal melodies.

Starting off with the fittingly titled track “K.G.L.W,” like the theme song of an eerie, enchanted forest, K.G. quickly picks up the pace with “Automation” and dives headfirst into its well-known speedy drum fills and lilting rock beats. The sounds King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard embraced in its early releases come flowing back with an urgent fervor, sounds of a catchy, intoxicating nature that propelled the band to immense success with fans. But the song’s different elements also feed into the current story being told, not all harkening back to the band’s origins. The buzzing, droning bass in the back of “Automation” perfectly reinforces the song’s theme of society’s preprogrammed nature.

All the songs on K.G. essentially follow the theme of society in chaos, sifting through the mess to find what ounces of enjoyment you can. The swirling music video for “Straws in the Wind” perfectly sums up the album’s overall vibe, featuring the band members joyously making their way through the song while storms brew around them. At this halfway point of the record, K.G. begins to lose its soft psychedelic folk aura and takes on a more frenetic tone.

“Intrasport” is the harbinger of this shift, snatching listeners from the green field they were laying in and transporting them to a Middle Eastern dance floor. The song is by far the most instrumentally compelling, and that’s truly saying a lot for an album packed with intricate melodies. “Intrasport” is a synth-heavy, exotic ’80s funk sounding song with very light house elements. The artist has never ventured into this musical style before, and it’s a refreshing addition to a compilation otherwise centered around familiar sounds. But that’s not to say this song doesn’t adhere to the foundation K.G. is built on — it simply goes above and beyond. An entire album of just this style would be much welcome.

The final song, “The Hungry Wolf of Fate,” follows in the same vein as “Intrasport,” twisting K.G.’s psychedelic sounds. The distorted introductory riff transports listeners back to Infest the Rats’ Nest for a lingering moment and then later fully jumps into the metal album’s stylings. Sludgy and fuzzy, King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard traverses the territory, not like a newcomer, but like the band owns the place. “The Hungry Wolf of Fate” is arguably the album’s best song considering the variety of genres used that work so well together.

K.G. holds folk as its due north, but has ample amounts of quintessential thumping bass and heavy-hitting drums that prevent it from becoming boring. The album is quite literally a sequel to 2017’s Flying Microtonal Banana and even a bit of Polygondwanaland, both of which feature strong microtonal sounds and progressive elements. K.G. is a technically beautiful album: The guitar work is phenomenal, the songwriting is like poetry and the backing instrumentals elevate each song with infallible rhythms. 

But K.G. seems to lack the refined cohesion found on the band’s previous works, instead opting for a blanket lyrical and musical theme that can be sensed subtly in each song, but not enough to truly tie the album together. In short, K.G. is one that newer listeners may have to warm up to, but longtime fans familiar with the band’s genre-bending, experimental formula should feel right at home with.

Contact Pooja Bale at [email protected]. Tweet her at @callmepbj.