‘L.W.’ proves King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard can master microtonality a third time

Photo of King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard album

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Grade: 4.0/5.0

Australian psychedelic rock band King Gizzard & the Lizard must pride itself on having countless albums in its discography where every song is an instant hit, emanating an alluring vibe over the airwaves that has you basking in every hit of the drum or stroke of the guitar. Following a slight lapse on its last release, K.G., the band has come back stronger than ever on L.W., the final iteration in its extensive microtonal collection. Released Feb. 26, L.W. is a welcome smorgasbord of surprisingly heavy guitar work and ominous imagery guaranteed to whisk you away from reality.

L.W. explores more energetic sounds and is rather lax on its adherence to the delicate nature of microtones that the band grappled with on K.G. It’s this shift to heavier, chord-focused instrumentals that elevates L.W. to the level of the band’s previous records in the same vein. “Pleura” and “Ataraxia,” though incorporating the soft pluckings dominant on K.G., quickly increase in tempo and dissolve into gloriously distorted compositions. Many of the tunes rely on a more traditional, rock-oriented guitar sound to drive the songs, which gives the album integrity comparable to the rest of the band’s discography.

The single “If Not Now, Then When?,” which gave fans a taste of the album’s groovy vibe back in December of last year, ushers listeners into a catchy realm that’s as close as modern psychedelic rock can get to disco. Even though the song dips into a different type of beat than the rest of the album, it still fits perfectly into the fabric of L.W., segueing seamlessly into “O.N.E.”

From the pattering drums on “Supreme Ascendancy” to the stilted beat on “See Me,” L.W. manages to stay cohesive while adding in bits of variation to keep things interesting. Even softer songs like “Static Electricity” have the same zest found on the album’s most intense, spiraling tracks like “K.G.L.W.” King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard settles into the groove it knows best, and while this may not make for the most innovative album the band has released, that doesn’t detract from its ability to fully engage and enthrall listeners.

“K.G.L.W.” is the most electrifying song on L.W., an eight-minute transcendent journey through at least three different genres and a slew of emotions, rivaling the entirety of the band’s thrash metal album Infest the Rats’ Nest. Bordering on sludgy, progressive metal, the song’s chugging bridges and general lack of lyrics make it truly riveting, each drop in pitch and gloomy riff vying for your attention. But the most laudable aspect of the song is its ability to combine the microtonality found across the rest of L.W. into such a heavy, dark song. While “The Hungry Wolf of Fate” attempted to bring about the same result on K.G., and is excellent as a standalone, the track simply felt as though it belonged on a different album.

Overall, L.W. is a satisfying end to King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard’s microtonal trilogy. Wherever K.G. had shortcomings, L.W. swiftly sweeps them away, finding the balance between traditional and microtonal guitars in order to prevent listeners from being alienated by extensive experimentation while still introducing them to new, unique sounds. This is what truly sets L.W. apart — its use of the strong, echoing guitar chords create a flow across the album that ground it in familiarity, and in turn, make it that much more enjoyable. Instead of weary twangs and off-beat rhythms that sound discordant to the untrained ear (which is most of us), L.W. plays wonderfully to the strengths of the band and is a captivating and memorable release.

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