Prolific Aussie outfit King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard return with a third and final foray into microtonal tuning after the ingenious Flying Microtonal Banana (2017) and the more recent K.G. (November 2020).
It’s their seventeenth studio album in a decade-long run as well as their eleventh release in a year (including retrospectives and live albums). Recent output suggests it’s been business as usual for King Gizzard: you wouldn’t guess their last two albums were made in isolation and pieced together from afar.
Yet that’s how K.G. and L.W. were conceived; the latter intended as both a standalone record and a companion piece to the former. As such, the narrative arc developed in L.W. is crafted from sturdy foundations. The album expands on the idea of the imminent arrival of a phantasmagoric apocalypse that seeps into much of Gizzard’s discography––and most crucially K.G..
The new album is even starker in its depiction of the turn world events are taking. L.W. doesn’t so much question the notion of collective responsibility as it asserts it, (“Human race deserves its steaming fate on a plate”) oftentimes blurring the line between Gizzard lore and reality.
Case in point, recent single ‘Pleura’ introduces the “Necromancer”, a personification of the collection of nefarious human traits that have led mankind into a cul-de-sac. The slanted commentary culminates with its final lines, “Cheat me out of living my life? / I exercise my right to die”–– undeniably anchored in current times.
While the notion impending doom is depicted as inevitable across the record, L.W. also plays out as an enthusiastic proponent for its coming. Ceremony lives in the background chant and percussion pairing of second single ‘O.N.E.’ and even more evidently in ‘K.G.L.W.’, the stoner metal leviathan that unfolds almost like a seance with the band’s namesakes.
The ‘if you can’t beat ‘em join ‘em’-isms of King Gizzard sit well for a band that has incorporated ambivalence and nuance in each of their presentations. The L.W. summoning rituals involve dampened vocals that are reduced to supporting roles: more often than not Stu Mackenzie’s lyrics grow into obscure incantations that can require a handful of listens to fully grasp (‘Ataraxia’, ‘See Me’).
The prominence of drums and percussion also ties in to the ritualistic arrangements of much of the album. Michael Cavanagh’s drums lead the charge across the nine tracks, most notably in ‘Static Electricity’ and ‘East West Link’ where additional bongos gallop in a race that extends well beyond the audible horizons.
The space each instrumentalist is given across the tracklist is revelatory. It highlights one of the group’s greatest assets: the ability to lay down foundations for countless improvisation opportunities. In fact many parts of songs feel like impromptu jam sessions, including but not limited to instrumental breaks in ‘If Not Now, Then When?’, ‘Static Electricity’ and ‘Ataraxia’.
Still, admittedly, there’s a decent amount of running in circles in L.W.. Whether deliberate––as is the overt thematic and titular continuity between L.W. and its predecessor––, or less so as the album becomes bogged down by its commitment to microtonality, there comes a feeling that this new installment closes a chapter right as the band ran out of ink.
We are yet to see if Gizzard will deliver on its promise to be “bolder, madder and more imaginative than ever” as they enter their second decade. If anything, L.W. registers more like a period at the end of an era than the opening sentence of the next.
L.W. was self-released on 26 February 2021.
Words by Red Dziri
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