Review: King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard ‘Chunky Shrapnel’

Words by Tom Walters
Graphic by Jason Galea

Chunky Shrapnel represents King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard‘s fourth foray into the sometimes-risky territory of the Live Album. (Three previous outings – Live In Brussels, Live In Adelaide and Live In Paris – arrived in January this year as part of a charity drive to raise relief funds for the unprecedented and devastating Australian bushfires.) The album itself was slated to arrive alongside the band’s theatrical debut, a tour documentary of the same name. The film, premiered via Vimeo on April 17, is an endearing, and sometimes eerie glimpse into the touring life of the world’s hardest touring bands.

The film’s accompanying album hits harder. Chunky Shrapnel opens with the dark atmospheric ‘Evil Star’ (‘Rats Live’ backward) before plunging into fan favorite ‘The River’. Within moments the listener notices this is more than simply a live rehash. Chunky Shrapnel is a jam album. And a fluent one at that. The band float between songs with impeccable style. All arrive interspersed with dark but driving synthesizer elements that serve to punctuate the album’s 1 hour and 17 minutes of live magic.

King Gizzard’s previous three albums had hints of muddiness at times. Chunky escapes this. Vocals are clear, guitars are separated nicely in the mix and the keyboards shine. Even the crowd’s noise comes across clean but energetic. The time spent polishing this record is evident. The artwork is similarly bright, a departure from Gizzard’s usual distinctive style. It features a slick seven-headed hydra, each head presumably representing a member of the band, surrounded by PA system connected to 17 boxes each symbolizing a venue from their European tour. All of this is presented with a turquoise tinge and sparkle. An intriguing change from Jason Galea’s previous retro-inspired work.

What really shines on Chunky Shrapnel though is the energy of the music. Songs such as ‘Hell’, ‘Wah Wah’, and ‘Let Me Mend The Past’ can all be easily be said to surpass their studio album counterparts. ‘Planet B’, ‘The River’ and ‘Loyalty’ also add new dimensions to their previous recordings.

The highlight by far, however, is the album’s closing medley ‘A Brief History of Planet Earth‘. At just over 19 minutes it is a hypnotic jam made all the more delightful by the close to perfect production. Each element presents itself with clarity and delight without becoming overwhelming. This album is a testament to the vortex of energy, creativity and spectacle that is King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard.

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