King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard - Polygondwanaland Album Review
Australian psychedelic rock band King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard (KGATLW) have gone full Buckethead with their release schedule and have dropped their fourth album of 2017 Polygondwanaland. Similar to their previous three records from earlier this year, Polygondwanaland focuses on new and unexplored artistic territory for the band, with Polygondwanaland centered on progressive rock and polyrhythms. While previous releases from KGATLW this year have felt like light dives into various genres, Polygondwanaland sees the band jumping into the murky depths of these musical concepts with cement blocks strapped to their feet.
The signature KGATLW charm is still present in these songs, but Polygondwanaland sees KGATLW transform their sound into its least recognizable form to date. A distinct mystic, religious and at times occult tone blankets each song on the record. Those who loved (or disdained) KGATLW because they sounded like seven Aussie mates psyching out in their garages will find a complex and mature artistic vision in the place of their garage rock and psych influenced sound. Though that old sound so many love KGATLW for does show up in small bites on the opening and closing tracks, with the snaking structure of the “I’m in Your Mind Fuzz” opening tetralogy serving as a blueprint for “Crumbling Castle” and “The Fourth Colour” calling back to the blissful “Head On/Pill.”
But these merely bookend the project, with the bulk of the album taking a more calculated and precise approach that delivers intricate and hypnotic polyrhythms, alien soundscapes and songs with little in the way of verses or choruses. “The Castle In The Air” exemplifies these features the best, with the track opening with spoken word over acoustic guitar, flute and chiptune synths. Shortly after it morphs into a Jethro Tull flavored progressive folk piece, which then somehow effortlessly transforms into the space rock jam “Deserted Dunes Welcome Weary Feet.”
These progressive rock moments are executed flawlessly, giving Polygondwanaland a truly cinematic feel without ever feeling like a mishmash of too many styles or an elongated jam session. It comes off like the perfect end-of-term project for a 400 level course on progressive rock. Not since Tool’s Lateralus has a modern rock group put out a project that feels like a worthy addition to the pantheon of progressive rock.
Frontman Stu Mackenzie more than meets the lyrical challenge of penning a narrative or imagery to coincide with these complex compositions. The sublime marriage of Lovecraftian horror and early pulp sci-fi inspired lyrics found on previous albums continues here, though an added sense of existentialism and transcendentalism playout throughout the course of the project that gives the subject matter more discernible thematic purpose.
Polygondwanaland captures the same lightning in a bottle feel that KGATLW’s Nonagon Infinity did, with listeners leaving as though they’ve experienced a bolt of life being shocked into the hollow, nearly dead corpse of the rock genre. Polygondwanaland deserves to be in the conversation next to Blackstar, The Seer and To Be Kind as one of the most important rock albums of the decade. While Polygondwanaland may not throw the conventions of the genre out the window as violently as those albums, it nevertheless elicits an equal sense of forward progression for rock as a whole and will be cited as an inspirational stepping stone for the future of progressive rock going into the future.
Chandler Copenheaver is a senior majoring in public relations. To contact him, email email@example.com.
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Senior / Public Relations