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Album Review: King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard - 'Ice, Death, Planets, Lungs, Mushrooms and Lava'

If you’re into experimental music which throws itself into the abyss for the sake of creativity and jams, then this is the album (and the band) for you.

By Akira Sidana, Fourth Year French & Spanish

King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard have just dropped their 21st album, following three previous releases throughout 2022. On top of these works, they’re also set to release two more new albums this month: Laminated Denim (12th October) and Changes (28th October).

It seems that the group love to churn out any music they can possibly create with no rules to bind them; and Ice, Death, Planets, Lungs, Mushrooms and Lava goes to show just this, with its collection of improvisational multi-genre fusion jam-based tracks each ranging from 7-13 minutes. Personally, I was sceptical of this album at first but over time, I’ve grown to love it. Let’s dive in…

Ice, Death, Planets, Lungs, Mushrooms and Lava Album Cover / Pitch Perfect PR

The record comprises seven songs, each having only been dedicated a set tempo and one of the seven Greek modes of music, giving majors, minors, and everything in-between. The rest, as frontman/instrument extraordinaire Stu Mackenzie puts it, was down to “mess[ing] around and get[ting] creatively loose”. However, despite the spontaneous mood of the instrumentals, there is a clear theme to the album. Ice, Death, Planets, Lungs, Mushrooms and Lava, whilst representing a culmination of elements appearing throughout, also serves as a mnemonic for the modes used to create those songs. The lyrics, which came afterwards from a collaborative Google doc, depict a bleak image of nature reclaiming its surroundings and the inevitable heat death of the planet. Kinda gnarly, right?

Kick-starting the album with a lively, reggae-esque beat on ‘Mycelium’, everything feels groovy. Mycelium refers to the fungal underground threads through which mushrooms communicate with each other. While this seems cute at first, the lyrics eventually take a turn, no longer matching the upbeat tone of the track: “Stomach knots and purple skin / Mirrored faces doubling / Bursting beams of hopping rabbits / Organs bleed with sucking maggots”. These joyous little mushrooms bring an infestation of death and decay, commencing the gradual descent into doom across the remaining songs.

‘Ice V’ was the first single released pre-album and didn’t even skim the surface of what King Gizz had to offer this time around. A blatant jazz-rock piece with lots of funky wah guitar and a nice smooth bassline; ‘Ice V’ may be one of my favourite songs on the record. Again, we are accosted with an image of disaster as the chanting ensues: “Will we survive / Ice V?” ‘Iron Lung’ has a similar vibe and could be viewed as ‘Ice V’'s counterpart due to its similar structure, rhythm, and instrumental choices - and the fact that it was the second single released.

‘Lava’ has a phenomenal psychedelic free-flow opening crescendo reminiscent it seems of an explosion of nature, before later being accompanied by chanting which centres itself around the idea of the life-death cycle: “The volcano is death, the lava is death / Death is life, the lava is life”.

King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard / Jason Galea

To close the album, we meet ‘Gliese 710’: a star in the Serpens Cauda constellation. Throughout the jazz-fuelled track, we are met with the album’s manifesto presented to us in three different ways, the most notable of which being “Freeze the water / Kill the living / Bake the planet / Suffocate the lungs / Grow the mushroom / Feed the volcano / Watch the new star / Dance upon the night sky”. The violent imagery of Mother Nature’s uprisal is evident, and as the final work on the album, it really feels as though we’re coming to the final boss fight of the adventure with its fast-paced distorted guitar and desperate, frenzied tone.

Overall, it seems that King Gizz are preparing us for imminent environmental chaos to a kaleidoscopic soundtrack of distinctive sounds. Who knows what they may come up with next? For them, it’s said that “every record is a side-step” towards something new, and it’s for this reason that you cannot confine them with labels. If you’re into experimental music which throws itself into the abyss for the sake of creativity and jams, then this is the album (and the band) for you.

Featured Image: Jason Galea

How many of King Gizz's albums have you made your way through?