I’ve been looking for an excuse to write about the beautifully named Australian psych-rock band King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard for a while now. The group of seven oddball musicians got its start in 2010 in Melbourne, Australia. Since then, the band released a whopping 15 studio albums ranging from the garage rock jive “12 Bar Bruise” to the entirely acoustic outing “Paper Mâché Dream Balloon” and the most recent release, the apocalyptic thrash metal record “Infest the Rats’ Nest.”
The eclectic nature of the band, mixed with the wide range of genres in its discography and the overall pure joy I get from saying its name, easily makes King Gizzard my favorite band. This love for the group is why I was so excited when it announced the release of “Chunky Shrapnel,” a feature-length tour documentary paired with a new live album of the same name.
The film was available to stream on the band's website for 24 hours last weekend, but due to high demand it will be available for an additional 24 hours starting at 5 p.m. on Friday, April 24. The album will also be available on music streaming services starting the same day.
“Chunky Shrapnel,” the name for which hails from a lyric in the band’s song “Murder of the Universe,” follows the Aussie rockers on their tour of Europe in the latter half of 2019. The film, directed by John Angus Stewart, showcases their travels through cities such as Luxembourg, Madrid, London, Brussels, Milan and several others. While “Chunky Shrapnel” certainly features plenty of backstage antics from the Gizz, the film chooses mostly to provide footage of the band’s performances in these various cities.
Maybe my pre-existing love of the band could be considered a bias here, but I loved “Chunky Shrapnel.” It was a thrilling, roaring and ceaselessly rocking two-hour experience that kept me engaged from start to finish.
Last year I had the pleasure of seeing King Gizzard perform live in Denver, and the pure energy and excitement of the show undoubtedly made it one of the best I’ve been to in my life. “Chunky Shrapnel” managed not only to capture the same electrifying atmosphere as the live show, it also convincingly made the viewer feel as if they’re on tour with the band. By frequently cutting between and intermixing footage from different shows while somehow never interrupting the flow of a song, the film seemingly provides its audience with the experience of traveling across Europe to many of these concerts, each of which has a new and refreshing setlist.
The songs performed in the film, which can also be found on the live album, greatly vary both in style and genre. Whether it be the face-melting performances of tracks from “Infest the Rats’ Nest,” such as “Planet B” and “Hell,” or the softer emotional bop “Let Me Mend The Past” from the album “Float Along - Fill Your Lungs,” every song brought a completely different and welcoming energy. It was easy to see the band members were having a ton of fun playing these songs for their crowds — most of them crowd surf at least once in the film. All the while, they’re showing off the incredible variety of musical styles from across their discography.
One of the more mind-bending moments in the film was the transitioning between the looser, more jazz-infused song “The River” from the 2015 release “Quarters” and the heavy-hitting track “Wah Wah” from the 2016 album “Nonagon Infinity.” The two songs seem drastically different, but the band managed to weave them together with a similar underlying rhythm. By doing this, King Gizzard seamlessly transitions from one to the other and back again, almost fusing them into one beautifully chaotic track that’s sure to make fans lose their minds.
Bringing this whole experience to a close is a song titled “A Brief History Of Planet Earth.” The track is pretty much just 20 minutes of the band aimlessly and wonderfully jamming out as the closing track of the setlist. King Gizzard is joined on stage by its opening acts ORB and Stonefield, who take over the instruments so the band can let loose and go wild with the crowd. At one point, frontman Stu Mackenzie even crowd surfs to the back of the venue to hand the sound guy a beer. The entire sequence is an absolute blast, and it caps off the film in the same perfectly energetic way it would a live show.
In this strange time of social distancing, watching this film transported me out of my living room and brought me back to one of the best concerts I’ve ever been to. I had tickets to see the band live in Denver again in about two weeks. Obviously that isn’t happening anymore, but “Chunky Shrapnel” certainly softened that blow. It solidly distracted me from the depressing reality of our world right now, and that’s an experience I would certainly recommend to anyone — as long as you’re ready for a wild ride on the “Road Train.”