Album Review: King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard – Omnium Gatherum

Band: King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard | Album:Omnium Gatherum | Genre: Psychedelic rock | Year: 2022

From: Melbourne, Australia | Label: KGLW

Bandcamp

I hesitate to use a label more restrictive than “rock” to describe King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard. These astonishingly prolific Aussies have one of the most diverse back catalogs in modern popular music, ranging from garage rock to prog to thrash metal to synthpop to microtonal music and beyond. Their latest release is a dizzying encapsulation of their always-shifting style. The appropriately-titled Omnium Gatherum (a faux-Latin phrase meaning “a collection of many different things”) is a sprawling, 80-minute record that has a bit of everything.

The opening track is “The Dripping Tap”–the band’s longest studio recording to date–and it’s a fucking banger. This song is 18 minutes of balls-to-the-wall fuzzed-out psychedelia. King Gizzard effortlessly weaves between blazing instrumental passages, soul-influenced verses, and krautrock-like repetition over the course of this epic.  The band hardly takes their foot off the gas at any point; even during quieter moments, there’s still an irrepressible momentum. This ranks right up there with “Planet B” and “Robot Stop” among the band’s all-time best songs.

Following that stomping, acidic onslaught, “Magenta Mountain” cools things way down. There’s a vaguely “Eastern” quality to the lead synth line, and the verses are quiet and gentle. This would have fit in well on Butterfly 3000, but it goes on for a bit longer than it needs to. “Kepler-22b” is tonally similar, but with a more complex rhythm and overt jazz influences. The drumming in particular is great, and I like how forward in the mix the bass is.

“Gaia” represents another left turn. This song sees the band dip their toes back into the waters of metal. Stu Mackenzie’s growl is distinctive and fantastic, and the song manages to be both artful and heavy. This track somehow naturally flows into “Ambergris”. “Ambergris” is a bit of laid-back, jazzy space-funk, so that transition is quite impressive. The song itself is fine, if not particularly memorable. It’s not really my thing, but the title of this album is effectively Hodgepodge. Not everything’s going to be up my alley.

King Gizzard’s experiments enter new territories on “Sadie Sorceress”. This is a hop-hop song that works pretty well. I’m still not crazy about rapping as a vocal style, but the backing track is funky, psychedelic, and jazzy. The groove really sucks the listener in.

Sequenced synthesizers kick off “Evilest Man”, the album’s second-longest cut. The verses are light and bouncy, but there are some wonderful, contrasting stabs of squealing guitars. This song falls somewhere between Butterfly 3000 and Polygondwanaland with its blend of synth-heavy psych-pop and progressive song structures. “The Garden Goblin” is similar in tone but peppier and more whimsical; and “Blame It On The Weather” flows right out of the preceding song to make a mini-suite.

“Persistence” has a fun, laid-back groove, and the extensive car-based metaphors in the lyrics are charmingly goofy. In contrast, “The Grim Reaper” is another hip-hop track based around a simple keyboard pattern. The flute in this song is haunting with a subtle Japanese flavor. The instrumental elements gradually build up and add complexity.

Warm electric piano opens up “Presumptuous”. This song reminds me a lot of Steely Dan, but that’s not a band I’m a fan of. It’s passable, ‘70s-style jazz rock, but it hardly stands out. And “Predator X” is the most disappointing song on the album for me. Infest the Rats’ Nest might be my favorite King Gizzard album, so this underbaked, lazy thrash song left a bad taste in my mouth. There’s a decent idea or two in this song, but it needed to be better developed.

“Red Smoke” blends folk rock and jazz rock, and the bass stands out quite nicely. Unfortunately, this song doesn’t have much variation in it, which makes for a very long four-and-a-half minutes. “Candles” is a kitschy bit of lounge-rock that overstays its welcome, and the closing “The Funeral” is a passable atmospheric piece with some Spanish guitar noodling.

Omnium Gatherum is impressive in its scope and ambition. There is a lot of good music here from a lot of different genres. Unfortunately, it is overlong, and it ends rather weakly. Everything after “The Grim Reaper” is skippable, but that still means the first two-thirds (11 songs and approximately an hour) is pretty good. 

I know the band wanted to do something sprawling and incredibly diverse, but that’s a tough feat to accomplish. There’s a reason The White Album is such a highly-revered piece. King Gizzard does an overall good job here, but a bit of trimming would have benefited this release. 

Score: 72/100

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