Album Review: King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard - Murder of the Universe
The Australian psychedelic septet King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard are just as audacious as their name suggests. They have ten albums under their belt, spanning half as many years and incorporating twice as many genres. Garage rock, punk, prog, surf rock, jazz fusion, folk and Anatolian rock are merely a sprinkle of the sounds they offer. With Murder of the Universe, their second release of 2017, King Gizzard drastically move away from the relatively relaxed sounds of Flying Microtonal Banana. In its place is a conceptual, spoken word, doom metal/acid rock rampage.
Murder of the Universe is divided into three sections, ‘The Tale of the Altered Beast’, ‘The Lord of Lightning vs Balrog’ and ‘Han-Tyumi and the Murder of the Universe’. Altered Beast (which I assume is a reference to the Sega arcade beat ‘em up) kicks off the album. Fellow Flightless Records artist Leah Senior plays an enigmatic narrator. She sets the stage of a horrific “new world” engulfed in violence and fear. Her dark, poetic narration perpetuates through the song, eloquently describing an intense tale of monstrous mutations. What it means is anyone’s guess, but I like to imagine it’s an elaborate allegory for the cold-hearted people who hold power in our own world. Musically, it’s a mercilessly mad adrenaline rush that pummels the listener with rapid tempos, aggressive distortion, the occasional bit crushed synth and frontman Stu Mackenzie’s cathartic whooping.
The narrator, taking the wry role of a “reticent raconteur”, guides the listener into The Lord of Lightning vs Balrog. She reveals her long kept secret of a raucous clash between a Lord of the Rings creature and what may or may not be a DC villain. It opens with a 16-second sample of People-Vultures, a callback to their 2016 crossover hit Nonagon Infinity. The line “nonagon infinity” also re-emerges here, haunting the album in its new, mangled and twisted form. Mackenzie’s dramatic lyrics of epic battles and evil beasts alternate with furious freakouts. Screeching guitars, blaring harmonica and restless wah-wah pile in, culminating in a moshpit of sound. This section is my personal favourite, showcasing King Gizzard at their most daringly demented.
King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard are weird. They’re absolutely not for everyone, and their latest album is arguably their least accessible yet. It sounds like they’ve killed, mutilated and buried their previous albums, before digging them up and stitching them back together into a mind meddling monstrosity of a record.
For the final section, Han-Tyumi and the Murder of the Universe, the album shifts from fantasy to sci-fi. Futuristic synths and a bombastic mellotron choir reflect this transition, alongside the new cyborg narrator welcoming the listener to an “altered future”. Unfortunately, the cyborg’s text-to-speech voice is both less pleasant than Senior’s and more frequently used. Fortunately, the section redeems itself by being the most thematically fascinating. The story of Han-Tyumi the Confused Cyborg is a freaky, existential exploration of what it means to be human. It’s like the 1982 film Blade Runner filtered through a vomit coated nightmare. The section ends with the title track, bringing the album to an apocalyptic end. Whilst trying to simulate his lost humanity, Han-Tyumi murders the universe.
King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard are weird. They’re absolutely not for everyone, and their latest album is arguably their least accessible yet. It sounds like they’ve killed, mutilated and buried their previous albums, before digging them up and stitching them back together into a mind meddling monstrosity of a record. That may sound absolutely horrendous to you. If it does, I’d recommend you get your Australian neo-psychedelia from the less disturbing (but no less brilliant) Tame Impala. However, if you have a hankering for the more deranged sounds from Down Under, Murder of the Universe will not disappoint.
The Breakdown | Album Review: King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard – Murder of the Universe
Murder of the Universe is King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard’s craziest effort yet, seeing the band prove themselves as the maddest minds in music for the second time this year.