Tabbed as the “concept album to end all concepts,” ‘Murder of the Universe’, King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard’s second studio album of 2017 — and tenth overall — is, like each release in the Australian-based psych-rock group’s immense discography, perplexing. On one hand, King Gizzard has prodigiously crafted an impressive “Gizzverse,” uniting several previous albums into a cohesive narrative. Moreover, their execution of these eviscerating, multifaceted records consistently astonishes, allowing them to flourish apart from the group’s world-building. On the other hand, King Gizzard’s “concepts” all-too-often border on the gimmicky and singular, causing their subsequent efforts to necessarily fall short of their promises.
[NOTE: If you feel you might be susceptible to a seizure, do not watch the following video.]
While ‘Murder of the Universe’ neither loops infinitely nor features microtonal instruments, its self-referential composition functions to unite the group’s previous releases. As frontperson Stu Mackenzie relates, the band views their “albums as portals through which you can move from one to the other.” These callbacks primarily occur within ‘Chapter 2: The Lord of Lightning vs. Balrog’, which also features throat singing, furious harmonica, and psychedelic keys. Opening with the outro from ‘People Vultures’, the group later utilizes the ‘I’m In Your Mind’ bassline and ‘Evil Death Roll’ riff. Rather than merely sampling themselves, King Gizzard re-contextualizes these elements; however, the move feels slightly contrived. Similar to the splicing of ‘Road Train’ on ‘Nonagon Infinity‘, these fills suggests a mild degree of “cheating” that undermines the promise of another entirely original record.
‘Chapter 1: Tale of the Altered Beast’ oscillates between four ‘Altered Beast’ sections and three ‘Alter Me’ interludes, each successive section dragging on a little more than the last. Lyrically, Mackenzie has yet to prove himself an exceptional writer, his repetitious phrases — such as those found on ‘The Balrog’ — taking a backseat to the album’s two narrators.Despite these shortcomings, King Gizzard redeem themselves through their musical props and cryptic nature.
One wonders if the group has encountered James Alan Gardner‘s ‘League of Peoples’ series, which aims to “show a different slice of the universe by presenting a particular character’s “take” on what’s happening.” In chapter two of ‘Radiant’ (2004), the final novel in the sci-fi series, one character describes the Balrog as “beyond human intelligence,” which perhaps alludes to Han-Tyumi, the confused cyborg who desires two human things: “Death and to vomit.” Throughout ‘Chapter 3: Han-Tyumi and the Murder of the Universe’, the numerous references to puke metaphorically consume listeners, inspiring uncomfortable, yet addicting, feelings.
The issue with King Gizzard is not that they are poor musicians, but that they have flooded their own market, effectively diluting their product. That ‘Murder of the Universe’ plays like three lengthier songs rather than a genuine LP makes the psych rockers’ promise of five albums feel somewhat hollow. Nevertheless, despite being a slight step back from ‘Flying Microtonal Banana‘, this record represents yet another satisfying release featuring a few spew-coated gems.
The full track-listing for the album is as follows…
The Tale of the Altered Beast
1. A New World
2. Altered Beasts I
3. Alter Me I
4. Altered Beasts II
5. Alter Me II
6. Altered Beast III
7. Alter Me III
8. Altered Beasts IV
The Lord of Lightening Vs. Balrog
10. Some Context
11. The Reluctant Raconteur
12. The Lord of Lightening
13. The Balrog
14. The Floating Fire
15. The Acrid Corpse
Han-Tyumi And The Murder Of The Universe
16. Welcome To An Altered Future
17. Digital Black
18. Han-Tyuimi, The Confused Cyborg
19. Soy-Protein Munt Machine
20. Vomit Coffin
21. Murder Of The Universe
‘Murder of the Universe’ is out June 23 via Heavenly Recordings, ATO, and Flightless.