For King Gizzard and The Lizard Wizard’s second of five albums in 2017, these Aussie psych-rockers go for broke with a 20+ track concept album. Through heavy magical journeys with some of the most intense and explosive rock on a record this year they make an interesting narrative out of their lengthy recording. While it definitely stands out though, the record definitely will split listeners on its overall quality as a record.
With a moody, thematic opening “A New World” roars with psychedelic guitars and a spoken word intro, setting the tone of the album intensely. “Altered Beast I” keeps the mood going on a vicious and fast bouncing track that hits so hard it’ll have you thrashing around from its first beat. Rolling this along, “Alter Me I” breaks in as the explosive bridge/solo of the song, letting loose the fiery sounds they’d held back.
Turning to a flickering guitar line, “Altered Beast II” finds the spoken lines turning to dark magic as the groove gains a more noise-funk quality to it, with cataclysmic drum stops and a keyboard heavy bridge. “Alter Me II” comes in as a secondary bridge, shrieking guitars off into their echo-filled recording as they chant “Alter Me” on repeat. Bringing it all back in a bouncy fashion, “Altered Beast III” cranks up the bass as it chops up the vocals for a more crunchy and racing push before they take it to a very Middle-Eastern melody for the ending bridge.
“Alter Me III” takes its previous iterations mood and throws in a lot of trippy synths for a more ambient backing as the bass purrs below. Switching to syncopated rhythms, “Altered Beast IV” switches between quirky verses and tumbling choruses to end the medley dynamically, with all the key changes and pedal tweaking you’d expect.
Moving to more lo-fi synths, “Life Death” pumps along before falling into slowly melting tone as the chants of “Die…die” get slower and slower. “Some Context” hovers on throaty moans as the ominous and magical narrator continues her story over a rolling bass line. The immediate kicking beat of “The Lord Of Lightning” makes chants to its titular lord all the more catchy before it switches to up and down crashes and a frantically fast second half, with bending guitars and synths abound.
Flowing into the punching beats and guitar wails of “The Balrog” the band goes faster than ever as they ecstatically through noise into every phrase, getting all the more visceral as they move up keys and speed as well. Finally slowing down for a moment, “The Floating Fire” brings back the throaty drone, throwing in dark and heavy drums to make a very draconian emotion for the song. “The Acrid Corpse” plays the simmering and grimy interlude, announcing the end of the Balrog in great detail.
“The Altered Future” crawls in on what sounds like a radio news reading, as the album enters its unique vision of the future. On a much heavier rock drive, “Digital Black” booms along steady, bringing it all crashing down on every over-the-top chanting chorus.
“Soy Protein Munt Machine” finds the foreign male announcer describing his soy powered robot on a theatrical backing. Hitting their gritty “Vomit Coffin” they find themselves at some of their most tight, experimental and interesting on the record as they blend different ideas along one song rather than many. “Murder Of The Universe” ends the whole piece of an album in a narrated wash of grinding sounds as the disintegrating roars of the band get more and more distorted, eventually breaking down.
As a continuous concept album Murder Of The Universe is a fluid and dynamically themed piece of art, as it evolves while holding on to its core. It does often feel quite samey and its changes throughout do tend to follow exceptionally similar progressions. Given its originality as a cohesive unit and its sound as a concept album that moves as one overarching piece, the album is a unique wonder in a scene with so few good concept albums left.
Words by Owen Maxwell