In this day and age, I’m fairly certain that few bands could make a good concept album. Fewer still could make one about a cyborg who wants to be fully human while interacting with a wizard attempting to stop a monster from destroying all of creation. King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard have done just that, however, with Murder of the Universe.
In case you’re unaware, this is KGATLW’s second album of the year, and they plan to release three more before the end of 2017. The first was the excellent Flying Microtonal Banana and the third, a collaboration with Mild High Club called Sketches of Brunswick East is already available for pre-order.
Lyrically and sonically, Murder of the Universe links up well with Flying Microtonal Banana and the outstanding Nonagon Infinity. It’s like they’re a complete trilogy, and some people have suggested the robot in Nonagon Infinity‘s lead track, “Robot Stomp,” is the cyborg caught up in the Murder of the Universe. You can also hear the beginning of Nonagon Infinity‘s “People Vultures” on this new record (on “Some Context”).
The album’s intro, “A New World,” has a haunting poem spoken by a young woman describing the aftermath of a nuclear war and how even more horrible things are to come afterwards. The first is an “Altered Beast (Part 1).” The band comes out like an angry, roaring bear from of its den. Parts 2, 3, and 4 of the song alternate with the three-part “Altered Me.” The war’s survivor realizes he must adapt to the new environment and new beastly overlord to survive (or did the beast alter him for a dark purpose?). Each song flows seamlessly into the next and KGATLW slays each part. Guitars assault you from every direction but can still stop on a dime. The double drumming is insane, and the synths bring a wild, weird 1980’s horror film vibe to the whole thing.
The survivor has become an altered beast by the end of “Altered Beast IV,” feeling nothing but still remembering his humanity and the idea of freedom. He has lost the concepts of “Life / Death,” but still clings to the idea of revenge. He finds a possible ally in “The Lord of Lightning” (in which lead singer Stu Mackenzie yells “Nonagon infinity!” a few times). It’s a wicked song that would leave anyone who’d never heard a KGATLW song before dumbfounded. It tells the story of an epic mystical battle yet the song blasts by you like something shot from a catapult.
“The Balrog” could be the altered beast, but he is certainly the Lord of Lightning’s enemy. The song is a sonic fiery claw in your brain with crazy percussion and even wilder guitars. “The Floating Fire” is all that’s left after the war between the Balrog and the Lord of Lightning. The Balrog becomes “The Acrid Corpse” by the end of it, but only eternal darkness remains after the Lord of Lightning leaves.
The future is left to the few survivors who have become cyborgs in order to live in the new world. It’s all “Digital Black” in this new time. People have willingly given up their humanity (“We’ve turned our bodies into computers…”) in a quest for what they thought was perfection. The bass riff in this is great, as is the hard-hitting beat throughout it.
One such cyborg is “Han-Tyumi the Confused Cyborg,” the survivor of the original meeting with the altered beast. All he wants is to vomit and die. He wants pain, stench, and some sort of end instead of his endless digitized illusion of life and pleasure. His “Vomit Coffin,” a machine of his own design, might help him do it. It’s another weird rocker mixed with digitized vocals and synth grooves as Han-Tyumi gives himself over to full digitization in order to free himself (and perhaps the world) from his living death.
The title track has Han-Tyumi expanding far beyond his physical form until he’s traveling at the speed of light and infiltrating every living cell and atom. The only way for him to find death is to destroy everything, and he does it.
So, yeah, it’s not a happy-go-lucky record. It’s a crazy concept record about a giant monster attack nearly destroying the world and changing the few survivors left into cyborgs who are left with an even bleaker world after a lightning god battles a giant fire monster, which drives one of the few cyborgs with any shred of humanity left to destroy the entire universe in order to free himself from an eternal life of cold, digital monotony.
Why haven’t you bought it by now?
Keep your mind open.
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“Welcome to an Altered Future,” has the cyborg, Han-Tyumi, describing how the digital age led to the death of the world thanks to artificial intelligence. “We turned our bodies into computers,” the band’s lead vocalist, Stu, sings on