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King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard - Murder of the Universe CD (album) cover


King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard


Psychedelic/Space Rock

3.81 | 110 ratings

From, the ultimate progressive rock music website

3 stars I was very excited to make this review, I haven't listened to this one in a while, and I think letting it sit for a while has helped me gain more appreciation for it. However... I think this album still has some major issues, it's certainly not all bad, but not my favourite by any means. This album was especially difficult to review based on how it's formatted as well, and just how much goes on both musically and in the story. This was an ambitious project, and I can commend them for trying this approach to creating an album, and at least partially succeeding. But it just feels like this one didn't quite stick the landing for me. This was made at the point where they had promised 5 albums by the end of the year, and possibly by this time constraint had pushed this album out maybe a little too early. This is the 2nd of the 5 albums that were released during 2017, and to me it's clear they had some creative drains. I do appreciate the fact that this album sort of absorbs some of the compositional techniques used in their previous albums, showing some improvement by incorporating elements they've used before (such as microtones, garage rock style riffs, and increased use of synths). This album is certainly better listened to in full (which proves to flounder and thrive in various ways). To make this easier on the formatting, rather than organising by songs, I'll organise by parts.

Altered Beast: This section has some really great bits however the focus is all over the place. Considering there's sometimes melodies, counter-melodies, 2 different drums, synths, narration/vocals sometimes all at the same time, it can be a tricky task to balance. I think it does well in some cases like Altered Beast I, II, and IV, but in III especially when yet another melody is added onto the pile it gets difficult to follow what's happening melodically. Because of how this section is chopped up in various sections, there's just a lot happening plus the addition of the bouncing between the narration and the vocals, the section can't pinpoint exactly what it wants. Also because the section continuously jumps back to the Alter Me theme, you kind of just have to go along with its peculiar formatting. This is further pushed by the fact that the songs aren't very individual and have to be listened to all-in-one to even understand what's happening in the lyrics. I enjoy concept albums a lot, however this one just has too much going on. Now where I think this section shines is the blending of the instruments. If you approach each individual section and riff, they are genuinely really cool. The section at 1:29 in Altered Beast I is awesome with how it uses the really aggressive synths to play that melody. The mix of using distorted guitars and clean guitars (sometimes palm muting or using various pedals/effects) is a really cool effect I haven't really seen done simultaneously before in metal, though that might just be me. I also really enjoyed the use of synths in this entire album, even just the intro "A New World" uses the 'I think I see an altered beast by the tree' melody but using only synth, which works great as a setup. As well as that song introducing the aggressive nature of the rest of the album. The double panned drum kit will always be a favourite of mine, especially in these complex time signatures. Finally, the harmonica trading in Altered Beast II at 1:46 is a great highlight and I think adds onto what Nonagon Infinity did really well, incorporating the instrument in a more aggressive setting (also the ending of that song kicks so much ass). Rhythmically speaking this section definitely has the most interest, with it flipping between various time signatures and themes. They definitely challenged themselves with this album to work with more difficult rhythms and time in a hard rock context, using a lot of 7, 9, 11 based time signatures across the album. Altered Beast II is based in 9/8 and 9/4 generally and has a really fun continuous rhythm that plays nearly throughout. The riffs in the entire album don't give a lot of breaks, and are always doing something, which keeps the intense feeling for a while but can get pretty draining especially near the end of the album. Sometimes we get tempo changes like in Altered Beast III, but I'm not a fan of those particularly. The stop and start again in Altered Beast IV however sounds great using the guitars to build back up. I think that this is an issue that only partially crops up during this section, but the Alter Me theme gets tedious to me especially when getting to Alter Me III. What saves it partially is the dynamic change near the end of II and into III, which digs into Stu's falsetto, which I hold very dear to my heart. The story and narration are certainly front and centre in this album, and has something very similar to I'm in Your Mind Fuzz with the idea of mind control and corruption. I think the narration works to some extent during this section, with the voice done by Leah Senior, it can be very amusing to see her talk about such gruesome ideas happening in the story. It can be very distracting however from the melodic ideas happening in the background and vice versa. I'm pretty torn on whether I like or dislike it because of how it's placed in the context of the songs. The outro 'Life/Death' is one of my favourite bits because it hones in a lot more on the narration, and uses some cool effects to accompany it, like the sound of the altered beast dying which sounds awesome.

Lord of Lightning/Balrog: I think that all in all this section has some similar issues with focus, but it's not as bad as the first section by any means. The themes are more solidified with specific songs generally, and the songs are longer so there's a lot less intense back and forth juggling of themes. It's just the narration once again infiltrating the song a little bit too much for my liking. This section sets up in a similar way with the song The Reticent Raconteur using synths to do the theme before actually singing it, in this case it's the Lord of Lightning theme. There's some fake throat singing happening in this section, which I do like how it bookends the first and last songs of this part. The lyrics in this part are some of my favourites like the 'You made the atom split, it caused a massive rift!' line in Balrog that I love. Floating Fire as well has some cool descriptors like the 'Sky is bleeding hair' line. The lyrics are certainly very well thought out, and are very detailed in their descriptions, which I do enjoy just reading them like a poem-story more than anything. The effects on this part in particular are used really well with the synths and guitars doing a more show don't tell approach. For example the guitar feedback plus the spam tapping makes for a really cool lightning sound effect throughout the songs. That distorted effect is just so neat to listen to honestly, it adds to the intensity in a clever way while aiding the actual story. There's an organ used in Balrog that adds some new colour to the songs interlude as well, giving a very unholy vibe to what's happening. Also the end of Balrog with the callback to Trapdoor using a really strange sound effect I can't even name, but it sounds sick! Speaking of, there's a ton of references to other albums in this album. I didn't mention it, but the Evil Death Roll bass happens in the first part. This part features references to Nonagon Infinity in some really subtle and very obvious ways. The first song of this part 'Some Context' is literally just People Vultures, Lord of Lightning also just straight up has the lyrics 'Nonagon, Nonagon, Nonagon Infinity!'. However, as I mentioned in the Nonagon Infinity review, that line in particular actually uses the same melody as a small section of Big Fig Wasp, just slowed down. That was mind blowing to discover initially, and will still be one of my favourite callbacks they've done. Lord of Lightning also has a bass line from I'm in Your Mind Fuzz at the end. And of course the Trapdoor reference at the end of Balrog. Side Tangent: I'm really curious why the Trapdoor theme was placed there of all places because in this section they talk about the beginning of the battle and not the Balrog itself. I would presume that they kind of shoehorned Trapdoor into the storyline seeing as how ambiguous the lyrics are and how the video isn't particularly relevant as far as I can tell. I think having a returning theme like this was really cool to listen to as a fan, but to me it seems a bit weird to place it on this part of the song specifically. I can brush it off because it actually is a really sick reference. The reason I mention all of these references is to dictate how carefully they will approach these albums. Callbacks are some of my favourite things to hear in music, especially cross-album stuff, so props to these guys for just going at it and adding a bunch in this section for story reasons. Another reason is that they very rarely use the themes head-on (besides Some Context) and will usually change them slightly to be a little bit more difficult to see on a first listen, if you know their other music well.

Han-Tyumi and the Murder of the Universe: Another synth heavy intro, which seems to continue the formula they've set up here in the three parts. It's strange how something so chaotic could be considered predictable under these circumstances. I enjoy it, but hearing a very similar setup 3 times in a row feels like it's pushing it a bit. This part definitely feels a lot better organised, with some songs dedicated to Han-Tyumi, and some to Stu's vocals. The riffs are a lot more consistent, and granted they're not my favourite, the songs tend to hold their own pretty well. The highlight of this section is certainly the bionic voice using the text-to-speech 'UK, Charles'. Han-Tyumi (anagram for Humanity) closes off the 3 parts with a story about vomiting and accidentally killing the entire universe. Honestly, I was kinda disappointed with this ending a little bit. Don't get me wrong, it's certainly an interesting concept, especially with how it delves into the bizarre mentions of sex, pleasure, and galaxies from a self induced munting session. I just think personally it goes on too much of a tangent, and after about the 5th time they mentioned various descriptions of vomiting, I got the point. This section had some really strong moments especially in the beginning of the title track 'Murder of the Universe' and songs like 'Digital Black'. It's just that in comparison to the other sections, it feels somewhat lacking in something new. The voice is great, but it's not enough for me personally. It reuses a lot of the sound effects and synths already heard, which is not necessarily a bad thing, but that's another thing that's holding me back from liking this section as much. Okay I will admit though that the Soy Protein Munt Machine is absolutely hilarious, and especially when the voice kicks in.

Issues: This album tried to do too much in too little time. It can be incoherent and distracting at times with just how much stuff it's trying to accomplish. It somehow also manages to be tedious with its themes on top of everything. To me, especially nearing the end, it just doesn't manage to stick the landing with its final act. This album is great in concept, but they certainly did the best they could under the circumstances.

Strengths: There were some pretty strong melodies on this one, maybe like a 60/40 good to meh ratio. The lyricism could be really interesting and unique at times with how expressive they were. There was really great use of synths and mixing as well. From a purely storytelling point of view, it's really cool! Just maybe needed more fine tuning.

Overall this album has some good and some bad, but it's certainly an accomplishment of the band nonetheless. It was a difficult thing to pull off, and if anyone could even come close to doing something as intensely creative and experimental as this in a hard rock setting, it's these guys. I'm giving it 3 stars, though for me it's somewhere in the 3.4 stars range.

GameSwitcher | 3/5 |


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