The experience of getting a new King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard record in the mail is a sensory treat in and of itself. The square, solid weight of the 180-gram LP in your palms, just after you peel off the shrink-wrapped plastic, is as exciting as the ephemera that slides out of the sleeve; the mystical artwork of Jason Galea, unfolding on a sprawling poster; a lyric booklet that’s packed with his dark illustrations and smells like a new magazine; the familiar ATO sticker; and of course, the record itself: clear-smoke-colored wax in this case – one of multiple variants – that glitters like a scratched silver platter when it spins. The sound etched into it is savage; otherworldly, and strange, and once the needle brings it out, you realize they’ve sucked you right in again.
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Whether Murder Of The Universe was an ancient prophecy transmitted to King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard by unknown forces, or just a badass concept record that popped into their long-haired heads one day, it’s an album that needed to happen. With MOTU marking the second of their five planned records in 2017, following February’s delicious drop of Flying Microtonal Banana, the Australian psych rockers have arguably done the toughest part of the stunt: proven that they have a plethora of good ideas, and the ability to articulate them at an insanely quick pace. With all the maniacal rocking their fans crave in the immediate term, plus a plot that will likely keep them busy for years, Murder Of The Universe is not just a shred-heavy freak-out, but a pensive, nuanced saga – the end of humanity in three parts, at the hands of machine, in modern-day terms we can all comprehend.
Frontman Stu Mackenzie (vocals/guitar/flute) – who noted in the context of the release that “Some scientists predict that the downfall of humanity is just as likely to come at the hands of Artificial Intelligence, as it is war or viruses or climate change” – has said it’s almost unavoidable not to reflect this dystopian reality in their music. But it’s not all death and cataclysm lurking within MOTU. “These are fascinating times too,” said Stu. “Human beings are visual creatures – vision is our primary instinct, and this is very much a visual, descriptive, bleak record. While the tone is definitely apocalyptic, it is not necessarily purely a mirror of the current state of humanity. It’s about new non-linear narratives.”
The crux of this narrative is perhaps the spoken-word element (voiced by fellow Flightless artist Leah Senior) in the first two chapters of the ominous three-part record – which starts with “The Tale of the Altered Beast” (tracks 1-9), followed by the explosive “The Lord of Lightning Vs. Balrog” (tracks 10-15), and concludes with “Han-Tyumi and the Murder Of The Universe” (tracks 16-21). Her detached voice becomes as familiar as a heartbeat as it supplies the storyline, warns of mass destruction, and even digs into your subconscious (“You’re ruthless and savage and sadistic and vindictive”), sounding chilling against the backdrop of King Gizzard’s wild, interlocking riffs.
The music itself, which sinks evenly underneath the tale like mud under a swamp, is a sickeningly cool twist for the group – comprised of Stu, Ambrose Kenny-Smith (harmonica/vocals), Cook Craig (guitar/vocals), Joey Walker (guitar), Lucas Skinner (bass), and their destructive dual drummers, Eric Moore and Michael Cavanagh – whose synergy is so unique, they could play any style and still draw their own crowd. Ghostly themes of breakthrough Gizz records like I’m In Your Mind Fuzz and last year’s Nonagon Infinity can be heard sneaking in and out of the new melodies – that is, if you’re not too distracted by the boys’ trademark, face-melting guitar solos to catch them.
While the surreal themes may be a heavy trip for the average listener, the sheer originality of MOTU is worth marveling at, and most music lovers will be too intrigued not to sit down and try to figure it all out one day. In that way, the work of King Gizzard is somewhat like a caged lion. Some will watch it pass by in a train car and wonder how ferocious its teeth are. Others will follow it to the circus and see for themselves.
Article: Olivia Isenhart
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