King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard are on ambitious trek to release 5 albums in one year. ‘Murder of the Universe’ is the second one so far. Their first, which I reviewed, was “Flying Microtonal Banana” and I found it to be a sensational record. Go check out the review. I also review their album “Nonagon Infinity” which was another great album.
This, their tenth album, is a concept album and the concept is so far out there, that I can’t eloquently explain it. I will have to let someone else’s words do the work for me. I do know the album is broken out into three separate chapters. The first two chapters are narrated by Leah Senior and she has an almost godlike personae. The final chapter is narrated by a Free Text to Speech at NaturalReaders.com. It sounds like the typed the story into the website and it did the narration. Very interesting.
Outside of that I can’t describe this album’s story. I will leave it to Wikipedia to do that for me…
The first (chapter), The Tale of the Altered Beast explores themes of temptation, and tells a tale of a human who stumbles upon a mystical human/beast hybrid, dubbed the Altered Beast. The story starts from the perspective of the human being pursued, who slowly takes interest in the idea of being altered – as it is considered taboo in their society. The perspective then changes to the Altered Beast’s itself, who is filled with murderous intent to kill. The human encountered by the beast slowly gives into temptation into becoming altered once the beast confronts them, as they crave power. Accepting of their fate, the beast and human merge, creating a newly altered beast, who now craves even more for flesh. However, the beast suffers greatly from absorbing another conscience – it loses track of its identity and eventually dies of insanity, decaying into the earth.
The second story, The Lord of Lightning Vs. Balrog is more focused on a big battle between two entities dubbed The Lord of Lightning and Balrog respectively, who represent the force of light vs darkness. The chapter starts with a foreword from the perspective of a storyteller, who recalls a battle between these two great forces. This story begins from “The Lord of Lightning”, which is about the general destruction caused in a town by lightning fired from the entity’s finger. He is perceived as evil and malevolent by the townfolk. However, he fires lightning at a corpse, who is somehow reanimated into the creature known as Balrog. This creature chooses to ignore the Lord of Lightning, and instead wreaks further havoc to the townspeople. However, the Lord chooses to fight the Balrog and confronts him – eventually the Balrog is left as a burning corpse. The Lord of Lightning then immediately leaves, choosing not to harm the townsfolk anymore.
The third and final story, Han-Tyumi & The Murder of the Universe, is about a cyborg in a digital world who gains consciousness and through confusion decides he strives only for what a cyborg cannot do – these being vomiting and death. He decides to create a creature dubbed the “Soy-Protein Munt Machine” who’s only purpose is to vomit. As the creature rejects his love, Han-Tyumi decides to merge with the machine, which spirals the machine out of control. This machine then explodes and infinitely expels vomit, which eventually engulfs the entire universe, hence the title of the album.
Is that strange enough for you? All I can think is what drugs are they on and how do I get a hold of some!!
Now I want to talk about the narration. There is way too much narration. The songs are supposed to tell the story on a concept album. If someone needs to continually narrate before, during and after the songs than the songs are NOT telling the story. This is my biggest fault with the whole album. I want the songs to speak for the story, not a narrator. The narrator needs to shut the F##& up.
The songs are interrupted and it completely disrupts the flow of the song and is extremely distracting. There are great songs on the album, and if we could strip out the narration in the middle of the songs then I might give the album more spins. As it sits right now it is not likely.
The final chapter of the album is really nothing more than Han Tyumi narrating with only one real song. The narrator was a cyborg so the voice was very computerized. The whole album felt more like I was listening to a book on tape than an actual musical album. It was very disappointing.
Chapter 1: The Tale of the Altered Beast
- “A New World”
- “Altered Beast I”
- “Alter Me”
- “Altered Beast II”
- “Alter Me II”
- “Altered Beasst III”
- “Alter Me II”
- “Altered Beast IV”
Chapter 2: The Lord of Lightning vs. Balrog
- “Some Context”
- “The Reticent Raconteur”
- “The Lord of Lightning”
- “The Balrog”
- “The Floating Fire”
- “The Acrid Corpse”
Chapter 3: Han-Tyumi and the Murder of the Universe
- “Welcome to an Altered Future”
- “Digital Black”
- “Han-Tyumi the Confused Cyborg
- “Soy-Protein Munt Machine”
- “Vomit Coffin”
- “Murder of the Universe”
I would normally do a review of track, but it is a concept album and I am not going to do the Keep / Delete scoring. I feel on a concept album it needs to be reviewed as one piece. I will point out the songs I did like even though the narration needs to be cut out for real enjoyment.
Musically, the songs are typical King Gizzard songs. Very distorted, psychedelic rock. There use of so many different instruments is still apparent. However, the lack of real songs is disheartening. There were only 7 maybe 8 tracks that I would count as songs. The rest was filler for the overabundance of narration. Have I stated that there was too much narration…yeah, I probably did.
The best song on the album for me was clearly “Digital Black”. This was a straight up, heavy ass rock song. Probably my favorite song from their last 3 albums. It was dark and an overall brutal guitar sound. It almost had a Sabbath feel to it. There is very little narration and what there is actually felt like it flowed and not forced. The only thing is that it is way too short at only 2:46.
“Altered Beast I”, “Altered Beast II” and “Altered Beast IV” are all similar in nature; however they due change them up slightly as to differentiate them from one another. It is classic King Gizzard songs. Again, strip out the narration and it is really strong opening set of songs.
Lastly, I enjoyed “The Lord of Lightning”. Another heavier song and a nice incorporation of the rock harmonica. The guitar work on this one is what makes it a standout. The distorted riffs mixed with Stu’s vocals make for a great combination. (Warning video could cause seizures…seriously).
As far as scoring the album…
2 out of 5
As much as I would like to score the album higher, I just can’t. I know the album is getting pretty good reviews elsewhere; however, I didn’t get it. Maybe I am too old to get it, but it completely misses the mark for me as a whole. The main issue with it is like I have said throughout this post…the narration. Way too much!! The songs should be the storyteller and you need more songs.
Maybe the issue is they are trying to spit out so many records in a year. If you put out 5 albums in a year, how great are they going to be. Are they that prolific in their song writing…this album says no. I give them credit for changing it up a bit so you don’t have the same album 5 times, but maybe more time would have done this one better. This is one you could skip…except get “Digital Black”.