King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard. Who hasn’t heard of this Australian psych collective nowadays? We certainly haven’t shied away from writing about them, and quite rightly so, because Stu Mackenzie and his men are the exact breath of fresh air which alternative music has longed so dearly for during the last decade and a half. With an output more consistent than UK elections, the Gizz have managed to build a cult following which now follows them all across the world in any way, shape or form. In 2014, the band put out the sprawling I’m In Your Mind Fuzz, which ended up becoming the first part of their manic three-album construction of the much-discussed Gizzverse (not including the various inter-related records which these Melbournians put out around it). 2016’s Nonagon Infinity continued the trend on an album that threaded every single minute of the nine-track collection together, including final track Road Train and opener Robot Stop. Now, the apocalyptic trilogy comes to an end (for now) by means of the destructive Murder of the Universe, an album which Mackenzie describes as a career-best.
Murder of the Universe is split into three separate chapters, all of which have some sort of connection with previous Gizz albums (not that this should come as a surprise). Australian singer-songwriter Leah Senior narrates the first and second pieces in such serene fashion that you’d be forgiven for forgetting that she’s soundtracking the end of our universe as we know it. Chapter one centres on the tale of the so-called Altered Beast, a journey which travels at sporadic measures in an almost schizophrenic manner. “I think I see an altered beast by the creak” muses Mackenzie throughout on one of his many lyrical adaptations, all of which are underpinned by pulsating rhythms (partly courtesy of double-drummers Eric Moore and Michael Cavanagh), imploding guitars and harmonica’s which sound infinitely more apocalyptic than we’re used to. Just like Nonagon Infinity, chapter one is all about menace and musical vigour, albeit this time to the tune of Senior’s gruesome and detailed narratives.
Chapter two continues this trend somewhat, telling the tale of the Lord of Lightning and his battles with the fierce Balrog as elements of previous music are borrowed (such as last year’s People-Vultures on the brief Some Context). This smidgen of context makes for a truly exciting highlight on Murder of the Universe, namely The Lord of Lightning. It’s nothing unique by the much utilized Gizzard standards, however it packs an extra bit of punch and metal-esque determination which we’re not as used to from Mackenzie and co. It syncs into the mental The Balrog neatly by borrowing a bassline which the band used across I’m In Your Mind Fuzz’s four interconnected tracks, before nicking an element of 2015’s Trapdoor on The Balrog. It’s a perfect example of the Aussies using previous music to further expand the world they’ve slowly but surely learnt to build, adapt and now destruct. As The Reticient Raconteur trudges on alongside guitarist Joey Walker’s Mongolian throat singing, images of deteriorating walls and structures whizz around one’s mental capacity, making way for a final chapter worthy of musical greatness.
The band ditch Senior’s narrative assistance on chapter three, which goes under the moniker Han-Tyumi & the Murder of the Universe, with Han-Tyumi serving as an anagram for Humanity. It’s definitely one of the most thought-out passages of music which the band have ever collated, utilizing a robotic cyborg named Han-Tyumi to tell of his desires to do two things which humans, unlike him, are able to do: “death, and…to vomit“. His claim of such nausea-inducing desires are supported by lyrics across the whole chapter which showcase Mackenzie’s ability to seamlessly step within the mindset of another, whether human or not. The line “I am a black hole shitting into the void” particularly stands out, not just due to its hilarity but also thanks to its sheer, robotic honesty. You see, King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard are so prolific as a band that it almost reaches a point of them coming across as robotic in their own weird way. It’s thus important that Mackenzie steps into the world of a fictional robot, almost as if he’s speaking of his own desires in a metaphorical way which only the weird and the few understand. The whole album reaches an end via the kraut-infused Vomit Coffin, before the title track builds up proceedings as Han-Tyumi causes the world to disintegrate and cease existence. He’s become ten times larger than usual, whilst speaking of crumbling castles and rubble. It subsequently becomes the end of a journey which King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard have spent more than three years crafting just as much onstage as they have offstage. The live show (and its intensity) has certainly helped in allowing the band to experiment and bring Murder of the Universe to life, something which they’re currently doing and last night did so at a sold-out Paradiso in Amsterdam. By the time autumn rolls around, Murder of the Universe will be long forgotten and replaced by the jazz-centric Sketches of East Brunswick, a collection of songs which look to once again further expand the band’s creative boundaries to a point of no-return which most acts these days would have achieved after three albums, not ten. There’s a lot in store for this Melbourne outfit, and it couldn’t come sooner.
Murder of the Universe comes out this week Friday (23 June) via Flightless Recods. Watch the clip for The Lord of Lightning vs Balrog below.