Review: King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard, ‘Murder of the Universe’

Written by Andrew Howie

From the bowels of some alternate, futuristic underworld comes the furious Murder of the Universe, the latest from the prolific and mind-bending King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard. Led by frenetic wild man Stu Mackenzie (vocals/guitar/flute/zurna/keys), the Melbourne-based seven-piece also includes Joey Walker on guitar/vocals, Cook Craig on guitar, Eric Moore and Michael Cavanagh on drums, Lucas Skinner on bass, and Ambrose Kenny-Smith on keys/harmonica/vocals. Their penchant for pushing the limits of music finds them tearing apart our universe to forge new territory.

Right away, the album sets the tone: dark, towering, and colossal. Divided into three distinct chapters (The Tale of the Altered Beast, The Lord of Lightning vs. Balrog, and Han-Tyumi and the Murder of the Universe), characters emerge, are changed/broken, and landscapes reinvented in a new image of bleak desolation. The immensity of the music is disorienting and all-consuming, a hurricane surging through a tale narrated by a robotic female voice at first. King Gizzard’s singular surf/punk/thrash/kraut assault keeps things moving at a blinding pace, while Mackenzie’s distinctive howls add to the animalistic nature of the first chapter.

As we move into the second chapter, the vicious Lord of Lightning takes on the fire demon known as the Balrog; a spastic all-out battle races through the veins of the music, destroying all in its path. After the fight, the chapter moves into funeral dirges featuring menacing throat-singing, plodding doom-prog, and out-of-this-world space-rock overtures. It’s a theatrical album through and through, and the final chapter is perhaps the most intense and tumultuous.

With a noticeably different musical goal, the third chapter begins with Han-Tyumi, our titular cyborg, describing how things have turned to “digital black” over the backdrop of a psychedelic space opera. The song of the same name then devolves into madness as Han-Tyumi details his existence over a trembling, crumbling, gargantuan wall of interlocking melodies that threaten to spiral out of control. As the story moves on, the music picks up the pace, and the looming stomp of “Vomit Coffin” segues into the destruction of our universe through Han-Tyumi’s inadvertent “vomit bomb” that tears apart the very fabric of time, the cosmos, and our universe itself.

King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard continue to raise their own bar, and they find unique ways to resurrect musical motifs in later works, crafting a unique sonic universe in which all of their albums reside, portals to another dimension, to be taken as entire units rather than a collections of songs. With that in mind, and also the fact that Murder of the Universe is their second of a potential five albums planned for this year, this is a band to keep your eyes and ears on. Go get yourself Murder of the Universe, and make sure you can listen to it uninterrupted for your first listen. Where the boys go next is anyone’s guess, but this will keep fans happy for the time being. Check it out for yourself, if you dare.

King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard, ‘Murder of the Universe’ Rating: 10 out of 10