We’re living in difficult times. The threat of violence, massive mayhem and the unsettling state of our nation and our world create constant concerns. Lest anyone not grasp the severity of the situation, we can thank King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard for hammering the point home. Known for their dizzying blend of speed metal, psychedelia, goth and freakbeat, these Aussie provocateurs make today’s doom and destruction the focus of Murder of the Universe, their 10th album in five years. A creepy conceptual effort that manages to incorporate despair, angst and the apocalypse into one not-so-neat-and-tidy package, it boasts a title that perfectly sums up those sentiments to a tee.
Of course, it also serves to affirm what most of us know already. This planet is a pretty scary place. It’s to the band’s credit that they’re thoughtful enough to provide that perfect soundtrack to accompany our distress and despair.
Ironically too, there’s still something strangely familiar about the cacophony they share. Obvious comparisons can be made to any number of hard rock heroes from decades past: Black Sabbath, Deep Purple, Uriah Heep, Iron Maiden and other outfits that built their brand based on sinister intent and sonic excess. Yet even those aforementioned bands sound like weary shoegazers in comparison, given the agitation, fury and frenzy that’s well served by King Gizzard’s urgency and intensity.
Given its dark clouds and dire circumstance, the music itself doesn’t encourage the faint hearted to dive in too deep. Fortunately, there’s a disembodied female voice that chimes in and keeps the narrative moving. There is a plot of sorts that’s played out, one that’s preoccupied with beasts, blood and demons. With the songs segueing from one to another, neither the mood nor the message are ever in doubt. That’s fortuitous; despite its ample stock of songs—21 to be exact—the album still clocks in at just under 45 minutes. “I will feel no pain, I will feel nothing,” frontman Stu Mackenzie declares on “Altered Beast IV,” the final entry in an odd “Altered Beast” suite. On “Soy-Protein Munt Machine,” a Dr. Frankenstein-like mad scientist insists he’s ready to reboot those humans who are ill-equipped to handle the harrowing circumstances.
Murder of the Universe is a decidedly dark reflection of today’s angst and insanity. There is a bright side however, Given its harrowing descriptions of terror and upheaval, it makes the real world seem tame by comparison.