hey folks, welcome to some discography reviews. i’ve been writing music reviews for some friends in a discord server for a few years now in various forms, but i figured i’d like to get them all in a more centralized space, so here we are! this first series of reviews is a review of King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard’s discography, starting in 2011 with Willoughby’s Beach and running right into 2021 with Butterfly 3000. this review was originally written in August 2021.

second up in 2017, it’s Murder of the Universe

aight right off the bat i’m not doing individual song reviews on this one, partially because it doesn’t make sense, partially because i dont want to, and partially because this is my website so you can’t make me. right off the bat, this opener is metal as fuck, and it’s really cool that they have the guest vocalist narrate the first two sections, because it’s interesting the role she plays in both. in the first section, she doubles as narrator and voice of the Altered Beast, moving between speaking of the brutality of the world and the horrors the beast represents and intends to inflict. nice contrast with how nice her voice is. i like the split in the Tale of the Altered Beast, the move back and forth between Altered Beast and Alter Me – you get some slow development, narration and dialogue, interspersed with the protagonist completely fucking losing it. the guitar work in this section’s good, and i like the frantic energy. narratively, i’m here for it, i like how it fits into the larger shape of the album, but i’m not crazy about it. i like this way to introduce the themes of like, an “innocent” who isn’t, a cruel world, and a violent change to bridge the gap (as a side note, it’s interesting that part 3 specifically calls out Frankenstein when it comes to a monstrous creation, because the Altered Beast has it’s own parallels to that monsters – it’s arguably more intelligent and definitely more clearly spoken than the protagonist, and narratively it’s an unfulfilled, dangerous other). i think it’s also very satisfying that the alteration is unsustainable, that nothing that gets changed in this album survives the transformation, really. ngl Lord of Lightning is probably my fave, potentially because of how close it hews to Nonagon Infinity (not just the lyrical nods but like, it feels the most like Nonagon Infinity musically). i like the implication that “Nonagon Infinity” is like, a power word, since it’s what the Lord of Lightning speaks during the attack, and the discussion of the Balrog talks specifically about opening a rift (heh). this is honestly one of the more entertaining nuclear metaphors i’ve seen, esp as it develops into the story of Han-Tyumi. that being said, i think the Balrog might be one of the more thematically weak connections to Frankstein’s Monster, but cmon man it’s born of a corpse fried with electricity and it revolts against its creator (then again, the outro to The Balrog names the Lord of Lightning as “the endemic monstrosity”, haha). i gotta say of all the songs on this record i might take outta context, The Lord of Lightning might be it. i like the steady repeating of “Balrog” and the delivery of many of the verses in The Balrog though. 

i liked the Han-Tyumi sequence as a story, but the music was pretty hit or miss for me. I do have some thoughts about this section specifically that may or may not be textually supported but did stick in my craw for a while, more than the other sections — so, assuming that Han-Tyumi and the narrator are reliable, there’s a tragic heroism to Han-Tyumi’s desire to feel human in a deadened and desensitized world, almost regardless of the repercussions. i think we’re meant to read him as “human mind, robot body”, which makes his actions largely believable and his focus on physical processes of humanity understandable (in particular his focus on the state of dying rather than death itself, in the way that a sunset is different from a lightswitch). but despite that focus, the specific desires he names – and he introduces himself as not having desire when he clearly does – is that he’s missing his soul, his humanity, which can’t be just the physical component. and the song names him a Confused Cyborg, so i’m curious how much we are supposed to trust the version of the world he describes. something about the ending to Vomit Coffin sticks with me in that reading of the story, where he describes himself as going into a berserk at the self reflected in the creation – two entities who did not ask to be born much less born into the state they are, both decrying the quality of life theyve been given and craving death. that recognition, that reaction, and that rage all feel so… truly human, and i wonder how much of that was present with him to begin with and he ignored, didnt see, or didnt value. back to the intro, he said he wants his desire back, and then immediately names his desires. despite being “created without a desire to draw breath”, he clearly does. that leads me to wonder how much of the non-human world is actually left in the altered future, how much exists in the cracks and the ignored spaces, how much potential and non-human life gets oblitered by the murder of the universe (whether we’re supposed to read those events extremely literally or not). and, ironically, that desire to draw a clean line between “human civilization” and “nature” itself is very human. that reading i think is more actually tragic than tragic heroic, but no less interesting. the desire to feel and be to the point of mutual destruction is a compelling story, but so is identification of a rubicon, as it were. this may be a fairly obvious reading of the songs and im rambling to myself about something that everyone’s like “… yeah dude” about, but thats definitely the thing i keep thinking about with this section. is the altered future the humans have created for themselves really terminal? if the humans just… unplugged from the digital black, would the world recover from them, given time, or is a violent murder through vomit comet necessary to end a dead timeline? is their state of being only terminal for them? is ours?

but yeah honestly i liked this whole album as a collection of stories. like i said before the review, I liked the through-lines of cataclysmic transformation and alteration in death. It’s interesting how, on a personal level, the alterations leave the characters unfulfilled – the protagonist dies an Altered Beast, potentially not even that long after Alteration, the Balrog fails to kill the Lord of Lightning that fucked him up, and whether you read Han-Tyumi as the altered being in part three or whether you view the world itself as becoming altered, neither REALLY escapes the oppression of the Digital Black. you can read the suicide as noble but the implication that the world is reborn in the vomit, only to return to the digital black… doesn’t really read the alteration as having like, a lasting, positive effect, lol. also bummer that Han-Tyumi doesn’t even get to fucking die.

Murder of the Universe – 6/10

next time we’ll check out Sketches of Brunswick East, the KGLW collab with Mild High Club

first: Willoughby’s Beach | previous: Microtonal Flying Banana | next: Sketches of Brunswick East

all my reviews for King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard