Fu Manchu have already proven how great they are through their first 11 albums –they’re the total overlords of Stoner Rock. But on ‘Clone of the Universe’ they soar to new heights of blissful creativity and musical virtuosity and it’s not hard to say that this is one of their best albums yet.
It begins with the assertive licks of the guitar in party track Intelligent Worship. The rowdy riffs play off the skimming drums, in this well-timed super-blast of a song.
(I’ve Been) Hexed takes more of a blues route. Fertile guitars lay the foundation as the song builds momentum with each second. The riveting electric guitar complements Scott Hill’s vocals as the band unwinds the coiling song.
Don’t Panic embodies a sun-drenched day by the beach; a mix of the whipping hot electric riffs, the icy bass rumbles of a cool wind and the splashing of drums that rise and retreat like a choppy tide.
The album then takes a trip through classic 70’s blues rock in Slower Than Light. The doom and sludge of the verses drags along, tugged by the liquified guitars. The song chills down, as the bass takes over in a bridge that opens the void up to a freefalling conclusion.
In a similar vein, Nowhere Left to Hide is a thickened sludge song that pours rich, honeyed sound down the walls. A sluggish drum beat starts the song as unhurried tones tumble in. It’s psychedelia on anti-warp speed, wading its way through a heavy cosmic atmosphere. There’s some exceptional drum work in this track, as all the instruments and vocals coincide perfectly.
Title track, Clone of the Universe is a romper. It makes a nod to classic rock, punk and blues and really makes you appreciate the simple splendour of these genres – that some the best songs ever written keep their composition so organic.
Now for what is bound to absolutely shake your life up when you listen to it; the epic saga of Il Mostro Atomico. The final song of the album – which at 18 minutes makes up almost half of this whole record – is a mostly instrumental track that’s Divine with a capital ‘D’. Rush guitarist and songwriter Alex Lifeson features on this luscious journey through a resplendent, sonic playground.
The song itself comes to a life of its own; beginning as simple roots of distortion, that form into ivy extending their reach outwards through the speakers. It grows leaf by leaf into layers of vines; electric swirls upon a brick wall of bass. The first section of the song is enunciated by simple strums of the guitar which signal the unwinding of this first section.
Mystical echoes of effects taper in, making ripples of sound. After the first five minutes, the song moves into its part two – a build up of the part one that evolves into a new beast – a faster, distilled electric brew. This section is the only part to have vocals, with Hill adamantly chanting “light the throttle!” It culminates with a domineering guitar solo before breaking apart into fragmented drum furls.
At 10 minutes we transition again, into a blinding fuzz of vivid riffage; laden with buzzing effects that dart about. This is stoner rock in all its glory – and it is glorious!
At 14 minutes we head into one final transition – marked by the patter of drums and the lull of the bass – into technicoloured psychedelic wonder. When it fully blossoms, the ripened guitars bear succulent fruits of sweetened riffs in an alluring groove. It rejuvenates just before the 16-minute mark. The catapulting drums; the satin melody of the guitars; it reaches a pure and aggregated climax. Then suddenly, even though you’d want it to go on forever, this inspiring journey is over, and we have reached the end of one incredible album.
It’s hard to find just the right words to describe an album that is this great. I can hardly fault it, and it’s truly remarkable that at album number 12, Fu Manchu have this much vitality. The band manage to retain all the grit that they are beloved for, but reinvigorate it with infusions of experimental wonder. ‘Clone of the Universe’ is hopeful and wide-eyed, and it has a far-reaching vision which I think it fulfills. This is the kind of album, with potent sound, that inspires and makes you fall in love with music all over again.
‘Clone of the Universe’ will be released on 9 February. Pre-order your copy on iTunes, or on CD or vinyl here.
“Intelligent Worship” (3:08)
“(I’ve Been) Hexed” (2:48)
“Don’t Panic” (2:05)
“Slower Than Light” (3:26)
“Nowhere Left to Hide” (4:19)
“Clone of the Universe” (2:58)
“IL Mostro Atomico” (18:08)