Review Summary: God must be one crazy mother...
This album begins with a song entitled 'Suicide Penguin.' The absurdity of this title quickly asserts itself with an instant explosion of down-tuned guitar riffing, falsetto vocal harmonies and double-bass drum pounding. 30 seconds later, you're listening to a young boys' church choir, another 30 seconds and it's the solo section from a progressive metal song, before the track drops down to a hand-clapping sound and vocalist Ruben Kuhlmann dementedly whispering "hallelujah, hallelujah..." But if you think the Penguin has finished gestating, you are mistaken. The second half of the song erupts with an incredibly catchy shouted verse that would not be out of place in modern alt-rock, hurtling back into screaming and musical madness before a return to choral singing for the song's tremendous climax.
Though it might not seem that the album could get any crazier than this, Schizoid Lloyd have only just begun.
The Last Note In God's Magnum Opus is a work that took four years to craft, the band having released their first, stellar EP Virus
in 2010, which showed huge potential and instrumental prowess albeit along a more traditional progressive metal framework than this monstrous beast of a debut album. The band's quirkiness and twisted sense of humour had always been clear through their comical social media posts, such as describing their music with only "Schizoid Lloyd makes music that sounds nice to some people." However, until now it had never come out in their music, with the EP following the fairly serious concept of a world torn apart by an apocalyptic virus.
With the release of the '...Opus' though, that statement about their music becomes immediately very relevant - you are either going to love Schizoid Lloyd's music or detest it.
Throughout the entirety of this album, we experience a collision of a thousand different genres and influences. Working from their core of progressive metal recalling Haken and of course Dream Theater in their use of crisp yet heavy guitars and cyclical guitar riffs, the band absorb countless other styles including the harmonies and grandiose of Queen, the madness of Mr Bungle and even the atmospheres and delicacies of Anathema.
After the insane one-two punch opening of 'Suicide Penguin' and 'Christmas Devil,' the track Avalanche Riders is a clear demonstration of this diversity, a guitar solo reminiscent of Anathema's Danny Cavanagh creeping in early on, before death growls and Devin Townsend-esque technical virtuosity kick in along with the kind of high-range vocal harmonies that characterise Pure Reason Revolution. Despite all this, the song is calmer than its predecessors, the finale showing an impressive level of sophistication and even emotion with a powerful guitar solo accompanying the band's harmonies, soothing violins and the distant sound of horns to finish.
The next song and album centrepiece 'Misanthrope Puppet' would indicate a continuation of this theme and adoption of a more serious tone along the lines of their EP with its doom-like atmospheric and ambient, distant falsetto of an introduction. This fades into a clean cyclical guitar riff and alt-rock-styled drumming, before a Porcupine Tree-eque riff and then... a white boy rap
? Not only this, but a call-and-answer with the vocalist and his choir ensues, with that quirky Dutch accent and a bassline that could have come straight from Les Claypool's hands.
Evidently, an album that juxtaposes progressive metal with hip-hop is going to be decisive. It's undeniable however, that something so densely swarming with ideas can only be appreciated through repeated listens - it took me several tries to accept that rap as a justifiable part of the song, let alone an album that describes itself as "progressive rock."
This certainly pays off however - this album has an abundance of truly exciting musical moments. For example, the explosive, three-minute 'Christmas Devil' transplants madness for a much more aurally pleasing second half as open-string chugging accompanies chiming Christmas bells for an uplifting, festive finale in which you can imagine Schizoid Lloyd simultaneously killing Santa Claus and distributing his presents to all the children of the world, good or bad. Misanthrope Puppet, despite it's peculiarity, succeeds in conjuring an atmosphere that is as much strange as it is thrilling, with Kuhlmann's "lalalala las" leading off-beat riffs and a sitar
to create something mystical yet bizarrely jovial.
The final epic of 'Citizen Herd' presents more diversity, offering a sound more like the ethereal alt-prog of bands such as Rishloo, along with a number of relaxed, lounging solos and even Eastern influences in the harmonies and keyboards.
The album changes pace for the final track 'Prodigal Son' with a finger-picked acoustic melody reminiscent of the EP's superb 'The Fall,' incorporating choral "ya da das" which somehow manage to sound like some kind of Italian folk music rather than being comical. Along with this are mellow yet ominous violins, lulling the album to a close and leaving the last note of Schizoid Lloyd's magnum opus much more gentle than the intense way the album began. However, this menacing undertone is outlined by the lyrics of "The storm is coming..." Could it be that the band are not finished inflicting their madness on us just yet?
Regardless of their next musical endeavour, which will no-doubt be noteworthy, Schizoid Lloyd have laid down a conspicuous and impressive groundwork, establishing themselves as some of the most 'uniquely-minded' individuals in the progressive rock scene. Who else would begin a song with a deadpan exclamation that "your ass is a volcano"?