Fu Manchu’s twelfth full-length album seems to serve as a sort of reverse stoner rock answer to 2112. Much like Rush’s beloved prog rock monolith, Clone of the Universe sees the stoner legends going about their usual punky, fuzzed out business for six songs before jamming out on an eighteen-minute long space rock journey. They even managed to get Alex “Lerxst” Lifeson himself to contribute some guest guitar work on this bad boy.
While the album’s first half comes together to form a barrage of no bullshit desert rock swagger, there is a fair amount of variety between the songs on display. “Intelligent Worship” comes crashing in fast and keeps the energy up as it transitions to the overtly catchy “(I’ve Been) Hexed.” The tempo does slow down for the stomping grooves on “Slower than Light” and “Nowhere Left to Hide,” but even those tracks seem to go by without a moment to lose.
Any minute that Fu Manchu could’ve spent zoning out during the first half is instead reserved for “Il Mostro Atomico,” an eighteen-minute-long space rock venture that’s easily the longest song they’ve ever recorded. Thankfully, it doesn’t get dull as its steady set of drone rhythms flow smoothly into one another and the musicians’ interplay is certainly palpable. The extended instrumental segments do run the risk of self-indulgence, but it’s a fun piece that will be a major centerpiece in their live sets.
Overall, Clone of the Universe is an enjoyable variant of the tried and true Fu Manchu formula. The sound is certainly predictable even if the band has never done it in this format, but one can’t complain when this fresh musicianship and brisk pacing makes it this much fun to listen to. Fans of all things stoner are advised to give this one a hearty listen. Their peers in Monster Magnet and Clutch are also releasing new albums in 2018 so I’ll enjoy seeing how the rivalry between them that I just made up pans out.
“Slower Than Light”
“Nowhere Left to Hide”
“Il Monstro Atomico”