Album Review: Biffy Clyro – Ellipsis

By on Monday, 22nd August 2016 at 12:00 pm
 

Biffy Clyro Ellipsis coverScottish rock giants Biffy Clyro appeared as if they could do no wrong. Ever since the release of 2007’s ‘Puzzle’, they just kept on climbing up and into the stratosphere, where they sat perched on a throne made of solid rock gems. With such escalating expectations, it was inevitable there was going to be a slight slip. And ‘Ellipsis’, produced by Rich Costey, is just that.

Being the sixth release over a career that has seen their sound turn from jagged, raw and ferocious to mammoth, orchestrated and hard hitting, where they would go next was always a question hanging in the air. They have certainly decided that the future doesn’t involve regressing back to their earlier years and the grandiose sound that is now synonymous with the name Biffy Clyro is certainly here to stay.

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bpJvP4b5fX8[/youtube]

Opening with ‘Wolves of Winter’, they show they certainly don’t mess around with the epic soundscapes. However, there is a certain lightheartedness once this all falls away and the instrumentation takes on an almost playful stance, especially pre-chorus. ‘Friends and Enemies’ continues this trend, though with much greater aplomb, but it’s on ‘Animal Style’ where the savage beasts return in full form. The pre-chorus of “why do you waste your time with me, I’m an animal, can you realise, my head’s a fucking carnival” is where Simon Neil’s songwriting is at its most raw and striking. This trend continues through to the chorus that is as large as the words he forcefully puts upon us to mark his territory.

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YAsda7veaxo[/youtube]

“I am explosive and volatile, I’m on the turn”, Neil sings during the opening verse in later cut ‘Howl’, and nothing has ever been truer of this band. Though things certainly are feeling mildly stagnant in places, the experimentation doesn’t go unnoticed. It’s good to see them trying out new sounds in the hope that something helps lead to a higher level. But an album should have a flow or an air, and ‘Ellipsis’ just doesn’t.

Perhaps far more noticeable than the lyrics is how the complete and utter divergence from the record’s flow is obvious. A far cry from the introductory three tracks, ‘Re-arrange’, with an electronic beat and a glittering picked guitar line is the merging of two differing worlds that both leave a different taste, be it good or bad, in your mouth. This is a recurring feature of the album, with the Biffy sound alternating and experimenting with different flavours that the majority of the time just don’t work, Yet when they do work, the result is glorious. Case in point to the former, ‘Small Wishes’ is another strange pause on the album. It takes on a folk feel, but with a complete disdain for any kind of rhythm. It follows ‘On a Bang’, another ferocious and dark track that screams all that makes Biffy Clyro, making for a huge disconnect.

‘Medicine’ has a similar feel to ‘Machines’ from the aforementioned ‘Puzzle’. More of a carry-on from there musically, lyrically it’s definitely happier, which is saying something, considering this is a song about heartbreak. Biffy barraging us again, we then get into ‘Flammable’, another of the album’s stronger moments. A wonderfully melodic turn into the more modern day Biffy Clyro, it’s a perfect agglomeration of their sounds. Finale ‘People’ continues the acoustic stopgap trend that appears throughout, with piano and guitar marrying to create a beautiful sound that echoes Neil’s words of human relationships and the complexity that they can form. It’s the most emotive moment on the record, and it’s beautiful. It’s just a shame that we had to follow the chaotic flow of ‘Ellipsis’ to get here.

‘Ellipsis’ is certainly an experimental Biffy Clyro record, which, as mentioned previously, is definitely a good thing for the Scottish band. It’s a stepping stone to what could be a much stronger follow-up. Their arrangements can be orchestrated beautifully and filled with grandeur, but they can easily go into a completely savage and beastly realm, something Biffy have near perfected now. Some of these cuts could quite easily have been placed upon a separate collection or used as b-sides in the band’s search for the next step. But the mere fact they’ve chosen to use all of them on a fully-fledged studio album means they feel they can either do no wrong or they want to shake things up a bit. Either way, whatever follows ‘Ellipsis’ will certainly be interesting.

6/10

‘Ellipsis’ is out now via 14th Floor Records. Catch up on all the Biffy Clyro coverage (we have a huge back catalogue of the stuff) on TGTF here.

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