Biffy Clyro – Ellipsis
Following up a chart-topping album is inevitably an arduous task, and Scottish alt-rockers Biffy Clyro refuse to lazily follow the formula that has heralded such admirable success. For all its rousing merits, however, Ellipsis still struggles to reconcile its wealth of influences, creating a frustrating album that falls victim to vision over execution.
Album-opener Wolves of Winter encapsulates Biffy’s anthemic sound, forged to fill stadiums and headline festivals. Despite some desperately simplistic lyrics – “just remember, no I in team” – the intensity and crunch of Biffy’s riffs demand attention, Simon Neil’s voice gliding across the wall of sophisticated grunge. Premiered by Radio One as Zane Lowe’s Hottest Record in March, Wolves of Winter acts as a perfect doorway into Ellipsis; bold and loud, a band at the peak of their powers.
Friends and Enemies showcases Simon Neil’s impressive vocal range, although lyrically it, again, leans towards the clichéd and hardly invites thought-provoking analysis: “With friends as good as you who needs enemies.”
Perhaps this is Biffy’s charm; their appeal clearly comes from powerful riffs and thundering breakdowns, not the intellectual content of verses, but it would be naïve to celebrate one whilst ignoring the other, and this prevents Biffy from shaking off the surface-level rock label.
Re-arrange, slotted into the album’s centre, is a softer number, which exchanges raw rock for a more delicate twinkle, as Neil sincerely dictates his love manifesto. This intimacy is duplicated on Medicine, giving the album a richer, more nuanced feel than many by-the-numbers rock records. Unfortunately, the juxtaposition between sub-genres can jar rather horribly, as the furious On a Bang is followed by the bizarrely folky Small Wishes, and the fundamental differences of direction are simply irreconcilable.
When Ellipsis does work, it triumphs. Howl sees Biffy revisit their past with a modern flourish, a perfect demonstration of infectious alt-rock, while Animal Style exudes self-assurance. But for all the glimmers of gold, Ellipsis remains an inherently flawed beast, fatally undone by its overambitious cross-cutting of genres.
Ellipsis is released on 8th July 2016, for further information or to order the album visit here.
Watch the video for Animal Style here: