ALBUM REVIEW: Biffy Clyro – Ellipsis

Biffy Clyro has been steadily dominating the alternative rock game since 1995 but gained any real traction with the release of Opposites – their overwhelmingly orchestral and anthemic sixth studio album that practically cemented their position near the top of the British alternative rock scene. One could almost regard Opposites as being the peak of Biffy Clyro’s career. Prior to the release of Ellipsis, it was hard to imagine that Biffy Clyro could release anything that could top the sheer magnificence of Opposites. It was a shining piece of conceptual alternative rock stuffed full of towering choruses, awe-inspiring melodies, thundering guitar riffs, and the swelling beauty of an orchestra. Opposites would have been the perfect moment for the band to go on a hiatus and end their career for a while, but then Biffy Clyro announced that a new album was on its way and released their bitterly cynical and aggressive lead single “Wolves of Winter”.

“Wolves of Winter” starts with a flurry of studio chatter that leads into distant vocals and teasing guitar links that build-up to the chanting of “we are the wolves” before launching into snarling guitar riffs and Simon Neil’ever-so-lusciousus vocals. The song sees Biffy Clyro embracing a grittier and much more aggressive sound compared to their previous albums. They have mentioned in interviews that Ellipsis was intended to be a departure from the massively orchestral sound they established in Opposites. “Wolves of Winter” gives the listener the idea that the band has actually stripped down their sound into something much rougher and grittier as Neil’s vocals occasionally leap into moments where he sounds like he is bordering on screaming.

However, the band do still retain their core alternative rock elements as the album remains as anthemic as ever with songs like “Friends and Enemies” which are stuffed full of massive stadium rock choruses and towering guitar riffs swelling with vibrant melody. It would have been foolish of the band to depart from such a staple feature of their sound post-Infinity Land. The band introduced these immense choruses and guitar riffs to Puzzle and it boded so well for their studio sound, and for their live sound. It is what allowed the band to get to the point where they were able to record a DVD at Wembly Stadium. That is one of the most prestigious achievements a rock band can acquire besides being inducted into the Rock ‘n Roll Hall of Fame. These alternative rock moments show up several times throughout the album just to remind the listener that the old Biffy Clyro is still there behind the punk-rock roar of the vast majority of the album.

There is an immense punk-rock feel to Ellipsis which could stem from how often the album seems to be attacking the music industry and how the industry tends to treat artists that have it big. However, the album also features a lot of punk-rock influences in the music. The twin-combo of “Flammable” and “On A Bang” is dripping with punk energy. “Flammabe” leans towards a punchy alternative rock sound with its larger-than-life chorus and melody-laden guitar riffs. Flecks of punk-rock influences kick in with backing screams and the occasional snarling guitar riffs. “On A Bang” is the song that is dripping with punk-rock influences with its short bursts of guitar snarls that open the song alongside Neil’s cynicism-laden vocals and lyrics. The entire song drives home questions of how one is meant to exist within a society obsessed with technology and science.

Biffy Clyro threw in a lot of surprises into Ellipsis by including the folksy pub-anthem that is “Small Wishes” and the pop-magic of “Howl”, but there is also some familiarity in the songs that seem to act as complete outliers to the album: “Medicine” and “People”. Both songs are reminiscent of the melancholic acoustic musings of “Machines” and act as brief refrains to the frantic energy of the album. Delicate acoustic guitar chords and piano melodies drive both these songs to what are ultimately glorious moments of swelling melodies and piercing vocals that leave the listener rather misty-eyed.

Biffy Clyro is incapable of producing a bad album and this is a further testament to the fact that they are possibly one of the world’s finest modern rock bands.

9/10

 

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