It’s hard to think of an album I’ve anticipated as much as this new release from Scottish rock-gods, Biffy Clyro. Ellipsis is their 7th album, and – seemingly – the third evolution of the band’s sound and direction.
I fell in love with Biffy Clyro when I first saw them live supporting Muse in 2010. They seared themselves into my consciousness with their breathtaking power and depth of sound, and left me reeling long after they’d departed the stage. Being a relative latecomer to their fan-base I guess I fall squarely into the so-called post 'Puzzle' crowd (those who missed the release of their earlier, jagged edged albums before Puzzle in 2007), but I’ve subsequently made up for this failing by ensuring I have all their albums in my collection.
Ellipsis erupts with opener 'Wolves of Winter', a great big screw-you to the detractors of the band - “we have achieved so much more than you possibly thought we could” – and it is Biffy in full-flight delivering a hearty serve of attack.
Next up is 'Friends and Enemies' which is an odd blend of funk, pop, and a chorus that’s both punchy and catchy. Following on is 'Animal Style' which has a been a favourite since I first heard it several weeks ago. I love the driving rhythm in this, particularly the bass, and Simon Neil’s lyrics shine, again. This has the markings of epic live anthem written all over it.
'Re-arrange' brings pause to the pace, with Neil’s vocals delivering the fragility that I feel makes him a standout vocalist and lyricist. For a band capable of brandishing unfettered aggression and power they are equally capable of unleashing a heartbreaking softness and this is a shining example.
'Herex' snaps you out of the reverie with what feels like a reggae variant and is most like previous Biffy tracks, if that matters. 'Medicine', with its acoustic guitar, reminds me of 'Folding Stars' and speaks of Neil’s struggle with self and mental health issues. He has a way of addressing the difficult with an honesty and integrity that resonates.
'Flammable' is an unexpected favourite. It’s ridiculously funky and will no doubt be labelled ‘commercial’ but I see absolutely nothing wrong with that, to be frank. This is the track that’s been on repeat for me and I don’t see that changing. It makes me feel good, and I hope to get the chance to belt this out at a Biffy gig sometime down the track. One thing’s for sure, Biffy Clyro give great harmony.
'On A Bang' moves back into the trademark frenzied style that they do so well, with suitably defiant lyrics. This brings back memories of my first time experiencing them live. Following this is a slightly jarring, uneasy country tune 'Small Wishes'. Despite it being a complete contrast to everything that has gone before it seems to work in context of the album. Maybe that’s what makes them so clever – that what just doesn’t seem to be right turns out to be a sneaky fit. 'Howl' is another catchy, harmony-filled tune and, again, something of a stealth-attack in regards to likeability. The more I hear it the more I enjoy it.
Last song on the standard release is 'People'. I love this song. I’ve always loved the way some of their songs build into crescendos and pull you along for the ride and this is one of those tracks.
The deluxe version of the album has two bonus tracks, 'Don’t. Won’t. Can’t', which features more snappy bass and drums and sing-along harmonies, and the closer 'In The Name of the Wee Man' which is Biffy Clyro back with their most epic sound – full, confrontational, and a musical slap to the head.
Ellipsis is a killer. I’m sure that there will be folk who don’t like the ‘radio-play’ feel of many of the songs but, for me, it’s just the next evolution of a band that really don’t need to justify themselves to anyone. My favourite bands have always been those that seek to change things up and go in directions that people don’t expect. Biffy Clyro are masterful musicians and this album is so very much worth the wait.
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