Release Year: 2016
Biffy Clyro are one of those bands that likes experimentation. Their music often falls into that category where so many genres are mashed together the best way to describe is “alt rock.” They make the type of songs that seem complex, taking several listens just to piece everything together. They often shift gears between albums and they seem to do the same for their seventh release. Biffy go all out rock for their most accessible release so far.
Biffy Clyro get in touch with their hard rock side on this album. They’ve been never been shy about getting raw and gritty before, but they normally vary their sound. Here, they stick on a pretty straightforward path. The opening track “Wolves of Winter” is intense and hard hitting. All the music hits you like a crashing wave for an aggressive tone. There’s a moment where the music drops, leaving only a steady bass line and Simon Neil’s rapid vocals. Something about it is so satisfying, making it one of the stronger songs on the album. There’s even some clever wordplay with the lyric “Just remember, no I in team/There’s two in brilliant.” It’s a great, energetic track that leaves your blood pumping. The same goes for lead single “Animal Style.” The gritty guitars and somewhat sensual vibe make it an intense rock song. The hook is memorable, the music is driving and dirty, and Neil cooing “ooo ooo ooo” makes it a stand out on the album.
Tracks like “Flammable” and “On a Bang” continue with the raw, intense rock trend. They’re in-your-face tracks with great energy and a lot of attitude. When Neil sounds fed up when he sings “Now you know better/why can’t you fucking do better” on the latter track. They have similar mood and sound to the previous rock songs. They’re good but may not grab you instantly. Biffy seem to leave the weird, complex compositions behind for the majority of the record for a more accessible sound. This is best heard on the ballad “Re-arrange.” Rather than being intricate, epic, and heartbreaking, it plays like current radio hits. The sappy lyrics, echoing beat, and hand claps make it more suited for a band like X Ambassadors. It’s not horrible, but it can be off-putting for those who aren’t used to Biffy sounding like every other band on the radio. Luckily, this is the only low point on the album.
Biffy has always experimented with their sound and they do the same here with the odd “Small Wishes.” It’s their country song. It has light, twinkling music with twangy guitars that make you question if you’re still listening to the same album. The song is even more jarring since it comes after two gritty, rock songs full of loud, fuzzy guitars. It leaves you scratching your head, not really sure what you just heard. Maybe it wouldn’t be so bad if it actually fit with the rest of the album. Though there are some slow songs, the majority of it is intense rock. It’s hard to go from that to a country song. The track is better suited for a b-side. Otherwise, feels out of place on the album.
What’s most interesting about this album are the lyrical themes. Even if it’s difficult to pinpoint what certain songs are about, it’s easy to see the running thread of broken relationships and unchecked feelings. On the upbeat “Howl” Neil laments how he’s “always got the rage” and can’t really change for the better of a relationship and he questions what real love is on “Herex.” On the ballad “Medicine,” there are several references to addiction, whether it be drugs or not letting go of things. It climaxes for a dramatic end where Neil hints it may be better if the other person just left. But these themes are provocatively captured on the beautiful closing track “People.” It begins slow and gradually builds up to a fuller sound over time. The song takes a somber turn as Neil sings about being mean, having the “Cruelest mouth/and sick little tongue” driving his lover away. It’s a definitive classic Biffy track that ends the album on a downer. There’s so much going on here you’ll play it on repeat just to hear the music, lyrics, and vocals come together for this melancholy tune.
Ellipsis is another solid album from Biffy Clyro. But unlike releases Puzzle and Opposites, it doesn’t grab you right away. This is a record that has to grow on you over time. Because there are few intricate compositions, varied styles, or epic moments, many of the songs don’t grab you right away. Their other songs felt larger than life, complex, and sometimes weird. These songs don’t have the same impact since this record is straightforward rock. It’s still enjoyable to listen to and is probably their most accessible, but it may take a while for long time fans get into. The new album is still exciting, energetic, and has that Biffy charm.