Album Review: Biffy Clyro – Ellipsis


Album Review: Biffy Clyro - Ellipsis

The Scottish force of nature that is Biffy Clyro is returning from a year long break from the attention of the music world, releasing their seventh studio LP Ellipsis the follow up to 2013’s Opposites. “Ellipsis” is available in a standard version with 11 tracks or a deluxe version with three additional songs. Unlike many of their Scottish musical contemporaries whose trademark motifs are brooding and melancholy, Biffy has been described as a “take no prisoners” hard rock band. In a challenging music business environment they have secured an enviable loyal following. They produce releases that seem to have endless approach-ability while displaying stellar musical skills. Their latest work is not a total departure from their past efforts but has a less confined feel than that found on Opposites giving an indication that they have gained a sense of feeling comfortable in their own skin.

Biffy Clyro is comprised of Simon Neil as the frontman and lead singer for the band, and twin brothers Ben and James Johnston providing drums and bass. The initial band was formed back in 1995 when the members were teenagers growing up in Kilmarnock, Scotland, where they first played under the moniker Skrewfish. The trio returned from their respective colleges and picked up where they left off pursuing their musical careers. It was after college that they selected the enigmatic band name Biffy Clyro, which has an almost mysterious origin. There are at least as many stories on its origin as you have fingers with the band members changing up the explanation of its origins frequently.

Since Biffy Clyro’s first release 2002’s Blackened Sky the band has been described at various times as; Alternative, Experimental, New Prog, Math Rock, and Post Hard Core. These are all genres the band has been immersed in over the release of their prior six albums. The release of each album has built their significant following and they have received major critical approval; a Nomination for the 2010 Mercury Music Prize, 2011 Brit Awards Best British Group and 2013 NME Best British Band win. Playing live they have opened for major bands like The Who, The Rolling Stones, Foo Fighters, Red Hot Chili Peppers and Queens of the Stone Age, along with their own jam packed headlining tours. After more than a decade of almost nonstop touring and recording the band announced their 2015 year long hiatus of which Neil stating, “The band will take a quiet year off next year to disappear so people don’t get sick of the lovely Biffy.”

Ellipsis was recorded at Eldorado Recording Studios in LA with Biffy Clyro members and Rich Costey producing. The band stated that their influences for the album were the filmmaker John Waters and hip hop artist A$AP Rocky along with their desire to combine the sounds of Tears for Fears “Songs From The Big Chair” with DJ Arca and Deafheaven’s tunes. These statements led many to believe the new release would be a marked departure from “Opposites”. However “Ellipsis” comes off not so much as a departure from their almost trademark sounds but more of a worthy follow up to “Opposites”.

Fans of the group will find that the album is a consistent listen informed by past projects and can be embraced as such. The pre release single Wolves of Winter is anathematic full on rock attack. It is loaded with thunderous cacophony that puts the thrash in mix. It sets the album off with a bombastic bang. Friends and Enemies has the trademark Chugging guitars Biffy is known for and a melodic flair that makes it an attractive track. It is a song that transcends the mundane frustrations of life allowing for a music workout of those frustrations. Animal Style has an interesting combination of Foo Fighters styling and a John Lydon PIL phrasing in the lyrics. It is a catchy and easily accessible song. The songs Herex and Howl are like two halves of a pair, with “Herex” being a song one can easily envisioned as a concert charmer that will be hearty sung along with when played live. The stand outs on the album are Medicine which switches up the hard rock trademark sound with an acoustic guitar and trends towards the more “Scottish” sounding songs coming from other bands from the region. Neil’s accent is most apparent on this track. Personally I would have preferred a few more tracks in this vein, but that could be my love of other young Scottish acts seeping through. Flammable also is a stand out for its funk infused vibe making it another likable listen. On A Bang is noteworthy for its head banger percussion fest and is another anathematic stadium rocker. The album winds up with People a more introspective tune that asks the age old question of why but acknowledging in a sad way that nothing ever seems to get resolved.

Ellipsis is overall an enjoyable listen. However my chagrin is that with a little more attention to their lyrics and a coherent theme “Ellipsis” could have been extraordinary. There are times the lyrics are almost cringeworthy and in comparison to the clever insightful lyrics found in the many works from their fellow Scottish countrymen a little disappointing. This leads to a nagging question that others would probably be better able to definitively answer. It is this, is “Ellipsis” and specifically Biffy Clyro’s discography AOR dressed in tattoos and hard edged finery or is their work a creative fusing of hard stomping rock with likable melodic flashes? Don’t get me wrong the songs on “Ellipsis” are performed expertly, if a bit formulamatic, they are musically tight and have immense energy. The band can certainly deliver an enjoyable catchy collection of tunes. However there seems to be a lack of a progression in content, that little something that is missing. That being said Biffy Clyro are true to their guiding muse and sonically provide a serious kick up the arse to an industry that plays it safe way too often these days. Fans will be thrilled with the new release but ‘Ellipsis” might not draw repeated listens from the non fan public who might find it underwhelming.

Xsnoize Author
Lori Gava 337 Articles
Lori has been with XS Noize from the beginning and contributes album reviews regularly. Fav bands/artists: Radiohead, U2, The Cure, Arcade Fire, The Twilight Sad, Beck, Foals, Sufjan Stevens Fav Albums: In Rainbows, Achtung Baby, Disintegration, Funeral, Sea Change, Holy Fire, Nobody Wants to be Here and Nobody Wants to Leave.

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