Biffy Clyro are a 3-piece rock group from Scotland who have been around in the music industry for just over a decade. They are now considered to be veterans of modern rock music and have sold millions of albums worldwide. Their breakout record was the 2006 release ‘Only Revolutions’ which contained smash hit songs such as ‘Mountains’ and the tear jerking ‘Many Of Horror’. They have followed that success one year upon year and gained one of the most hardcore and loyal followings music has to offer. Known for their phenomenal energy and live performances, it’s obvious to see why Biffy Clyro are one of the country’s biggest bands and why they are regularly headliners at big British festivals. With their new album ‘Ellipsis’, can Biffy continues their wonderful discography or will we see a dent in the armour of one of Scotland’s Giants? Either way, ‘Mon the Biff.
Wolves Of Winter – 10/10
Biffy are back with a bang. This is a serious contender for not only the best song of the year, but it’s right up there with the best songs Biffy Clyro have ever done. Gritty and energetic with such a dark and twisted element within the tone and subject matter, this is such a colossal hit. The true Scottish tint comes out in full effect in this song but it really works with the whole style of the song. I also love the backing vocals which add a brand new dimension to Biffy’s sound. I think what I love most about this song, though, is the change up from the heavy rocking and lively verse to a softer and catchy chorus, the individual bass string played in the chorus is so distinct and sharp it’s brilliant and matches perfectly with Simon Neil’s isolated vocals which discuss the successes of the band and how they’ve “achieved so much more than you possibly thought we could” which I think is a really cool and poetic line. There’s just so many layers I can’t keep up, all of them are absolutely fantastic though it’s just one brilliant aspect after another. The guitar solo is brilliant, the rhythm is fantastic, the vocals are exemplary whether they go high or low, just a wonderful track from start to finish.
Friends and Enemies – 8/10
A bit more of a pop sound to this one with a typical Biffy twist. It’s a bizarre one this because the melodies and the vocals fit the bill perfectly for a chart topping pop hit but the instrumental is heavy and rocky it’s a really cool mixture. A prime example of this is the twist up into the chorus which has a distinct and string guitar riff with a loud drum beat behind it. I do really like that combination, however and it makes for a really cool sounding track. The bridge is a really nice touch by adding the positivity of saying you’ll never meet “friends as good as you” with a children’s choir in the background. The song as a whole has a solid message behind it of friendship and loyalty as well as learning to forgive others for mistakes. In short, this is a great pop-rock anthem which combines the two genres very well indeed.
Animal Style – 8/10
Real old school sounding guitar riff, it sounds like something from an 80s punk band and when matched with the rest of the band it fits like a glove and makes a rocking hit. The pre-chorus and chorus itself is huge, I absolutely love the chanting style with those elongated tones as well as the clear distress and anger in Simon Neil’s voice as he curses on more than one occasion. It’s a real ‘arms in the air’ track as they hold that energy throughout the song and a fairly strong willed message. It’s unlike most songs we usually hear lyrically in that the words in fact say they are the person at fault rather than it being someone else who’s the “animal.” It’s a loud hit which is another winner for Biffy, especially that animal styled noise he makes at the end of the track which kind of sends the song off in style. Another banging track this one.
Re-arrange – 8.5/10
Softer, slower, more harmonious. On every single album Biffy Clyro do they have at least one song which pulls on the heartstrings and shows a real fragility and this is it for Ellipsis. The chorus is beautiful and melodic with its clever lyricism and smooth guitar chords. The lyrics of “I will never break your heart, I will only re-arrange” is an accurate suggestion of how real life relationships go, not a make believe fantasy that other artists portray and that’s what I like about these Biffy slow tracks, they’re real, raw and relatable. For me, this song shares a lot of similarities to Machines in that sense as we see a real fragility and weakness in Simon Neil as he sings it, every note sounds emotional and passionate. It’s just beautiful and really does the band’s traditions of having a slow hit a real favour, one of the best tracks on the album easily.
Herex – 8/10
A welcome return to a more rocking guitar riff and it really has a lot of hardcore edge to it. Despite this, the lyrics and vocals are soft and the tune is more of a swag style in the verses and the chorus which in itself is memorable and catchy. He is very clear in his delivery of the lyrics and really sharpens those words at times to make them sound powerful and effective. I really like the effect used in the chorus of what sounds like a synthesiser/keyboard tone to add a new and unique sound to the song. There’s a period in this song which has a smooth but bouncy chorus, a rocking guitar solo and an isolated strum which sounds uncannily similar to the start of ‘Biblical’, a track off their last album and this all comes within the space of about 20 seconds. Nonetheless it’s a really nice touch and a great showing of variety from the band. The softer element of the song in the bridge is calming and lovely and it progressively increases tempo into a ballad belter towards the end. Another great track, Biff are smashing it at the moment and really demonstrating that variety they have.
Medicine – 8.5/10
Innocence personified in a song, a weak and feeble Simon Neil sings over a weeping acoustic guitar about love and the damages it can cause, hence the title of the song. The chorus is again, catchy and melodic with a sentimental tone to it, a very relatable message within it for all those listening. Once again with this Biffy slow track, we get a real sense of the broken heart of Simon Neil and the journey he’s been on to get to where he is now, it’s like we follow him every step of the way and feel every emotion along with him. That’s a very rare skill which not many could do, but Neil manages to do it album after album, year after year. You can see this track being another Machines or Many Of Horror, with loyal fans of the band connecting to it spiritually and using it in their everyday lives. Beautiful again, not faultless, but still stunning at times.
Flammable – 6/10
Funky guitar this, it’s like an old school Red Hot Chili Peppers riff with that funk style twist. I also really love the chanting style in the pre-chorus which then cuts completely before a belting chorus which sadly doesn’t really deliver as we anticipate from the build up of the verse. It seems to float in between hard rock and softer pop and this time round the vocals just don’t seem to click with the backing track. Having said that, second time round, the chorus is great and gathers a lot more symmetry with the rest of the song which is a big plus for its overall rating. One of the shorter songs on the album and it’s probably for the best, it’s not really that memorable but there are still decent aspects to it, I do however wish they had stuck with that funk guitar we heard at the start, it would’ve been a great switch up from the Biffy Clyro norm. Look, it’s a decent song don’t get me wrong, but it’s far from special when comparing it to the standard of the other songs on this album.
On a Bang – 7/10
Short and snappy, this really does sound like it’s on a bang. It seems so broken up and stop-start which on the surface of it sounds awful and like the formula for a really poor song but it’s really not, I love it and I think it makes the song what it is. Pure passion on this one as he shouts and squeals from start to finish on a heavy instrumental. Another use of curse words is a sign of anger and frustration, clearly at this person who isn’t willing to “do better.” As I said it’s a fairly short song but it’s placement has a huge impact on the album with its energy and passion oozing throughout. It will be a hit in a live performance I’m sure of it and it is a good addition to the album as a whole. Energetic Biffy is always necessary on an album and this gives us that in abundance.
Small Wishes – 5.5/10
Not at all the style you’d associate with Biffy Clyro whatsoever, it sounds a bit country and has a Mumford & Sons tint to it. That doesn’t mean it’s a bad song, it has a nice jig to it and good vocals. Simon Neil tells a very good story within it too about a place full of animals and the beauty it holds. The one criticism I can have of this song is the limited switch up in the instrumental, it’s very same old from the get go and even if we do get a nice alteration of vocal pitch that doesn’t mean we can shy away from the fact that it’s a very repetitive backing track apart from in the bridge which has a small guitar solo and nothing more. It’s a track which shows once again that Biffy can leave no stone unturned in their discography, but maybe this is a slight bridge too far. Like it isn’t awful and there are moments I did enjoy, but I’d prefer a rocking anthem over this to be honest.
Howl – 7/10
This was the second single off this album and went down fairly well all things considered, it was a rocking hit with a catchy hook and chorus. The lyrics are memorable in places and the vocals are elongated and exaggerated in all the right places. It’s a good song which you can sway to while understanding the deep context of the track which is the struggles of a relationship and how Simon Neil will “never learn.” If I’m honest it does sound, minus the vocals, a bit like an early 00s cheesy American punk-pop hit from a band like Good Charlotte but that doesn’t mean it’s not bouncy and a decent song. Aspects of it do remind me a little bit of a classic Biffy song but it does still lack in some areas, I just think the cutting edge which would make this a fantastic song is missing so it’ll have to settle for being ‘good’.
People – 7.5/10
Heartwrenching violins and stringed instruments set the tone for this song which has a very mellow tune of devastation and heartache. It’s the tale of survival from adversity in love and in general life and it’s very powerful once again. There’s an apologetic theme in this song too which does seem to be the outlining concept of the whole album as Simon Neil feels guilty for something he may have done in a relationship, the actual context is a mystery but that much seems fairly solid. What’s crucial about this song is that the instruments are prominent and not dominant in the sense that you can hear them but they don’t drown out the vocals which are the focal point of the song. They are also a very good focal point so congratulations to Simon for that. It’s a good song with a warming yet also cooling of your heart in its message and strips Simon Neil down to his core, something which he’s never been afraid of doing before in more ways than just emotionally.
Don’t, Won’t, Can’t – 7.5/10
Really groovy indie track this one, bouncy guitar with a rhythmic drum beat and a catchy tune. I also absolutely love the electronics they use on this song such as the organ effect in the chorus which makes it all sound space age and futuristic, something which Biffy have never really ventured into before. The song title is a very fitting theme of the song itself which talks about the pessimism of this person who could achieve so much but never does, they’d much rather “be a part of the ground” which is a very cool piece of imagery with soaring sky high to greatness and the polar opposite of that being a sinking feeling into the ground. Good track this one, I like it a lot.
In The Name Of The Wee Man – 8/10
Backing vocals are mysterious from the off and put you into the mood for the song which itself is a moody and aggressive tune. Simon Neil alters his voice from smooth singing to a deep growl almost at some times when he seems it most necessary. The chorus is a cool switch up which is minor but still effective and it’s these minor changes which continue throughout the song and ensure we don’t get bored of the song and can happily listen to it in it’s entirety without complaint. It’s a decent hit this one a and a very strong way to end a very strong album, I love the complete fade out of instruments in a calming bridge before this explosion kicks back in with the drums taking control, massive way to grab the song initiative. So yeah, great work again.
Overall – 8/10
I love this album, I’ll 100% be going back to it for quite some time, there’s hardly any misses on this one, cover to cover its just great. Wolves Of Winter is colossal and for me, one of the band’s biggest and best songs, but they also show off their beautiful and wounded side in slow songs which we have plenty of here. The album theme appears to be apologies and relationships but they don’t make it dreary, it’s varied and just all round brilliant. Well done Biffy, this could be a worthy competitor to Only Revolutions as your best album to date.