Biffy Clyro | Ellipsis | 7/10
There’s only one way to follow up a double LP: go to the other extreme.
So, just as Pink Floyd went from the epic ‘The Wall’ to the muted ‘The Final Cut’ or Springsteen moved from the widescreen drama of ‘The River’ to the lo-fi home recordings of ‘Nebraska’, Biffy Clyro have followed the expansive concept album ‘Opposites’ with the concise ‘Ellipsis’.
But, like those who went before them, the Scottish trio have lost none of their adventurous spirit along the way. Across 11 songs crammed into 39 minutes, they explore chilled-out synthpop (the fragile ‘Re-arrange’), old-school country (sunny hoedown ‘Small Wishes’), acoustic balladry (the unplugged ‘Medicine’ and its flourishes of electronic embellishments), and booming Top 40 anthems (the Imagine Dragons-flavoured ‘Friends and Enemies’).
Of course the band who gave us ‘Bubbles’ and ‘Black Chandelier’ haven’t forgotten how to rock. Co-written with Snow Patrol’s Gary Lightbody and Johnny McDaid, current single ‘Howl’ is the kind of fist-pumping summer festival singalong the trio had perfected over their last three albums. But elsewhere new producer Rich Costey has helped Simon Neil and the Johnston brothers express their hard-rock tendencies with much more than guitars and distortion.
So, with its industrial drone and metronomic drumming intro, ‘On A Bang’ is more Nine Inch Nails than Foo Fighters; the brutal ‘Wolves Of Winter’ melds familiar riffing with occasionally autotuned vocals, hip-hoppy stop-start choruses, and sci-fi soloing; and the choppy verses of ‘Herex’ make way for melodic breaks big on keyboards and synth textures. Even the seemingly back to basics ‘Animal Style’ throws stabbing keys and programmed beats into the hard-rock mix.
“Hopefully this album will remind people we’re plugged into different mains,” Neil told NME ahead of the album’s release. With the left turns Biffy Clyro make on ‘Ellipsis’ he needn’t worry.