Music Reviews

Biffy Clyro Ellipsis

(14th Floor Records) Buy it from Insound Rating - 6/10

It’s telling that Biffy Clyro opened Ellipsis, their seventh studio album, with Wolves of Winter. Simon Neil sings, “We have achieved so much more than you possibly thought we could,” a direct response to those who have criticised the band in the past. Biffy Clyro built their core base since their 2002 debut Blackened Sky, but achieved mainstream success after 2009’s Only Revolutions. Ellipsis aims to be a sign that Biffy aren’t coasting on these past glories. Prior to Ellipsis' release, Neil has emphasised the need to change the formula, telling the NME they wanted to create something “as fucked up as possible.” This resulted in a change of producer, with Rich Costey (Frank Turner, Muse, Franz Ferdinand) producing the album, rather than their long time producer Garth Richardson. 

Costey’s influence is evident throughout; even if Wolves of Winter may still have all the usual characteristics expected from Biffy Clyro, there’s so much more going on it almost feels claustrophobic at times. It’s a strong opener, but promises much more experimentation than it actually takes place through the next 10 songs. There is also a willingness to slow down throughout Ellipsis, although it is to varying success. Re-arrange is almost electronic, but its lyrics and instrumentation still feel too safe. Neil’s voice is almost hushed throughout the verses and there’s little payoff. Medicine is definitely a stronger effort, with Neil’s broad accent accompanied with an acoustic guitar; it sounds like a genuinely emotional performance and one of the highlights of the album. 

Despite the majority of songs being fairly safe entries, there are some definite misses throughout Ellipsis. It feels like Biffy have been performing variations of Herex and Flammable for the last 20 years, and the lyrics asking about what is “real love” often feel too generic to cause any emotional response. Small Wishes, an almost country song about Scottish independence, is an admirable effort but struggles to actually say anything and falls flat towards the end of the album. 

In the end, it's difficult to see if this is a step forward for Biffy ClyroCostey’s production does leave a sense that Biffy Clyro have attempted to change their sound, but the songwriting is often more of the same, meaning there’s very little significant change. When it works it is refreshing, but it’s likely to be another step that will alienate their original fans. Those who loved Biffy’s early unpredictability will also be disappointed with the lack of edge throughout much of the album. Ellipsis keeps the listener waiting for something to take them by surprise, but it never arrives.

While there are highlights, the album often feels very safe. Neil’s lyrics have improved on the whole, especially when he becomes less guarded in songs like Medicine, but most of the album lacks any emotional punch. Animal Style, Howl, Medicine and Friends and Enemies stand out, but the others often leave a lot to desire. Ellipsis shows that Biffy Clyro can still produce strong singles, but they fail to provide any real substance beyond them.