Whilst Biffy Clyro are one of the biggest bands that the UK has produced in recent years, and they conjure up a range of opinions among music fans to say the least.
On one side, you have fans from their chaotic post-hardcore beginnings who will tell you they sold out for that sweet, sweet cash. On the flip side, you have fans who adore everything from ‘Puzzle’ onwards, and think those cult-classic first three albums are obtuse, unlistenable noise. Yet the ninth album from the Ayrshire arena-fillers, ‘A Celebration Of Endings’, may genuinely have something for everyone who’s ever been invested.
Last year’s soundtrack album ‘Balance, Not Symmetry’, which followed up 2016’s ‘Ellipsis’ (an album with plenty of highlights, but ultimately felt a little flat), encapsulated a band clearly pushing the limits of what they can do, making for one of the most varied albums of their career. And this album showcases some ideas being realised on a grand scale.
‘North Of South’ has the usual off-kilter intro as we’ve come to expect from Biffy Clyro, and courtesy of random multi-layered harmonies, their ear for melody is apparent. ‘The Champ’ is also another example of Biffy Clyro owning their craft, and the string-led first chorus peaks interest before the song’s energy is turned right up for the second verse when you least expect it.
‘Tiny Indoor Fireworks’ is another great slice of melody. For a band that have anthemic choruses that even date back to their debut album, they’ve got plenty of new festival-ready belters that could sit among their best. The strings are utilised very well again for ‘Space’, which is a moving ballad.
But what’s otherwise a killer second half of the album is ever so slightly blemished by ‘Instant History’, which still isn’t without its positives. A lot of this song will stick in your brain, for sure, but the hackneyed faux-EDM-drop chorus is generally the trade of far, far inferior bands to Biffy Clyro; it’d be wise to avoid this in the future.
The band’s more angular, older albums (like 2004’s ‘Infinity Land’) are touched upon for ‘End Of’, which is one of the best songs on the record. It’s as much as their arena status will allow, of course, but the screamed outro and off-kilter time signatures are likely to send long-time fans into raptures.
‘Pink Limit’ has an elongated, angular outro, while still sounding more polished, and is also another welcome call-back to their Beggars Banquet days. Still, in amongst the other experiments, you can’t accuse Biffy Clyro of simply re-treading old ground, proving that they’re absolutely their own their entity, they’re taking influence from their own career as well, with ‘Opaque’ recalling previous hit ‘God & Satan’, featuring a build-up that’s destined to be sang right back at the band live.
‘Cop Syrup’ is probably the wildest left-turn, and possibly the angriest song on the record. We have a venomous snarled vocal delivery from Simon Neil, and some frenzied screamed vocals, which are certainly welcome. But they’re not done messing with expectations just yet – an acoustic guitar backing and a lush string arrangement takes us into a prog-like build, which is almost an entirely different song, before the hyper-charged refrain comes back in to end the album with a bang.
‘A Celebration Of Endings’ is proof that even when you’re one the biggest rock bands in the country, there’s still so much you can do. It only gets better upon repeat listens, and here’s hoping gigs will return soon so these songs can be given the emphatic performance that was meant for them.