With every Biffy Clyro release, there is the unerring excitement of not knowing what to expect. This at times feels perverse, as the Kilmarnock trio remain unquestionably a melodic-grunge band, and in all likelihood will remain this way always. But it is the ways in which the band find new and bafflingly brilliant ways to deliver their material, that is the driving force behind their continuing rise to stardom.
Puzzle features the expected ridiculous song titles, guitar-strewn mayhem and touches of delicate beauty, but remains an entirely unique listen to the veteran fan. What is particularly thrilling, however, is that this album features the best collection of simple, yet breathtaking songs since their blinding debut Blackened Sky. Coupled with the sonic genius of Rage Against The Machine producer Garth Richardson, and the editing of Nirvana‘s Andy Wallace, the band have finally brought their finest abilities together. Best album yet? You’d better believe it.
Opening track Living Is A Problem Because Everything Dies is about the most epic introduction you could wish for. Building a steady crescendo of staccato violins and a chanting baroque choir, thoughts of Flash Gordon are never far away. Like following track Saturday Superhouse, particular attention is paid to the kind of soaring, punk-fuelled choruses that hold the listener uncontrollably gripped. But the band know how to have fun as well, as Who’s Got A Match displays with its stagnated riffage and prominent chant of “I’m a fire and I’ll burn burn burn tonight”.
It is when they are at their most heartfelt, however, that Biffy enjoy their greatest moments. Normally these are confined to the closing tracks of their LP’s, but As Dust Dances sets an early mood of tranquillity. It is here that the vocals of Simon Neil, backed up brothers James and Ben Johnson, truly come to the fore, and when this takes hold, this band are irresistible.
Following this moment, the album is dominated by some unforgettable vocal work from the trio. The Conversation Is…, perhaps the standout track, has an immense opening riff, but amidst this raw aggression there are tender falsetto melodies that, when noticed, prove transfixing. Subsequent tracks continue this blend of the heavy and the light, with particularly encapsulating moments including the outro of Love Has A Diameter, which is flanked by “wooo-oo-aa-oooh” vocals. Yes, even this works.
Not content, as ever, to follow the same pattern for too long, penultimate track 9/15ths sounds positively apocalyptic. The baroque choir returns here to add their voices to the chant “We’re on a hell slide; help us, help us” , and an absolute explosion of distortion and soaring violin is soon to follow. Following this intensity, it feels time to slow things down, and this moment duly arrives with the acoustic closing track Machines. Beginning with the line “I would dig a thousand holes to lay next to you”, this sincere number is an example of how simple and beautiful this trio can be. Gentle stringed accompaniment lifts a chorus of “I’ve started falling apart, I’m not savouring life” and nothing more, but sometimes this band do not need to push forward their special effects or brutal energy to display how great they are.
On completion it feels as though this record requires a second listen just to take it all in, but this proves very well worth it. Biffy Clyro, on this evidence, are ready to become your favourite band all over again.