For Scottish rockers Biffy Clyro’s delayed ninth studio album, they reckon they’re “keeping things fresh” and managing to “surprise themselves”. That’ll be a tall order and something hard to believe seeing as they’ve released numerous albums that vary so little in stylings and sound, surely. They’ve also mentioned about “losing the bad shit” but when at least six out of 11 songs contain vitriolic outbursts of “fuck” or “fucking” it’s more like they’re still struggling to lose the bad shit going on.
It’s a weird scenario, too. A Celebration Of Endings was actually due in May, and the first single Instant History was released way back in February – so detached from the album’s release it seems crazy. But then crazy times are exactly what normality has become. Instant History is a typically hard-hitting song but the power is curtailed with the commercial accessibility swinging the other way to balance, making it an instant radio favourite, something they’ve rarely failed to supply for most of their career since their mid-1990’s formation.
A band who’ve already enjoyed two UK Number 1 albums isn’t going to be short on ideas for success. Here they’ve enlisted the help of Ellipsis’ producer Rich Costey to partly shoulder the weight of expectation, and you should never underestimate the influence and aid an old friend can bring. Typically, therefore, blood and thunder bluster is in abundance on this album, not least from either bookend: opener North Of No South utilises step changes accordingly to disperse the power whilst closer Cop Syrup uses a bombastic attack to its extreme over its six minutes, turning from a heavy, sprawling, chaotic mess via thrash and screaming into a calmer and extended instrumental passage before briefly returning to madness at its death.
“Change means progression and evolution”, the band claim, but it never strays far from the trusted template the trio have drawn from for many years. The Champ features a 30-piece orchestra recorded at Abbey Road, led by famed Bruce Springsteen strings arranger Rob Mathes, but it’s still reminiscent of old peers Foo Fighters and perhaps Green Day to an extent. The rubbery bass and electric guitar sparks of Weird Leisure – a song about an old friend of frontman Simon Neil’s who is now a recovered former drugs user – also recalls Dave Grohl’s band, and then similar bass and belted out chorus point to Feeder during the shouty End Of, albeit a Feeder that have been told to make as much noise as they can.
The album enjoys its best spell, though, around its middle section. A Muse-like conclusion awaits on the strings-laden Worst Type Of Best Possible where things are much less ‘in-yer-face’, Tiny Indoor Fireworks is billed as being the best pop song the band have ever written, sounding a little like a modern day Skids with melodies aplenty and a more conventional structure, whilst Space is a stereotypically classic Biffy ballad as Neil sings there’s “always a place in my heart, I’m still caught in your gravity”.
Although it’s difficult to see many traces of any evolving going on here, Biffy Clyro have, as predicted, made another decent collection. It’s very much like the Foo Fighters’ own dilemma in a way though, because you just know their albums have about a 1% chance of being duds; conversely, they have a 1% chance of being groundbreaking. In short, it’s no puzzle to see that there’s no revolution here, and little is opposite to what you’d expect. It does, however, prove their sky remains far from blackened.