Ten long years ago, Nirvana bestrode the musical globe like a plaid shirted collussus clutching a battered guitar. Although it was all to end tragically, with a bagful of heroin and a shotgun, Kurt Cobain may take some solace in death in the amount of bands that Nirvana inspired. Pixies may have mixed loud guitars with pure pop sensibility beforehand, but it was Nirvana that broke into the mainstream and paved the way for a bunch of kids to pick up a guitar and form a band. Biffy Clyro are one of those bands.
The Scottish three-piece have been creating increasing ripples of excitement in the music press with singles such as Justboy and 27, and great things are expected of Blackened Sky. It’s certainly not an unqualified success, but in parts it does go some way to justifying one claim that they’re the “most exciting new band in Britain”.
The Nirvana legacy hangs heavy over Blackened Sky, from the “quiet verse – loud chorus – quiet verse” template to some anguished screaming on the fantastically titled Kill The Old, Torture Their Young. Sometimes it works brilliantly, as on the opening Joy Discovery Invention, while other tracks are not as successful, such as the rather run of the mill Solution Devices.
There is no lead frontman in Biffy Clyro – all three band members share the vocal duties. All three vocals are pretty similar though, so there is no disjointed feel to the album.
Rather bizarrely, some people have compared the band to Blink 182 and the wave of ‘nu-metal’ acts from across the Atlantic. This does Biffy Clyro a huge disservice, as their songs are more musically adventurous than the likes of Limp Bizkit and Linkin Park could dream of. The aforementioned Kill The Old… for example is six minutes of pure adrenalised confusion from the angst-filled screams of “Open your eyes…turn your back and run from me” at the start, to the slowed down tempo and harmonies later on.
If there is a problem with this album however, it’s that the band sometimes lose the balance between light and shade. It’s all very well having some very dark tracks with lovelorn lyrics, such as the excellent single 57, but it would be nice to balance this occasionally. Possibly the standout track on the album is the infectious Justboy which brings to mind the best moments of Buffalo Tom. More tracks like this and the closing Scary Mary would have transformed this album from a good one into a great one.
You get the impression listening to this album that Biffy Clyro are a fantastic live act, but an exhausting band to listen to in your living room. There’s no sign of any kind of breakthrough song here, such as Feeder produced with last year’s Buck Rogers, but if you take the time to explore this Blackened Sky you’ll find a few shining stars worth exploring.