Since the release of 2007’s magnificent Puzzle, Biffy Clyro have seen their popularity slowly rise, working hard to establish themselves as one of the best live bands around. The Scottish trio’s reputation was further enhanced by their stadium-reaching fifth album, Only Revolutions, which saw them finally make the deserved transition from perennial support act to headliners at Sonisphere 2011. It was an incredible achievement, one that many would not have entertained after listening to Biffy Clyro’s earlier material.
The band’s profile was then increased by The X Factor winner Matt Cardle covering Many Of Horror, exposing Biffy Clyro to a completely different fanbase. While many of the band’s original fans saw the move as a compromise, Simon Neil and the Johnston brothers found all the commotion funny. Nevertheless, it demonstrated just how far they had come, with the quirky, difficult prog-rock of their first three albums becoming more simplified and anthemic, while still retaining their signature angular riffs.
Their sixth album, entitled Opposites, is the culmination of Biffy Clyro’s progression, with the band’s ambition stretching over two discs. The first part of the double album concentrates on the difficult times the trio have had since the release of Only Revolutions in 2009, including depression and drink problems, while the second disc sees the band in a more positive mood. It’s clear from the very off that Biffy are aiming high, with the opening three songs of Stingin’ Belle, Sounds Like Balloons and Biblical featuring choruses that are tailor-made for the biggest arenas.
The band’s latest single Black Chandelier shows just how accomplished Neil has become as a songwriter, as he sings: “You left my heart like an abandoned car/ old and worn and no use at all/ but I used to be free.” While the song is pretty much a straightforward rock ballad in the same vein as Many Of Horror, lyrically it captures some of the struggles the band have gone through. Elsewhere, The Joke’s On Us and the thrilling A Girl And His Cat see Biffy Clyro return to those distinctive jagged guitar riffs that defined the first three LPs, while also featuring colossal sing-a-long choruses.
It’s not all full-throttle, anthemic rock, though, with the first disc also including the beautifully reflective Opposite and the powerful The Fog. The latter, in particular, is possibly the most adventurous track on the double album, with the delicate, plodding keyboard melody dissolving into thunderous, imposing guitars for the final minute. It sets the tone for the second disc, which is the more experimental of the two. Spanish Radio is an especially left-field composition, with the Latin brass working perfectly alongside Neil’s thrashing guitar, as he belts out: “Hey, you could be lost/ at the same time/ as being found.”
Meanwhile, tracks like Different People and Modern Magic Formula demonstrate exactly why Biffy Clyro remain one of the most exciting rock bands around, combining exhilarating guitar riffs with lyrics that actually mean something. This is carried through to the final song on the album, Picture A Knife Fight, where Neil repeatedly sings “We’ve got to stick together” over crashing guitars. It’s a poignant message from a band that have found it hard at times to cope with some of the pressures of fame.
The double album is a difficult thing to pull off, but considering the anticipation before the release of Biffy Clyro’s sixth LP, the trio have done a fine job. Opposites is by no means perfect – with songs such as Pocket and Woo Woo no better than filler – but it will provide plenty more material for the headline slots that inevitably await the band this summer. Whatever direction Biffy Clyro decide to go in next, they will be able to do so safe in the knowledge that they are one of the best rock bands in Britain.