A Celebration of Endings
Eight albums in and 25 years as a band, you wouldn’t blame Biffy Clyro for letting the fire in their bellies simmer down to glowing embers as they launch their new record ‘A Celebration of Endings’. However, it would seem there’s still a flaming inferno right at the core of the band and this is propelling them forward like a chugging locomotive, both thematically and sonically. The hunger is omnipresent with the three piece, this is a band that doesn’t rest on their laurels, they want to challenge themselves, their audience and with their new offering, the establishment. As Simon Neil, the group’s frontman, put it to DIY Magazine “I want to be the source of the problem for these old fuckers as much as the teenagers are.” The album’s moniker is a reference of how the outfit see the world right now, as if we’re embarking on a transitional phase; this finality creeps into the record, as does the notion of antagonising the prehistoric gatekeepers that are impeding progression and silencing those that are fighting for change.
With their fists clenched and puffed out chests, Biffy Clyro’s modus operandi for ’A Celebration of Ending’ was the application of contrasting sounds, merging the “ugly and beautiful”. At times the album can take you off down a beautiful string-laden path, before decimating said path with a barrage of gnarled, punk-flecked noise and then there are moments when these facets coalesce in one place or interchange like their unique, evolving species. The group somehow manage to do this while maintaining their status of bona fide festival headline juggernauts, with choruses ready to be bellowed back by a field of thousands, while dishing out the riffs to spark off bone snapping mosh pits (once covid becomes a thing of the past – whenever that might be). Not a lot of bands get the balance right between keeping the casual music fan and the diehard rock devotee happy, but these dudes from Scotland do it with aplomb.
Jibes and pointed figures are aplenty throughout ‘A Celebration of Endings’; ‘The Pink Limit’ contorts from fidgeting punk energy to anthemic alt-rock, as you hear Neil state “if you want your peace time/then please prepare for war”. The life-affirming chorus of “it’s not how you fail/it’s how you deal with it” certainly deserves to be daubed across some certified Biffy merch too. ‘The Champ’ is a barbed anthem that has it’s sights set firmly on the old guard; a weird, queasy mesh of aching strings build into a piano ballad before exploding into a dirty rock stomp that invokes Queen but if they’d been heavily influenced by punk shows and were proper weirdos. “We are the source of all things you are desperate to ignore” sings Neil as the song unfurls like a Bond theme but if 007 had a penchant for circle pits. Then there’s the record’s (kind of) eponymous track ‘End Of’, a squalling prog-punk monster that ratchets up the ire through a barrage of bombastic drums and feral guitar that squirm with a chaotic urgency. The feeling of catharsis and finality kicks in when Simon decries “no time for ceremony now/because this is the end of the start”. When Biffy go full pop, they do it with such arrogance that you can’t help but be charmed by it; ‘Instant History’ is a glowing, ethereal ode to catharsis but with a tinge of anger and a gigantic chorus “this is the sound that we make/can you hear it?” rings the charge of a revolution, as if to say “you can’t ignore us, we will be heard”. Amongst the bombastic synth notes, there’s a rage waiting to be discovered as Neil rattles out “hell heath no fury like human born” with a quickfire nonchalance.
For an album typified by the dichotomy of “ugly and beautiful”, when the Scots pursue the latter, they do it with tear-jerking tenderness. ‘Space’ is a lush, heartfelt document of love and support, as the band’s frontman croons “I get lost sometimes but with you I am found” and “there’s always a space in my heart for you”. Much like ‘Space’, ‘Opaque’ is awash with an emotional melancholy. Taking a similar approach to ‘Machines’ from the group’s 2007 breakthrough album ‘Puzzle’, the song commences with an acoustic strum before injecting a layer of cinematic strings. The song’s narrative is spun around the notion of a relationship coming to an end “this is how you choose to breakaway”, chimes Neil with a wavering falsetto, as if on the brink of tears. All the record’s composite facets of beauty and ugliness assemble to form ‘Cop Syrup’, a six minute sprawling opus that has Simon yowl “fuck everybody, woo!” as Biffy go full oddball on a song that swerves from balls out rock beast, theatrical coyness and swooning orchestral beauty before doing a 180 and signing off with a blast of feral, explosive noise and a final “fuck everybody, woo!”.
‘A Celebration of Endings’ finds Biffy Clyro in rich, untouchable form – a band at the peak of their powers.
Word and Thoughts by Adam Williams