The Lone Wolf Howls Victory
Biffy Clyro is a band that strives to create its own legacy. After all, among the many alleged origins of their name is the first Scotsman to build a rocket and enter outer space. The quest to rise to their full potential is at the forefront of Clyro’s mind in their newest album, Ellipsis. According to the lead guitarist and primary songwriter, Simon Neil, the first single of the album, “Wolves of Winter,” is a musical demonstration to the people who have ever doubted the band’s ability to succeed. The desire to flourish despite the odds has become a significant part of the band’s overall purpose and message in Ellipsis. It is encapsulated in every aspect of their music, from their aerial guitar solos to the animalistic, lupine imagery prevalent in the lyrics. As a result, Biffy Clyro has created a well-crafted, thematically linked album that will etch its own legacy as a work of art.
“The Wolves of Winter,” which is the first track on the album, is a prime example of Biffy Clyro’s unique sound. Designated as their live show opener, it contains an eclectic mix of riffs and styles. “Wolves” begins with the deadened strings one might expect in a pop-punk tune followed by a celestial guitar solo accompanied by the chugging rhythm of a heavy metal anthem.With lyrics like: “How’s it gonna feel when there’s no one to support you,” Clyro immediately declares their status as outsiders rebelling against their detractors. “The Wolves of Winter” foreshadows both musically and thematically what is to come on the rest of the album.
Songs like “Animal Style” and “Friends and Enemies” intimate at Clyro’s roots and musical influences. The riffs in “Animal Style” are infectious and reminiscent of guitar licks found in a Foo Fighters track. The guitar solo later on in the song is evocative of progressive rock bands like Protest the Hero or Between the Buried and Me. “Friends and Enemies” shifts to a slightly poppier Queens of the Stone Age vibe and relishes in the poppy nature of the vocals. The lyrics are particularly poetical in this track and show that Neil is not afraid to let the lyrics speak for themselves. Chants in the background provide the listener with a real sense of community; all of the wolves of winter coming together to form a pack.
“Re-Arrange” and “Medicine” combine the simplicity that Clyro is striving for in the context of a love song. The foundation for both of these tracks is the acoustic guitar, which makes the listener feel calm and introspective. “Re-Arrange” showcases Neil’s falsetto, giving it a heavenly and almost unreal feeling. Clapping hands and snare hits repeat while Clyro’s characteristic ambient background effects and atmospheric vocals enhance the space of the song. The fingerpicked guitar shimmers in the verse in preparation for the chorus ending in a natural crescendo that comes almost as a right of passage for this well-written song. These songs are a departure from their previous rebellious ones demonstrating that Clyro is not afraid to switch their style and forge their own unique musical style.
Later in the album, they have tracks that show their rock ‘n roll and punk roots. “On A Bang” for instance, showcases pulsating bass sounds and blaring snare drums in a straight punk, double time groove. “On A Bang” shows that Clyro can adapt their message to the punk rock genre reiterating lines like: “why can’t you do better?” As a result, “On a Bang” is the anthem for those who feel like outcasts, becoming the sound that someone makes when they are forced to become the lone wolf.
“People” is one of the most interesting songs on the album and plays with Clyro’s characteristic notion of being an outcast. The vinyl distorted violin sample at the beginning anticipates a new sonic environment. The acoustic guitar comes in, rather dark and suggestive of something introspective while the piano drips with reverb. The bass drum pounds at the beginning, projecting the presumptive pounding in Neil’s head. The guitar takes its time to build ominous and mysterious chord progressions. In the vocals, Neil proves again that he doesn’t fit in with people, instead, “home is the place where he doesn’t belong” further affirming his status as a rebel while endorsing the animalistic imagery that defines this album.
“Small Wishes” is a prime example of the Clyro’s ability to keep their audience in suspense. It is an attempt at a standard country song, but the clean guitar arpeggios in the background seem to have a mind of their own. The music itself is playfully ironic; it is neither happy nor sad. During these schizophrenic guitar riffs, Neil urges his audience to “trust the wolf and not the lamb.” It is almost as if this song contains two messages: one delivered by the lyrics, the other by the instruments. In “Small Wishes,” Clyro has made a really complex song, urging the audience to play with the relationship between song structure and message.
The last song on the album, “In the Name of the Wee Man,” is the obvious finale ofEllipsis.Beginning with the simple chant of “I need” repeated, it exposes an odd time signature at the beginning, flawlessly transitioning into the riff that will become the driving force throughout the song. The crescendo is a wall of power chords ending in affirmation of Clyro’s alternative rock influence, screaming their last breath over a dense sonic blast that works together with the opening riff in the odd time signature. It is the last opportunity to leave an impression on the listener and for Neil to affirm his identity as the lone wolf striving to achieve his personal best. By the end ofEllipsis, the audience comes away with this concept of Biffy Clyro: the successful boys from Scotland who were told that they could never make it.