We’ve been fans of Biffy in the Review Corner for yonks, from back when they were three wee lads from Glasgow making in-your-face rock that was somewhere between metal and prog. Since then they’ve become bigger and bigger and the sound has evolved to this.
It’s a bit Thin Lizzy, whose early albums are much more interesting, up to the near-perfect Jailbreak and the nearly as good Johnny the Fox (both recorded in 1976, some work ethic). Lizzy finally hit a sound that made them superstars but we lost interest and let Bad Reputation and Black Rose: A Rock Legend slip by. They shifted a lot of albums but critics regard the later work as patchy. Some die-hard Biffy Clyro fans will probably feel the same about this, which is slick and stadium-ready.
That’s not to say it’s not good: in many ways it’s excellent, and it keeps some of Biffy’s off-kilter sound. Wolves of Winter opens loudly, with signs of them being influenced by the rockier end of hip hop. Wolves rocks but Friends and Enemies is somewhere between Peter Gabriel and U2. Animal Style and Herex go a bit Muse (though the latter has a touch of the Foos, too).
They also do quiet, with songs like Re-arrange and Medicine, both a good starter for the lyrics, as Simon Neil continues to battle his internal demons: “I wrote a hundred songs to make sense of the meaninglessness,” he writes in the former.
The lyrics are as barbed as ever but as if to counter the commercial sound Neil throws in gratuitous swearing, which jars a little with the radio-friendly music. Overall, a slick album that will probably sell a lot: fans of the Foos, U2 and even Snow Patrol (Gary Lightbody gets a credit on the sleeve and Howl is a melodic rock tune in the Snow Patrol style) will like this.