Sunday, March 10, 2013

Album Review: Biffy Clyro - Opposites (4/5)



Scottish band Biffy Clyro rarely disappoint when it comes to their winning mix of abrasive, anthemic and serene alternative rock that they showcased on their first five albums--particularly on the last two Only Revolution and Puzzles. This new effort, Opposites doesn't pick up where Only Revolutions left off, as much as it does up the anty a little. For starters, its's a double album runnung 78 minutes, therefore it's expected that the scope of sound here will be varied and more exploratory. And that's exactly what it does.

The first half of the album is titled The Sand at the Core of Our Bones. The first three tracks kick off the album with that heavy electronic guitar and drum backed anthemic rock that we've come to expect. "Different People," begins with a mildly intense soundscape layered of twinkling synth before the layered guitar work and drumming kick in. The melody is particularly enthralling. "Black Chandelier," is a little more pulled back, with the drums becoming a more prominent, but still harbouring the energy of its predecessor.  Of course, the multiple guitars still come out to work on its anthemic chorus. "Sounds Like Balloons," begins with a twingy assortment of guitar chords (that remind a little of Red Hot Chilli Peppers) but picks up for the blustery chorus, where the production of slightly threadbare guitar work and drums.

The title track is the albums first true moment of subtlety, stripping back the galvanising the guitars and heavy drum backing to a soft guitar backing, percussion and a melancholic melody--almost recalling Goo Goo Doll's "Iris." It's a very sweet track, which makes way for the more upbeat and energized rock of "The Jokes on Us."

"Biblical," sports multiple levels of energy, with the light guitar work and prominent drumming of the first verse before upping the intensity on the chorus, where the production comes magnificently together--including the blustery choir-like vocal blended in the instrumentation, Snow Patrol style. "A Girl and His Cat," rocks a little harder than the other tracks on the first half. The guitars are more boisteous, with less emphasis on melody and more on rocking out.

"The Fog," is the first track on the second half that doesn't quite stick. It plods along with its atmospheric synths and a quiet pulsating bass line--but nothing as captivating as the albums other subtle moments. "Little Hospitals" begin with sharp guitar chords and diverges into an all around muscular rock production. Closing the album is "The Thaw," which is another mood shift back to the more stripped back sound of drums and light guitars--well, for the first half before things get more intense for the second. The lyric: "The secrets in the snow will always come out in the thaw," is particularly nice.

The second disc is titled The Land at the End of Our Toes, which I'm less fond of. Opening track "Stingin' Belle" is quite a trailblazer, with its aggressive electronic guitars and rapid drums burning through the track. "Modern Magic Formula" and "Victory Over the Sun," are just as hard-hitting, with their dramatic, chugging layered guitar productions and heavy drumming. "Spanish Radio," is a nice switch up, beginning with horns which bleeds beneath the drums and guitars. "Pocket," boasts no horns, but is just as lighthearted with its summery melody.

"Skylight," is a beautifully dramatic, with its haunting backdrop, poignant piano keys and acoustic guitar. "Trumpet or Tap" and "Accident Without Emergency," are interesting mid-tempo's--striking guitar chords, percussion and drums. The second disc ends on anthemic note, with the fun energetic rock of, "Woo Woo" and "Picture a Knife Fight."

There's a lot I like about Opposites, including its well-executed mood-shifts and the blend of the anthemic and melancholic--although the first disc hits the mark better, where the second seems to tip over the harder rock of the alternative spectrum a little more. I can't remember the last time an alternative rock band released a double-album--for this type of genre, in which you can only churn out so many different sounds, it's quite challenging. This isn't perfect, but it's a pretty damn good album.

Best: Black Chandelier, Different People, Opposites, Bibical, Skylight, Picture a Knife Fight

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