Two and a bit years on from Biffy Clyro’s long-anticipated charge into popular consciousness with the brilliant spiky rock of ‘Puzzle’, their rise from toilet tour heroes to stadium rockers is cemented – and perfectly encapsulated – on ‘Only Revolutions’. It’s still the same old Biffy, for sure – perfectly orchestrated stop-start verses sewn together with roaring distorted choruses and Simon Neil’s urgent vocals thrown over the top – but the hairy Scots’ fifth album is the sound of a band who’ve grown into their skins after two years spent shirtless and sweaty on ever-growing stages around the world.
‘That Golden Rule’ furrows its brow and stalks menacingly through an opening riff borrowed from the annals of heavy metal, stumbling into a typically melodic Biffychorus before a dark orchestral panic attack pulls the plug. All in the space of four minutes. Like the whole record, it’s chaotic, schizophrenic and fucking ace. But Biffy Clyro’s giddy pogoing from one genre to the next could be both the making of, and breaking of ‘Only Revolutions’; it leaps from the orchestral growling of ‘That Golden Rule’ straight to the Strokesesque pop-rock of ‘Bubbles’ to the unexpected synth that leads ‘Born On A Horse’. Each track is undoubtedly great, but, as an album, ‘Only Revolutions’ sometimes struggles to flow through Biffy’s scatterbomb of styles.
Lyrically, it’s a record that owes more to poetic vagueness than any kind of Arctic Monkeys-style simplicity (The Fly still trying to work out the hidden meaning of‘Born On A Horse’s “I’ve never had a lover who’s my sister or my brother before”), but it’s perhaps the most inward-looking album Biffy have released. “I talk to God as much as I talk to Satan, because I want to hear both sides,” sings Simon Neil on the acoustically-charged respite of ‘God & Satan’, and it’s a theme that seems to run through ‘Only Revolutions’ from start to finish, the frontman’s throaty scream working hard to draw a link between the soaring, pompous growls of distortion and the introspective acoustic God-worshipping whimpers. Brilliant single ‘Mountains’ – the band’s first ever foray into the top ten – pleasingly doesn’t stand head and shoulders above the album’s other tracks, even with its epic stadium choruses. “I am the mountain/I am the sea/You can’t take that away from me,” screams Neil as sphincter-troubling bass drums explode beneath him. It’s awesome, but matched by the urgent riff-driven ‘Cloud Of Stink’ and the growling of ‘Shock Shock’, which closes with an unexpected bombardment of drum fills and rumbling guitars.
With ‘Only Revolutions’, Biffy cast a magnifying glass over everything they showcased on ‘Puzzle’. The riffs get louder, the screams more pertinent and the orchestral onslaughts darker and more sinister. ‘Mon the Biffy…