Once gritty, kilt-brandishing prog-rockers, Biffy Clyro have become sleek stadium demi-gods with an addictive concoction of Muse style eccentricity and System Of A Down-esque satire. ‘Opposites’ sounds and feels like the album Biffy have had in them the whole time, with powerful honesty and a ‘Biffy have cometh’ sound supported by epic string sections and ground-moving chorus’. As much a cathartic outpour as a unapologetic statement, Biffy Clyro have created a double album that triumphs where others have previously failed; Red Hot Chili Peppers are no doubt weeping over their tedious attempt ‘Stadium Arcadium’, while Lou Reed and Metallica are collectively kicking themselves for their own botched attempt. ‘Opposites’ brings something different to the table of modern music, with complex and experimental songs that do anything but disappoint.
It also acts as a prime example of the artistic challenge that is the double album, with a surprising lack of filler songs, and a clear distinction and vision between each disc. ‘The Sand at the Core of Our Bones’ is the frustrated and hurt first disc that rages at the difficulties in life that feel stagnant and stubbornly rigid. Contrastingly, ‘The Land at the End of Our Toes’ beams with promise, and the adrenaline from taking the first steps to change and fight their demons, armed with guitar, bass, drums, and chanting vocals. Whilst not as frequently mad-capped as past albums, the songs are no less enjoyable, and feel as if a freeing growth has taken place behind Biffy Clyro frontlines.
The album itself is an extensive journey into the collective struggles faced by Biffy Clyro and the personal turmoils of frontman Simon Neil, who has had to contend with soul-crushing depression, and drummer Ben Johnston’s destructive relationship with alcohol during the genesis and recording of ‘Opposites’. At points the band reached breaking point, with the stresses seemingly outweighing the result; events which are thrashed out in the more reflective and troubled first disc. An interview with Biffy by Kerrang! prior to the albums release showed the darkness that surrounded the band and inspired the songs on the first disc, as Neil confessed, “I used to wake up just wanting to cry because I’d woken up”. The interview was so open in the talks of the dissolution at the damage their excess was causing, the magazine printed contact details for the emotional support charity Samaritans. This cathartic release is where the albums power stems from, with ever-present overtones of passionate urgency in both instrumentation and vocals.
Despite the pot-holes Neil and co. found themselves attempting to claw out of, ‘Opposites’ is every inch a Biffy album, the super-sized guitar riffs and pounding drums parade the unmistakable power of the permanently conquest-bound trio. It also shows the growth that they have undergone in the form of complex and sometimes unsettling time signatures, and the creative incorporations of harpsichords, ever-poignant bagpipes, and even the sound of tap-dancers.
Being Biffy’s sixth studio album, ‘Opposites’ could have been forgiven for falling into comfortable sounds, but instead it shows the resilient excitement felt for music by Neil and the Johnston brothers, the enthusiasm in tracks “Spanish Radio” and “Stingin’ Belle” are coupled with masterful tones and poetic lyrics to create uplifting songs. Sometimes criticised for nonsensical lyrics, the more upbeat and abstract ideas found in “Trumpet or Tap” and “Woo Woo” provide the essential comic relief in an album dealing with such sensitive and uncertain times. The trials faced by Neil and the Johnston brothers are enough to fill a whole album with slow, self-wallowing tracks, but thankfully there is a reassuring tone of happiness and anticipation throughout, creating a reflective album that does not leave you feeling deflated, and pushes away the expected sob-story style for something far more heartfelt and constructive.
The entire album prevails with triumphant and relentless emotion, “Black Chandalier” and “Sounds Like Balloons” are a beautiful mix of commanding riffs, heartbeat-pounding drums and the true sense of the fights Biffy Clyro have endured. The latter is a track that you will want to play as loud as your ears can take; it is an audible supernova which won’t stop growing to an awe-inspiring climax, upholding the pride and resilience at the core of ‘Opposites’.
In poignant contrast, title track “Opposite” seeps with fragile emotion; it is an honest ballad that brings bitter-sweet memories to the surface, not only for the band but also for the listener, and pieces together an album about real, difficult, human situations, and not the Hollywood version of life artists like Bieber and Ke$ha harp on about. “Biblical” follows in similar step, and is certainly one of the most instantly loveable tracks, the title truly reflecting the monumental scale of the chorus and with a soul-shaking choir accompanying Neil’s great vocals. At points the crescendo of instruments and emotion in Neil’s vocals is almost overwhelming, but a sense of pride rains out with the freedom and growth Biffy Clyro have found in ‘Opposites’.
Biffy sometimes stray too far into the realms of experimentation, with the ending of “The Fog” descending into irritating, ear-scathing beeps and speaker exploding guitars that seems like a failed attempt at transcribing a complex mixture of emotions. However, “Stingin’ Belle” brings back the album’s focus with the start to the more positive second disc, with thrashy, bass-heavy drums, and punchy, staccato breaks, and identity-defining bagpipes which immortalise Biffy Clyro as a proudly Scottish band.
In all its glory and quirkiness, ‘Opposites’ succeeds as a double album, with the ability to engage its listeners throughout both disks, and with skill and determination that surpasses Biffy Clyro’s previous releases. Every song engages and surprises, and has the unflinching power that when played live, as Biffy’s confirmed performance at Reading and Leeds this summer should entail, will be a crowd-rousing unforgettable experience. Despite the hectic time Biffy have ahead, listening to ‘Opposites’ feels concrete, and like a haven for the most delicate and troubling of emotions, yet laid bare, with unbridled confidence and honesty.