Every Biffy Clyro Album, Ranked From Worst to Best

Considering they make up one half of this site’s name (you know, the one you’re reading from just now), it’ll come as no surprise that we’re big fans of Biffy Clyro and who can blame us. Having went through multiple iterations in terms of sound (from angsty grunge to awe inspiring weird prog rock), the divide amongst fans about which album of theirs deserves the crown has went on for as long as the band have been around: hell, we’ve already done this before when this site was just a small wee thing but much has changed since then both with us and the biff.

Today is the day the questioning will die though as Ethan (@human_dis4ster), Jake (@jjjjaketh), Liam (@blnkclyr) and Oli (@notoliverbutler) definitively answer which record from the Ayrshire trio reigns supreme – it’s time to build this fucker stone by stone…

Quick disclaimer: This is, like, our opinion or whatever, dude. Disagree? The comments down below will house whatever rage you’re feeling.

 

7. Ellipsis (2016)

Liam [7th]: I still remember the slagging I got from Biffy fans when Wolves of Winter came out and I called it “more Biffy 3.0 than Biffy 2.5”, something that could be said for the entirety of this album. Ellipsis is by no means a bad album, featuring tracks that are honest to god great like In The Name Of The Wee Man, but it doesn’t feel unique enough to stand out from the previous three albums the band had dropped in this style – more disappointing than weak.

Oli [5th]: No, you’re stupid. Don’t care what you think, this might be Biffy’s softest record, but who can resist the charms of Medicine, People and Re-Arrange? The soulless, faceless consumers that have never loved and lost. I attach a special & emotional meaning to this record that makes it a cut above the rest for me.

Jake [7th]: Biffy’s latest is far from bad but it’s their weakest. In interviews prior to the album’s release, Simon Neil said Ellipsis was inspired by artists like Death Grips and Deafheaven, and when this turned out to not be true, fans of the band were understandably a bit ticked off. Songs like People and Herex are cookie cutter rock but there are some shining lights on the record in the form of Small Wishes and Wolves of Winter. The main event of the album is undoubtedly In the Name Of The Wee Man, which was, for some reason that is beyond this writer, relegated to a bonus track. It’s a furious jolt of adrenaline that, hopefully, we’ll get to see more of on LP 8.

Ethan [7th]: As time goes on, I dislike this album more and more and the same can be said about most of the tracks on here. Animal Style is exactly what I wanted from this record so when it turned out to be an anomaly, it made the rest of the album a bit of a chore. Clearly finding the band at an awkward stage in their career, Ellipsis just seems to lack any real urgency or ambition – it is hardly bad enough to ruin the band’s legacy but signals a need for a reinvention on their next venture.

 

6. Opposites (2013)

Oli [7th]: Much like myself, Opposites is bloated, unnecessary and largely forgotten about. Any Biffy list feels unfair because someone has to come last. Opposites produced a hearty handful of choice singles, but on the whole, felt a bit cumbersome & stodgy as a double album.

Jake [6th]: Double albums almost never work, but I think Biffy have come the closest ever to making a coherent one. Not to say Opposites is perfect, far from it with with tracks like Trumpet or Tap being weird for the sake of it as opposed to the natural oddity that Biffy tend to radiate and Opposite is just a bit bland. That’s not to say there’s not belters either: Accident Without Emergency is a soaring bit of stadium rock, as is setlist mainstay Different People, and tracks like Spanish Radio and Little Hospitals keep the weirdness factor at a cosy level. If some filler had been left on the cutting room floor, Opposites would be held in higher regard but as it is, it’s still a great, yet bloated record.

Ethan [6th]: The band, after the popularity of Only Revolutions, faced a dilemma with their sixth album, having to choose between continuing down a more commercial path or going back to their roots, and the band opted to do…both. A double album that contains more accessible tracks such as Biblical and Black Chandelier but also tracks that are reminiscent of their earlier years such as Trumpet or Tap, the band attempted to please both camps and unfortunately came up short on both. Still an adequate Biffy album, Opposites has many highlights but its length and inconsistency in quality and tone let it down.

Liam [5th]: I’ll be echoing the same sentiment as you lot have since, aye, there’s undeniably a bit of unnecessary flubber on this behemoth but when this beast roars, I’m left in awe; Victory Over The Sun manages to feel like an honest to god predator, a suspenseful intro paving the way for the chaotic hunt that makes up most of this track. In addition, Sounds Like Balloons is Biffy at their viscous best and while it may be a bit too polished, Biffy’s “pop rock” is miles ahead of most other rock bands. I have some attachment to this record, as I do with most of Biffy, but there’s a lot to love here for any fan of music, even if there’s some that you’ll pass on.

 

5. Only Revolutions (2010)

Jake [5th]: The true beginning of the mainstream Biffy we all know and love* (*have come to terms with), Only Revolutions is still a damn fine record. It manages to tow the line between “Weird Biffy” and “Straightforward Biffy” relatively well for the most part, songs like Born On A Horse with its driving synth and Cloud of Stink with it’s falsetto vocals are welcome spells of strangeness. But the weird is tucked in alongside some of the most straightforward Biffy songs to date in Mountains, God & Satan and Many of Horror. Still, straightforward doesn’t mean bad, not by a long shot, and this is a very strong pop rock record.

Ethan [5th]: The album that lost them hundreds of fans but gained them thousands, Only Revolutions was Biffy completely embracing their mainstream audience with huge singles such as Mountains and Many Of Horror. Their talent for instrumental structure and interesting lyrics was still there though it pales in comparison with their work before. An enjoyable listen rather than a truly great album, the album did its job as it propelled the band to arena status and made them Scotland’s biggest band but left fans like myself wanting a bit more and feeling cautious about the band’s future musically.

Liam [6th]: I feel like I’ll get butchered for having this below Opposites but where that album felt like it was trying to spice up the formula a bit, Only Revolutions kind of came off as that kid that copies someone (Puzzle) else’s homework and gets a grade below them. There’s some undeniable bangers on here, why else would I own it on vinyl, but this album’s peaks are only kinda high, compared to most other Biffy record where you feel like you’re getting vertigo.

Oli [3rd]: This is a fantastic album, and really began to prick up a few ears outside of their closed inner circle, culminating in a headline show at Wembley Arena, plus a support gig on one of Muse’s Wembley Stadium gigs (first time I saw Biffy, was mesmerised by the hard rock, shirtless Father Christmas called Simon Neil). Much as we like to poke fun at Matt Cardle’s version, Many of Horror is a banger, so it Mountains, so is God & Satan.

4. Blackened Sky (2002)

Ethan [4th]: Doing exactly what a debut album should do, Blackened Sky announced Biffy Clyro’s arrival and was bursting with potential. While their influences are easily distinguishable, this is common for a debut album and while that is probably its biggest weakness, Biffy added enough flavour of their own and their raw aggression and ambition overpowers the album’s flaws.

Liam [3rd]: Yup, it’s not the most original work ever made but that doesn’t mean that the sheer rawness of this angsty bastard isn’t deserving of critical applaud. Much like the rest of the original trilogy and Puzzle, there’s not one slip up, no weak moment to point out that feels like it could have been tweaked. While their fourth record had the saddest subject matter, Blackened Sky is my go to record when I want to feel miserable and enjoy it.

Oli [5th]: Justboy is the best Biffy song ever, fight me irl. Solid debut album from Biffy, introducing their electrifying brand of alt-rock to the world, and albeit not perfect by any stretch of the imagination, was the beginning of something very special.

Jake [4th]: What a charming wee record this is. The Biff’s debut wears its influences not just on its sleeve, but on every item of clothing it’s wearing. It’s obvious that the band had been listening to a lot of Nirvana, Pixies and Fugazi, and they channelled those influences to great effect on Blackened Sky. The loud/quiet/loud song structure on songs like Kill The Old, Torture Their Young and Stress on The Sky are complimented beautifully by the quieter songs like Christopher’s River and Scary Mary. Nothing groundbreaking, but a fantastic framework for The Biff to build upon.

3. Infinity Land (2004)

Liam [2nd]: Weird, erratic, random (but not the XD kind), Infinity Land would be the last record I’d recommend to first time Biffy listeners but that’s not to imply a lack of quality. Considering the underground success the band were experiencing at the time, it’s admirable that instead of going down the path they would trod half a decade later, Biffy chose to turn the dial up to 11 and make an album that, while sporadic in nature, was 100% them.

Oli [4th]: Another one where you pick it up because of how cool the cover art looks, which probably applies to the whole Biffy discography. Lyrically and sonically this was a much darker album compared to VoB and Blackened Sky, and got even crazier in terms of curveball riffs & manic time structures.

Jake [2nd]: I’d say Vertigo of Bliss was insane, and I mean it, but that must make Infinity Land a few steps above insane. Biffy just threw everyfuckingthing at this album, regardless if it made a modicum of sense, and by some miracle it worked. Si’s lyrics had always been a bit vague but the surrealness factor was turned up to 11 on Infinity Land, and it’s better for it. One of the most important rock records of the 21st century for me.

Ethan [3rd]: By far their darkest and perhaps their most obscure album, Infinity Land is maybe overlooked but personally I feel its Biffy at their most inventive. Simon Neil’s vocals are phenomenal  as he adapts to each track with ease and his delivery is commanding no matter what is required of him. The album is unpredictable and exciting even on the 100th listen as tracks such as There’s No Such Thing As A Jaggy Snake are heavy but are laced with surprises and twists that make it, and the rest of the album, so intriguing.

2. Puzzle (2007)

Liam [4th]: Out of the first four albums, this is the one that I’ve listened to the least though a) that doesn’t mean much considering I’ve probably listened to them nearly a thousand times collectively and b) this is down to just how cathartic and emotionally charged Puzzle is. True, it’s a lot more friendly to new comers but to imply that means there’s a dip in quality would be naive and flat out wrong: Simon Neil’s lyrics are authentic as well utterly heartbreaking and with how varied the instrumentals can be on here, it allows for a truly enthralling journey of grief.

Oli [1st]: This was probably the record that began the tip from Biffy being time-signature weirdos to hard rock megaliths. For instance, Machines is a song that speaks to everyone on every emotional level, and there’s a good reason Living Is A Problem is still in the setlist today. This record is a record that I can listen to anytime, anywhere.

Jake [3rd]: The opening chapter of Biffy’s second trilogy is the saddest album in their discography. Written in the wake of the death of Simon’s mum Elanor, the album is far more straight forward from a songwriting perspective than anything they’d released prior. The lyrics obviously centre heavily around death and dealing with loss and the instrumentation ditches the strange time signatures and use of left field instruments that had been the calling card of the bands first 3 albums, and instead they elected to things simple. And it worked. A heartbreaking album.

Ethan [2nd]: Perhaps the pivotal moment in Biffy Clyro’s discography, Puzzle is a complete departure from Infinity Land, while still remaining heavy enough to keep longtime fans happy, Puzzle ventured into more accessible territory that widened their audience. For that reason Puzzle was a crossover success, and deservedly so as it contains some of Biffy Clyro’s most emotionally powerful songs and further showed their range and versatility as a band.

1. Vertigo of Bliss (2003)

Oli [2nd]: Definitely one of those records you pick up because of how cool the artwork is, VoB was fully immune to second album syndrome, becoming a furious hard rock odyssey that only further Biffy as alt-rock darlings. Simon Neil teased the intro to With Aplomb during their 2016 tour, and arenas full of people constantly blew their beans at the prospect of with aplomb.

Jake [1st]: VOB is a smashing big cacophony of insanity that is the benchmark from which all subsequent Biffy Clyro albums will be measured against. It’s just a very weird and very, very good slice of alt-rock/post-hardcore and it cemented Biffy from relatively early on in their career as a band not to be ignored

Ethan [1st]: On their follow up, Biffy perfected the approach they had taken on their debut and capitalised on it massively. Crossing over a multitude of genres, Biffy invented their own brand and produced a stellar collection of songs that still stand as many of their best. From the delicacy of All The Way Down to the ferocity of Now The Action is On Fire, the band showed every aspect of their potential on Vertigo of Bliss, including Simon Neil’s lyrics being at their most subtle and sincere.

Liam [1st]: This was the album for me that not only solidified why I want to write about music but why I adore it. Zany, unpredictable, clamorous and, most of all, entertaining, Vertigo of Bliss may not be Infinity Land’s equal in terms of how unstable it is, but it more than makes up for it with how it balances the ferocity of Blackened Sky’s performances and the beauty of Si’s lyrics.

 

 

Looking Back At…BLACKENED SKY by BIFFY CLYRO

Written by Andrew Barr (@weeandreww)

In 2017, it’s hard to imagine Biffy Clyro as anything but the topless, tattooed rock titans who churn out landmark festival headline slots with ease. After playing 2 of the best headline sets in recent memory at Reading and Leeds in 2013 and in 2016, with the small matter of releasing chart-topping 7th album Ellipsis in 2016, Biffy have established themselves as one of the biggest rock bands in the country, as well as arguably the most exciting band in the upper echelons of modern rock music.

However, Biffy’s ascent to the top of these stages was anything but straightforward. If their journey to the top of rock music could be represented by climbing a mountain, Simon Neil, James Johnston and Ben Johnston would have rejected the obvious route of the man-made path, in favour of scaling the most treacherous, hilly surface. 15 years ago, at the very beginning of Biffy’s long and difficult ascent was debut album Blackened Sky, released to little fanfare on indie label Beggar’s Banquet.

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One of the many qualities that Biffy’s legions of fans adore them for is their originality, their inventiveness and sometimes straight-up weirdness. Blackened Sky, while flawed and not the finished article by any stretch of the imagination, was a clear marker of Biffy’s immense potential and Simon Neil’s complex, time signature-bending songwriting abilities.

As for the record’s flaws, they are not major by any stretch, and the band themselves are well aware of these. In a Noisey interview, they were asked to rank their albums and placed Blackened Sky in last place, and Simon Neil said himself “there’s things we would immediately change; there’s that real naivety in not knowing how to make things sound good” with bassist James Johnston following with “We smoked so much hash while we were making it. It’s all so slow.

Despite these shortcomings, Blackened Sky is an enthralling listen from start to finish, and is a record that showcases a more experimental Biffy Clyro than the chart-topping one we know today. There is perhaps no better song (and title) to kick-start Biffy’s recording career than opener Joy.Discovery.Invention. It is a two-part song that most listeners with knowledge of Biffy Clyro would say could only have been written by Simon Neil. The first minute and a half features Neil’s trademark Ayrshire accent singing over finger-picked guitar chords before the song explodes into life for the second half, peaking with an anthemic chorus that wouldn’t sound out of place on one of Biffy’s more recent, commercially successful records.

It would almost be equivocal to sacrilege to speak about the anthemic qualities of Blackened Sky and fail to mention both Justboy and 57. Both these tracks are soaring stadium anthems that somehow fit snugly alongside experimental prog tracks that make up the rest of the record. Justboy especially showcases Simon Neil’s lyrical talent from an early age with the soaring outro of “I am hoping through the dark clouds/ light shall break and bring a bright sky” – a lyric that has been tattooed on countless Biffy fans since the record’s release in 2002. Meanwhile, 57 is perhaps the most “emo” song in Biffy’s entire discography, a breakup song full of heartbreak and vengeance delivered over a roaring guitar riff which encompasses perhaps the best “doo doo doo” singalong of Biffy’s 20-year career. The greatest testament that can be paid to these 2 tracks is that 57 and Justboy still appear commonly on Biffy setlists in 2017 to rapturous reactions from fans, with both tracks showing no signs of aging.

While it would almost be sacrilege to fail to mention 57 and Justboy, it would be almost as criminal to talk about 57 and neglect its more moody and angsty cousin, 27. This track pops up on live setlists more sporadically, and so has gained “hidden gem” status among Biffy fans. Like much of the record, 27 is another breakup track, with a brilliantly dark guitar riff ensuring the verses bubble just below boiling point before the chorus explodes into life with Neil’s vocals backed up by a roar from drummer Ben Johnston, which is present more than a few times on Blackened Sky.

However, while these 3 tracks appear on the odd Biffy setlist, many of the tracks from this debut are just too foreign in comparison with the band’s current material to ever get a run-out in a live show. Biffy like to view their studio albums in trilogies and the trilogy of Blackened Sky, The Vertigo of Bliss and Infinity Land is seen as their wonky experimental phase where the songs would often lack a traditional verse-chorus-verse structure and almost completely eschew standard time signatures and guitar tunings.

While Blackened Sky isn’t as experimental as the two records that followed it, it’s balls-to-the-wall (to borrow a phrase from Simon Neil) heaviness and directness are the qualities which make this so memorable. Kill the Old, Torture Their Young is a 6-minute track which opens with the whispered words “this will kill”, before a guitar riff explodes into life and Simon Neil’s criminally underused scream takes the fore. The Go-Slow rivals the previously mentioned track and shows the strong influence of Nirvana on Biffy’s early material and on this album. The heaviest track on this album is penultimate cut Stress on the Sky, which peaks in a scream-off between Neil and drummer Ben Johnston, where the lyrics are almost indecipherable, but they almost don’t matter; the sheer power of this song alone makes it a standout.

However, elsewhere on the record, the lyrics take up a role of vital importance. Many Biffy fans like to conveniently forget that while Many of Horror (from 2009’s Only Revolutions) has gone down as one of the best rock ballads in recent years, it was also hand-picked by Simon Cowell as Matt Cardle’s X Factor winners single (and was then completely butchered). Despite the cover, the choice to use this song is testament to how stunning Simon Neil’s songwriting and lyricism can be; and there are tracks on Blackened Sky which show these qualities at their very best.

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While it is so much more than a break-up album and there are countless facets to the lyrics on this record, Blackened Sky is actually the only Biffy record that has concerned itself with break-up, so many lyrics on this record are less abstract and more direct than on other Biffy releases. The aforementioned 27 features the simple but brilliant imagery of “thoughts once pure are now diluted”. The best lyrics are reserved for the only 2 real ballads on this record, The verses in Christopher’s River should serve as a lesson in lyrical storytelling, while Scary Mary overcomes teenage cliché (what must I have become/to deserve all the shit that you give me?) to close the album on a poignant note, with the record ending on the quite brilliant “give time to your heart/give time to your soul/ release them all”.

On Blackened Sky, Biffy Clyro announced themselves as a band with stratospheric potential, but also one with more than enough talent at present. It places festival-ready anthems comfortably alongside some of the most obscurely brilliant tracks the band has ever written, showcasing the band’s massive potential but also their unwillingness to scale the mountain in any way but their own.

Not bad for a record made by 3 teenage stoners from Kilmarnock.


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