Three somewhat difficult years on from the release of their concept album Opposites, Biffy Clyro find themselves returning to the normal confines of an album for Ellipsis. Not backed by quite as rigid a concept and more consistently enjoyable, it remains in familiar territory and features a similar vibe to the likes of Opposites across eleven tracks, leaving a thankfully smaller amount of space for filler in comparison. While its familiarity might be somewhat surprising, given the album was meant to be a larger change for the band, its overall quality mostly makes up for it.
Whether you were a fan of the chugging rock of the lead single Wolves of Winter or not, it serves its purpose as the album’s introductory track well, setting the collection off with a bang, moving between minimal and explosive instrumental sections with ease despite suffering from some sub-par lyricism. This level of lyrics is an unfortunate continuous issue across the album, though when songs like Friends and Enemies compliment the chugging guitars with more melodic accompaniment, or those like Animal Style provide a more consistent use of heavier guitars, it usually undermines these shortcomings. These sorts of rock songs still dominate the album, and while the lyrics aren’t ever quite as bad as on Wolves of Winter, the instrumental and general vibe of Simon Neil’s vocals are what carries a song more often than its words.
The album’s few oddball tracks are what give it the flavour to keep it interesting beyond the halfway mark, however. Medicine is the first track to really break the mould, working off of a backbone of acoustic guitar and strings rather than chugging electric guitar and percussion, which feels almost uncharacteristically light on this album but also comes at the moment where it feels most natural on the album, helping it feel solid in the grand context of the album. Following it up with the similarly distinctive funky rock of Flammable was a smart move too; even though they don’t mesh well together, it stands out twice as hard in this position, which is a good thing given that it’s one of the album’s strongest songs. The only truly confusing song is the bouncy, twinkling country rock of Small Wishes, which feels similar uncharacteristic to Medicine but in a much less successful way; even though it eventually throws a guitar solo into the mix, it has no real place on the album and breaks the flow rather than helping it.
With some questionable lyrics and a decidedly confusing track breaking the flow near the end of the album, it’s hard to call it a great record. It is, however, an enjoyable one; the remaining tracks are all solid vocally and instrumentally, and each has its own pull that makes it worth listening to at least once. It’s nothing groundbreaking, both in Biffy Clyro’s discography and in the general rock world, but Ellipsis is a consistent listen that won’t have trouble finding a fan base, even if it doesn’t capture the hearts of existing Biffy Clyro fans.