No haggis, no paddie bells, no kilts; a band so colossal and magnificent, so unreal and…
No haggis, no paddie bells, no kilts; a band so colossal and magnificent, so unreal and mysterious they could have been created by the imagination of those who produced the Loch Ness monster. This year RAMFest brings you one of Scotland’s most prized possessions. How I am supposed to be objective about Biffy Clyro? I haven’t a clue, but here are five really good reasons why going to see them this weekend will be the best decision you make in 2014:
1. The very first time, but too good to be the last.
The best way to fall in love with a band that you’d never expect is to watch Biffy Clyro Live at Wembley. Their performance displays the band’s raw musical talent executed with intense passion. The dexterity and finesse of frontman and lead guitarist, Simon Neil, will make you feel like the goosebumps on the back of your neck are trying to float away, inducing a sensation of elation, as if your body yearned to take off into the universe. The tones and the melodies he produces so eloquently with his voice can only be described as the rose among the sweet-tempered thorns embodied by rhythm section twin-brothers, James (bass) and Ben (drums) Johnnston. The perfect song which envelopes the enormity that is Biffy Clyro Live at Wembley would have to be ‘Boom, Blast & Ruin’. The song tells the story of a push and pull between two lovers, which portrays the cause and effect of action in relationships. The music itself captures this Newtonian concept as the progression from verse into chorus paints the picture of the controlled and out of control:
“I’ve had enough
You burn the bridge I’ll cut the boat in half”
2.It’s not unlike Avatar, trust me.
Neil and the Johnstons were childhood friends who appreciated the heart of the underground music scene. Hailing from Kilmarnock in Scotland, the trio sought to imbed their sound in rock and post-hardcore roots, thus forming Biffy Clyro in 1995. When you listen to and watch any live performance of theirs, the energy that is radiated does not come from just one member but from all three. The twins, who also provide backing vocals to the songs, do not only compliment the lead vocals, but also complete the original melody written by Neil. When these guys play their music it doesn’t sound like each member seeks to get their point across, but rather a unity of musical consciousness is formed, creating a force that will move your body and mind. Whether one has a fine tuned musical ear or not doesn’t matter, upon watching an acoustic-styled live performance of theirs, the only thing that comes to mind is ‘This could be something out of Avatar’.
I can only speculate, but many wish they could have hair which protects a neural queue allowing them to connect with mother earth, like the Na’vi have in Avatar. Yet Biffy Clyro seem to have created a real-life connective apparatus almost identical to this in their sound. Having known each other since childhood, and creating music through love for one other, the trio have succeeded in creating an extremely intimate gateway into the fourth dimension; where they draw the listener in as if they were, and always will be infinitely connected to the band. Their neural queue is their love for one other, and their mother earth is music itself; all of which is clear in the tightness of their sound. The best way to explain what I am trying to say is to watch ‘Diary of Always’ live at Wembley stadium (take a few breaths before you watch):
3.Creativity at its best, yet only the beginning.
Biffy’s first three studio albums (Blackened Sky, The Vertigo Bliss and Infinity Land) are what I consider an experimental work in progress, yet still something out of an alternative-punk rock n roll/post- hard-core fairy-tale. Upon listening to Blackened Sky and The Vertigo Bliss, one is able to already note a colourful blend of genres, with an array of hard-core experimental sounds to more experimental alternative punk-rock sounds. For the first three albums, it seemed as though the trio were conjuring up an assortment of genres within a cauldron of musicality, complexity, and beauty. The ingredients of this cauldron leave you with a taste of extreme anticipation and curiosity on your musical pallet; a kind of comforting anxiety, as if the spell that these three wizards have stunned you with have left you in a state of blissful confusion. The song ‘57’ from Blackened Sky gives you an insight into the direction that the band sought to embark on, upon moving to a more mainstream sound.
Many of their other songs on from Blackened Sky to Vertigo Bliss place a substantial amount of emphasis on a post-hardcore type sound, which was executed by means of a blend of screamo/melodic vocals, with an array of intricately-heavy guitar riffs and melodies. I think ‘57’ is a perfect example of a balance between their heavier and melodic material, because the three part vocal ensemble in the chorus paints a beautiful picture of power, growth, and relativity. The massive chord progression also shines light on the genius composition capabilities of the band. This creates an inspiration for all music lovers, allowing them to seethat there are no limits to the choices any musicians make within the confines of their genre, and that it is these choices that are the input driving the authenticity machine. Take a listen to ‘57’ to get an idea of what I’m talking about:
The best way to describe the ‘success rate’ of Biffy Clyro upon the release of their fourth studio album is to compare it to ‘technological singularity’. Technological singularity refers to a hypothetical point in time in which the evolutionary rate of artificial intelligence has the ability to change itself, not over a period of time; but instantaneously. This is the best way to describe the effect of the release of Puzzles in 2007. The songs on this album begin to carry a more mainstream application, yet still cling to their post hard-core/alternative punk roots. ‘Who’s Got a Match’, ‘A Whole Child Ago’, and ‘Love Has a Diameter’ eliminates the state of confusion the band leaves you in after the first three albums. With much more emphasis on a mainstream punk-rock, dance-friendly sound, the album puts the band in an advantageous position, which allowed for a seemingly radical jump from underground to mainstream.
It is with their 2009 release of fifth studio album, Only Revolutions, that the metaphor of technological singularity seems most appropriate to consider. With beautifully philosophical lyrics, phenomenal guitar riffs and rhythm, as well as solid grooves on the bass and drums; Only Revolutions is the embodiment of the technological singularity mentioned above. The album hit the nail on the head with a combination of dance, alternative rock n roll, punk, metal, and orchestral delicacies. Just listening to it gives you an idea of the urgency it has to impede gracefully on your senses, and its ability to change any prior perceptions regarding the band in an instant (believe me your perceptions will either go from negative to positive, or from positive to “Holy Shit”). I call this ‘mainstream singularity’. In my opinion, the song that captures it at its best on this album is ‘The Captain’ – it delivers a message of inclusiveness, group mentality and of a band successfully creating a connection of familiarity between themselves and their followers:
The limited edition compilation album which followed – Lonely Revolutions – takes the listener back to that pleasant space of experimental confusion they experienced with the first three albums. However, this time the creative writing process was undertaken with a much gentler approach; again creating a sense of anticipation, of what might be coming next. To say that what was to follow was unexpected would be the biggest understatement one could ever make. The sixth studio album, Opposites, can be described as the perfect experimental masterpiece, while still maintaining the highest mainstream status. The blend of genres the band has always utilised creates the perfect Venn diagram in your mind. It can be said that there is truly a song for every listener on this album; from indie-pop lovers to hard-rock fiends. The singles ‘Biblical’ and ‘Different People’ indicate exactly what I am referring to, so have a listen and I’m sure you’ll find it impossible not to love. This album truly encapsulates what I refer to as ‘mainstream singularity’- it won’t just change your perceptions of these musicians and their sound, but it will change YOU:
5.Dance, Head-bang, Mosh, Sing.
Participation is at its best with Biffy Clyro who will have you dancing, booty shaking, hip swaying, moshing, and singing along. They will have you begging for more, hounding the internet for their music, and have you falling in love at first sound. It would be extremely remiss of me to not mention that these guys are total Rock Stars, but not the kinds that seek to isolate the listener as ‘the listener’. Rather these gents inspire those connected to them to join in on the Rock Star fun and catchy sing alongs. They perpetuate a sense of traditionalism compelling the listener to participate in whatever way they seem fit, creating the perfect environment for a conscious connection between the musician and the listener. This connection cannot be said to be a barrier of contact, but rather a medium for the listener to be a clinical part of the creative process communicated through their live performances. Furthermore, it makes the listener extremely aware of the reflective processes that occur in their live performances, as the energy they radiate induces a state of frantic euphoria – a to and fro conversation moulding a connection inspiring a love which is truly transcendental. Whether you enjoy them or not, it would be a huge mistake to miss out on the opportunity to see them at RAMfest this weekend – they want to include YOU, so step up to the plate and allow them to.
Catch them on Friday (Joburg) and Saturday (Cape Town) at 23h00!