If the hyperbole surrounding the release of Biffy Clyro's long-awaited new record is to be believed, this is the one to send the Scottish trio stratospheric.
If the hyperbole surrounding the release of Biffy Clyro's long-awaited new record is to be believed, this is the one to send the Scottish trio stratospheric. And while it's easy to get excited at the prospect of one of the UK's most respected and inventive underground rock bands becoming superstars within an all too stolid mainstream scene, for Biffy Clyro success has never been about stardom. It's about providing the kind of quality music that has already bound them to an intensely devoted fan base and that now, after three albums' worth of growth and experience, stands a very good chance of connecting them to a truly massive audience.
'Puzzle' is the band's most cohesive and accessible record to date but it is also their most ambitious. The colossal opener 'Living Is A Problem Because Everything Dies', for example, lurches from epically arranged orchestration to dramatically layered operatic vocals before diving headlong into adrenaline-fuelled rock territory. It is a towering statement of intent that hardly lets up through its five-minute entirety, and one that shows that they are on an absolute mission to raise the stakes.
In the past Biffy have been happy to bury their keen sense of melody in skewered and angular experimentation, but on 'Puzzle' they rein things in, showcasing a fresh, streamlined approach to songwriting with the use of more straight-up structures and shorter songs, thus affording total freedom to the tightly packed melodic content and allowing the likes of 'The Conversation Is...', 'As Dust Dances', 'A Whole Child Ago' and recent Top 15 hit 'Saturday Superhouse' full room to soar.
But that's not to say they've lost their edge; far from it. The hammering riffage of 'Semi-Mental', the sideways time signature of 'Get Fucked Stud', the eeriness of '9/15ths' and the almost Egyptian-like guitar riff that weaves its way around 'Who's Got A Match?' are all classic traits that only add to the overall sense of the breadth and depth of ambition on this record.
Lyrically, the themes are clear: "Everywhere I look someone dies, wonder when it's my turn?" implores frontman Simon Neil on 'Living Is a Problem...', the cry of a man clearly dealing with issues of mortality following the loss of his mother â€“ a theme that dominates the lyrical content of 'Puzzle', but not altogether negatively. The lilting album closer,
'Machines', for example, is a positive mantra for picking up the pieces, while the record's standout track, the stunning 'Folding Stars', gives Simon the opportunity to provide an emotionally overpowering tribute to his mother: "Eleanor, I would do anything for another minute with you," he sings. "I hope that you're folding stars."
Masterfully produced by Garth Richardson and expertly mixed by Andy Wallace, this is a big-time record in so many ways and one that finally gives UK rock an album to rival the importance of 'Nevermind' or 'Relationship Of Command'. And if those are heady comparisons, it's only because through 13 tracks of sky-high inspiration, Biffy Clyro have lifted themselves into that sort of league.