On the back of 10 years of extensive touring and two consecutive U.K. platinum albums, Biffy Clyro has managed to reach a point of near-ubiquity on the eastern side of the Atlantic. The trio of Simon Neil and brothers James and Ben Johnston has chosen to follow the success of 2009’s Only Revolutions by embracing that most audacious of genre conventions, the double album, with Opposites. Contrary to what might be expected from an album with halves entitled “The Land at the End of Our Toes” and “The Sand at the Core of Our Bones,” however, Opposites isn’t a sprawling, ambitious work of flawed genius in the mold of, say, the Flaming Lips’ Embryonic. Rather, it’s a surprisingly measured, consistent album that, while excessively lengthy, is still eminently listenable. Indeed, Scotland’s premier arena rockers should be applauded first and foremost for producing a colossal, 78-minute opus that contains very few weak points.
Yet despite this unerring competence, a lack of variation beyond the verse-chorus-solo template contributes to the sense that this is a band playing very much within their limits. The very notion of a double-disc concept album implies a certain bold grandiosity and a level of experimentation that’s completely absent on Opposites. Aside from its raw bulk, the album demonstrates little of the novelty or prog-weirdness Biffy Clyro was known for in the first half of the last decade. It’s instead a further refinement of the anthemic, radio-friendly rock the band has sought to perfect since the release of 2007’s Puzzle, and while this in itself isn’t a bad thing, one could be forgiven for wanting a little more variety in the 20 riff-heavy tracks on display here.
When Opposites does hit its mark, it manages to transcend these limitations with a combination of sheer intensity and the band’s canny ability to produce a sublime, sing-along chorus. The title track is a magnificent, swelling ballad in this vein, and sees Neil employ a softer, more lilting delivery; the mariachi-inflected “Spanish Radio” offers a refreshingly buoyant digression during its second half; and closer “Picture a Knife Fight” provides a suitably ardent, cathartic conclusion to the whole exhaustive package. Opposites is ultimately a surprisingly immediate and rewarding listen, compensating in consistency for what it lacks in depth.