Review Summary: Simon Neil and co continue to grow despite personal sadness as they paint their strangest masterpiece yet.
Back in 2004 when this album was released, telling an everyday chap that you’re a fan of Biffy Clyro would have been greeted by a confused expression, the words you have just uttered not recognised. Say it again to a rock fan and they may well have headed for the hills, screaming in terror at the mere mention of the unpredictable and exhilarating three-headed monster’s name. To elaborate, back all that time ago Biffy Clyro, the most famous alternative rock trio to hail from Ayr, Scotland, were a relatively unnoticed band that had formed an impressive cult following throughout the UK from their eclectic blend of rock subgenres and intense live shows from their forever-touring nature. After upping their game on their sophomore effort, Biffy looked down the road that lay ahead from some of the more extravagant and experimental songs on ‘The Vertigo Of Bliss’ and after a quick nod to one another, skipped down it into stranger and slightly darker territory which would form the theme of their third studio album ‘Infinity Land’.
The album title, conjuring thoughts of some ideal psychedelic world is actually grabbed from a quote from notorious serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer speaking of his idea of heaven, which is in fact littered with corpses and other grim images. This could lead you to thinking that the event of listening to the seventy-two minutes of this record could push you over the edge with it’s imagery of death and suffering and onslaught of intolerable grinding noise, but that would be incredibly incorrect. In reality, what’s present on this disc are fourteen ever-changing tracks encompassing what has come before and expanding on Biffy’s musical horizons. This time around, the band were trusted with more studio time with returning producer Chris Sheldon and a higher budget than ever before, however the death of songwriter/singer/guitarist Simon Neil’s mother overshadowed the whole album process and left the band in an extraordinary and saddened state of mind that is reflected clearly in the vibe and lyrics of the many of tracks that make up this prestigious album.
You could be forgiven for questioning whether you picked up the music you intended upon first listen to the opening sixty seconds or so of weirdly dancey electronic beats that ‘Infinity Land’ chooses to greet you with. But soon enough drums enter the fold and the fond distinctive twangy sound of Simon Neil’s Fender Stratocaster patiently steps into the track with a series of interestingly timed notes high up the fret board. Then with little time to prepare, the song plunges into a heavy riff backed by bassist James Johnston which kick-starts the album with a bang. Similar to that feeling you get upon meeting someone for the first time and knowing you will be friends forever and more, one can establish a connection with first physical single ‘Glitter and Trauma’ fairly easily to provide immediate enjoyment. In many ways the song embodies everything that is Biffy Clyro and squashes it into one neat package as it contains within it many of the elements that make them such a unique and exciting band. Big unpredictable riffs – check. Anthemic chorus with lyrics you can’t quite fathom coming from out of nowhere – check. Complex song structure, odd time signatures and screamed vocals – check. This all within the space of five minutes is Biffy firing on all cylinders. An excellent opener that should leave any rock fan begging for more.
There is barely any time to catch one’s breath as the following tracks adopt the same formula including the genius fret board workout of the stop-starty ‘My Recovery Injection’ and the speedy, yelping gymnastics that make up ‘Strung To Your Ribcage’. ‘The Atrocity’ acts as the album’s first breather, where we find Neil proclaiming ‘I don’t wanna die, don’t expect me to die’ over minimal piano, however ‘Some Kind Of Wixard’ then picks up the sombre mood and steers the album back towards fun frenetic complex pop songs with it’s seemingly two-hundred and seventeen different sections. Elsewhere the transition of ‘Only One Word Comes To Mind’ provides another album highpoint as does ‘Wave Upon Wave Upon Wave’ with it’s alluring journey containing lush three-way harmonies before it kicks the listener off the bus full circle at the point where it began.
Biffy benefit from Chris Sheldon’s cleanest production yet on ‘Infinity Land’ which enable tracks like the a capella ‘There’s No Such Man As Crasp’ to sound like a twisted ancestor to The Beatles’ ‘Because’ and it’s serpent themed horror story counterpart ‘There’s No Such Thing as a Jaggy Snake’ to be as stomach-pummelling as intended. The latter song takes it’s rightful place among Biffy’s finest tracks and remains a live favourite with it’s constant use of slithering time changes, the heaviest riffage Neil and co have summoned to this day and some of drummer Ben Johnston’s most jaw-droppingly complicated work. Biffy also dabble with sounds new to the band’s repertoire as evidenced by the show stealing trumpet solo of ‘The Kids From Kibble and the Fist of Light’ before the song’s sing-along climax and the mind-blowing horn explosion of ‘The Weapons Are Concealed’ which can produce happily bewildered faces at twenty paces. One to make you spit out your beverage in appreciation of it’s unashamed over-the-topness. The record chooses to kiss you goodbye with the eerie warm-down of ‘Pause It and Turn It Up’ which can leave one rather underwhelmed as far as album closers go and unsure what to make of the past hour of music. However, if you have chosen to listen to this album before closing your eyes at night, you may just simultaneously wet the bed and cry uncontrollably at the unnerving sounds that will meet you after the twenty minutes of silence that follow the final track. I knew someone who did that, I didn’t of course. ‘Tradition Feed’ concludes matters with sounds of sinister feedback, tortured bagpipes and disturbing demons which provide the creepy backdrop on which Simon paints a poem dedicated to his late mother utilizing his signature cryptic lyrics that are present throughout the album.
Suddenly a better picture of the album is provided. You have just listened to possibly the strangest, quirkiest mainstream rock album of recent years. Give it time to appreciate though, and it could just become a best friend. ‘Infinity Land’ is undoubtedly a journey through the confused mind-set of Simon Neil at the time as he tried to balance the strengths of his band while dipping their big toes in the river of experimental possibility.