“We’re going for extremity at all costs,” Simon Neil of Biffy Clyro recently told NME of his long-awaited new venture, Empire State Bastard. “Even if it’s not brutality – it’s got to be extremely weird.”
This is coming from an artist who has spent his entire career pushing himself into the weirdest corners of rock, straddling the mainstream with arena-sized choruses while simultaneously taking the absolute piss with neck-breaking mathy arrangements. Neil has always darted from one extreme to another on a festival headline scale, so imagine the curiosity when he announced he’d be shaking off the shackles of the poppier elements of rock by launching a grindcore band with Biffy touring guitarist and former Oceansize frontman Mike Vennart.
Completed by the mighty Dave Lombardo of Slayer fame destroying the drums and the fierce Naomi Macleod from Bitch Falcon on bass, Empire State Bastard feel like the Avengers of merciless rock. From the off with the desert rock speedball of ‘Harvest’, ‘Rivers Of Heresy’ is the wild ride you’ve been waiting for. The pure metal punishment continues on the pummeling screamo of ‘Blusher’ before ‘Moi’ is a twisted tour to the doomy depths and back again as Neil promises: “Stick with me, we’ll get it figured out”.
You survive the machine gun assault of ‘Tired, Aye’, the pure kickdrum warfare of ‘Stutter’ and ‘Palms Of Hands’, and you realise that there’s no chance in hell of Matt Cardle covering one of these for the next ‘Music For Mums’ compilation. Well, unless the X Factor champ wants to take on the sludgy epic of ‘Sons And Daughters’, throwing the finger up to the man with its howl of “this isn’t the life that you sold us”. ‘Dusty’ meanwhile, strips things right down to the raw, primal essentials with Neil lost in a mantra of “everywhere, believe it, it’s inside yourself”.
“I’ll never grow old in a graveyard,” muses Neil on album highlight and closer ‘The Looming’, letting his usual sideways existentialism go for a ride courtesy of a sprawling stoner-meets-prog nightmare soundtrack. It captures the ambition and extremities that make this record such a romp. It’ll be too hard for most Biffy fans and not pure enough for many Slayer faithful, but it’s its own wonderfully weird wee beast. These are the sharper edges that Neil let out on Biffy’s earlier work, but elevated that the pure ultraviolence of Vennart’s songwriting and madcap riffery.
There are a few more left turns from Neil more on the way – namely the long-awaited third album from his wonky synth-pop outfit Marmaduke Duke and long-mooted “mong-aggedon done project” Tippie Toes. More like, busy Clyro – eh? Sorry. Like Tyler Durden in Fight Club, Neil seemingly can’t stop setting up new cult franchises – and ESB are a more than welcome weird addition to his arsenal.
- Release date: September 1
- Record label: Roadrunner Records