You’re Not In Hell, You’re In Purgatory My Friend
“Irk the purists / It’s a right good laugh.” So sang the great Half Man Half Biscuit. The bass-heavy shoutiness of Leeds trio Castrovalva makes them a difficult proposition for some of your most elitist friends. Good. Brash, and with all the subtlety of an asteroid collision, they remain unconcerned with boring concepts like understatement and 'cool'. They ingest everything that takes their fancy with the wide-eyed innocence of an ADHD child in Hariboworld, and vomit it out in a fountain of technicolour guts and glory. Having said that, 'You're not in hell, you're in purgatory my friend' is something of a transitional album. The modus operandi of previous release 'We Are a Unit' was to break heads and keep stomping on them, rife with grimy bass and scattershot rhymes; there's plenty of that here too, but there are signs a of more refined future for the band, and there is a palpable sense of them working through growing pains in some tracks.
Those familiar with the 'valva's activity will recognise the cuts 'In Our Prime' and 'Donut'. They burst out of the traps like a delinquent Lightning Bolt, occasionally dipping a wet finger into heavy dubstep and grime. All the while, Frontman Leemun finds a multitude of ways to tell everyone in the world to get right to fuck. A versatile mouthpiece for the band's attack, he's a high-register hoarse whisperer, a Yorkshire rhyme spitter, a hardcore screamer and a Cedric Bixler-Zavala falsetto all in one.
They share a certain dayglo eclecticism with the likes of Test Icicles and even Klaxons; bands with the capacity to repel as many people as they attract. What sets Castrovalva apart is a consistently heavy rhythm section, lending even their most frivolous moments a hard-edged physicality. Indeed, 'I Am The Golden Widow' is a title that wouldn't be out of place on 'Myths of the Near Future' (All my cool friends pretend that album's fucking dreadful. It's great, as these trver-than-thou cunts know full well). The acapella 'Mr Sandman' space-scat harmonies that introduce this song are a great little interlude on the album; The Pollock splatter-pop of the song itself is actually not much cop. 'Dining with the Pope', however, is a belter; The Mars Volta filtered through the urban North, snaking along with a clutch of murderous basslines. It's the band at their most intense and serious.
'Senorita' and 'The Blood of an Englishman (fe fi fo fum)': we're not in a slow food town here, futhermuckers. Stuff a Valvaburger down your neck a fast as you can, get a headrush off the pink slime and get out the door before your left ventricle explodes. Something loud and dirty happens in these more throwaway tracks; I can't recall exactly what. 'She tastes like medicine' rides on some impressive electronic ripples and throbs and comes off like the post-hardcore Bros. Commendable.
'The Cavalry' and 'A Vulture's Eyes' point more confidently towards the future. The former is a syncopated battlecry, Leemun declaring “We are the ones that even lions are afraid of!”, before suddenly erupting in a surge of war adrenalin and interplanetary synths. Parting shot 'A Vulture's Eyes' captures a more solemn mood which they've rarely touched upon to date. Initially accompanied only by muted bass tones and icy echo, the vocals evoke delusion, paranoia and solitude: “A chain of lust your vulture eyes / I feel them watching me while I'm on the desert” (that's my transcription of it, anyway). Then it all kicks off Frances The Mute-style.
Sonically, 'You’re Not In Hell, You’re In Purgatory My Friend' is a more interesting album than 'We Are A Unit'. The flipside is that it doesn't have that fist-clenching, relentless bludgeon; it's a tentative 'twist' rather than stoical 'stick'. However, even when exploring new sounds, they remain fresh and don't ponderously drag things out. There are moments when the 'everyone louder than everyone else' approach grates, but damn, I'm sure even the band themselves would accept that, and I think your life would be much duller for not having heard this. And please get Castrovalva on Later...with Jools Holland; they will, to use the accepted vernacular, tear shit up in there.
Posted: Wed 3 October 2012