Castrovalva - Leeds University Student Union - Gigs - Reviews - Soundblab

Castrovalva - Leeds University Student Union

by Amy Putman Rating:9 Release Date:2013-03-23

When people imagine great musicians coming out on stage, they always imagine a level of incredible ego advancing before them like a visible glow. It's almost expected, and a lot of acts use that as a cloak to project greatness and win over audiences. Many of them need their strut to represent, son; to stand for them and act as a simultaneous wall between them and the scary staring eyes, and as an aqueduct for their music to flow across.

Castrovalva need no such artifice. They are good enough to be honest, and straightforward enough to be flush with greatness. Their talent is their ticket. Apart from that, they're just some dudes on a bit of the room that's higher than yours, dancing like they would to any music they love. It's fresh, it's better than most and, what's more, it really makes the audience rock out with them.

When Castrovalva come on stage they are remarkably unassuming and boyish for a band who have the potential to change what contemporary metal is. They get ready with a shy smile and share a laugh with each other and the nearby front row. As soon as they stand to play, however, you can tell they mean business. The humour and banter is still there, but an intensity is added - the visible evidence of the passion they pour into their craft. At the same time they avoid any awkward earnestness or desperate precision; their music is perfectly put together without any angst about the method or fear of performance.

Their set is immensely enjoyable, in part because they are clearly having fun. They don't just play expecting attention; they interact with the audience and bounce off each other, even using the gig as a platform for a brief couple of minutes of experimental jamming. Unlike introverted bands jamming live, which seems to turn quickly into a self-absorbed practice or ego-driven show of ability, Castrovalva seem to invite the crowd along to enjoy the unexpected twist like a journey you're all on together. It's not them and their audience divided sharply, it's one mass of people, some of whom happen to be using their vast talents to entertain. There are jokes, too.

What is evident is that they are simply awesome people. What is also obvious is that theirs is an extremely rare phenomenon - a band that is a genuine game-changer for the genre they work in. Castrovalva bring the kind of altered singing usually associated with dance music into a web of metal, with occasional electronic twirls for good measure.

From that description it could be something from the far side of industrial, but it is just about the opposite. It retains all the gritty filthiness of metal without any of the digital futurism or grimy splinters of industrial. This is metal through and through, they have simply woven an element which should be its antithesis right into its core so that you see it, but it doesn't change the whole, like a name through a stick of Blackpool rock.

Being metal, their performance included some typically metal behaviour: spitting on the crowds with a cheek-blown water spray and some surprisingly athletic apish dangling from beams and balancing on speakers. They swung from the rafters, kicked stuff, swore and slammed into each other. They leaned into the faces of the front row and loomed over the crowd on tiptoes at precarious angles, threatening a dive. All of it was glorious, each trope timed to perfection to whip up enthusiasm and rally humour in their favour, and all delivered slightly tongue-in-cheek, in on the joke of what was expected, or perhaps what they could get away with, revelling in the performance and encapsulating the subculture in a few concise moves like masters.

I would like to spend another few pages banging on and on about the intricacies of their music, but since this is a live review I will just mention that they are maestros and one of a handful of truly experimental, revolutionary metal bands around today. This is the future, people. In the flesh, they use the voice and the riffs, sure, but mainly it is their sense of rhythm which makes the experience. I don't mean just the drummer. I mean the way the band ebbs and flows as a cohesive unit, almost as one instrument, spinning things out and drawing back in; revving up and then dangling with a silence before diving back in; calming briefly to showcase a detail only to follow with a writhing body-shaker.

This is a proper fucking metal show without pretension. This is what all gigs should be; a real night out, less about stardom and fandom and more just humans revelling in some of the best sounds of their life.

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