Best Friends They Come And Go...

Twelve seconds. It takes a whole twelve seconds from the commencement of this album before I realise that Castrovalva are utterly, utterly nuts. Now that's been established, I'm hoping for an exciting, mind-bending ride.

Combining elements of noise rock, hip-hop, and pretty much anything else the band feel like adding into a song, You're Not In Hell, You're In Purgatory My Friend is an altogether less frenzied affair than 2010's We Are a Unit, at least in places. But it's a definite step forward for the band nonetheless with, dare I say it, a more mature approach to songwriting. Fear not, Castrovalva are still completely bonkers, possibly even more so now than ever before, but in 2012 they're starting to sound like a force to be reckoned with, rather than your average shouty three-piece with some interesting ideas and a lyric book filled with hip-hop rhymes and playground satire.

There's still shouting aplenty and a healthy dose of wailing and high-pitched singing; opener Best Friends comes across like a perverse, nightmarish hallucination involving the Scissor Sisters. In fact, delivered a cappella, You're Not In Hell... would probably sound like somebody had recorded the day's goings-on at the local nut house. Yet read between the lines, and some semblance of structure begins to appear, which in itself is quite an unsettling discovery.

There are no lead or rhythm guitars in sight once again, but the fuzzed-up-to-the-max bass guitar and sharp drumming are more than enough to maintain aggression levels. I Am The Golden Widow swirls around barbershop vocal harmonies, interlaced amongst razor sharp noise rock and a fantastically catchy chorus, while Dining With The Pope washes over like one of Mike Patton's more interesting side projects.

Frontman Leemun Smith's lyrics are distinctly British, and whether tongue-in-cheek or not it's difficult to hold back a wry smile. The brilliant Donut is one of these moments; it doesn't mess around at two-and-a-half minutes either, delivering Castrovalva's deliciously maniacal and distorted grime-infused noise rock with loveable precision. In Our Prime and Senorita are highlights amongst this sometimes-unfathomable mash of musical styles and beats, the vocals bouncing anywhere between Melt Banana's high-pitched schoolgirl chirping and Daryl Palumbo-esque crooning amidst the pounding drum beats and electro madness.

Things begin to trail off a tad towards the end, with The Cavalry and The Blood of An Englishman not holding my attention quite as much as the rest of the album, but it's a small blip on a mightily fine radar. Closer Vulture Eyes ups the game again with its sleaze-ridden electro fuzz-fest that sounds like the outcome of an experiment involving Prince and Muse locked in a room with a shit load of drugs.

The album clocks in at under half an hour, but that's more than enough time for the Leeds lunatics to grab you by the proverbials and weird you out into oblivion, all the while making you dance like an epileptic orang-utan. You're Not In Hell, You're In Purgatory My Friend is a surreal experience and one that may not appeal on first listen, but the reward for giving Castrovalva a chance is exactly what I'd hoped for; an exciting and mind-bending ride that you'll want to repeat over and over. Don't let them get inside your head though; when insanity has this many hooks it's hard to let go, and they're sure as hell not going to.