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Album Review: Castles- Truth or Fiction?

See what we thought of Castles’ latest album Truth or Fiction? here!

Band: Castles
Release: Fiction or Truth?
Release Date: Out Now

If asked to find an emerging rock band who belt out furious guitar riffs and ruthless vocals, Belgium probably wouldn’t be your first port of call. However, Castles might just put Belgium on the rock ‘n’ roll map with album ‘Fiction or Truth?’.

When people talk about ‘noise rock’, it’s often dismissed as unintelligible, off-beat and… well, noisy! Perhaps you could say that about Castles, particularly when you hear ‘Fiction or Truth?’s rumbling opener ‘Palm Reader’, but take a minute to remind yourself that grunge icons Nirvana were once faced with the same criticism, and it never stopped them. Although the vocals are similar to Kurt Cobain, the raw aggression with which they tackle track ‘Bask in the Slimelight’ isn’t worlds away from Corey Taylor’s volatile Slipknot alter-ego. ‘We Are Fascinated’ sees Castles ramp up the volume even more as they move into hardcore punk territory; however, the track lacks the guts to back it up, unfortunately leaving a bland taste in the mouth. ‘Followed By 100 Rats’ heads down a similar route, but speed and volume alone aren’t enough to make a song special.

It’s not all noise with Castles. Take ‘Long Distance Runner’, for example- punk riffs and angsty one-liners are all over the place, but there’s a touch of melody too that cuts through the tone of destruction and gives the album some soul. This isn’t a one off; title track ‘Fiction or Truth’ slows the pace, making way for tune and harmony. Tracks such as this show that Castles aren’t just three guys throwing instruments together and making fast and thoughtless rock music. These songs are precise and planned, perfect for people who might not quite ‘get’ straight-up noise rock. However, you can’t win them all. ‘Boneshaker’ takes on a hard rock edge, but tries to combine it with gentle guitar strums. An angry male voice shouting over delicate finger-picking unfortunately tends to hit the ear wrong and makes for some awkward listening. Luckily, though, those moments are few and far between. Other tracks, such as ‘The Great Rot’, use catchier elements to lighten the feel of the song without losing any of that harsh noise rock sound.

Untame’ is the signature song of ‘Truth or Fiction?’. It opens up with gritty garage rock before diving headfirst into guitar riffs so uncontrollable they are almost impossible to keep track of. The instrumental intro gives the rest of the band a chance to show off their musical skills, so critics can no longer dub Castles as being ‘just noise’. The vocals then fire up a loud, boisterous tribal chant, with the experimental structure of the song following this stop-start pattern. Everything about ‘Untame’ keeps the listener on their toes, which is exactly what a band noise rock band like Castles should aim to do.

There is definitely more to Castles that just wild blasts of guitar, thrashing drum beats and growling vocals, as ‘Fiction or Truth?’ has proved with delicate melodies and calculated song structure. Castles do have a gentle side, sure, but they’re in no way meant for the faint hearted.


Reviewer: Sam Lawrie

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