[EXCEPTION TO THE RULE WARNING]
Quite recently, our old pal Islander asked us, “What’s in a name?” I found this pretty amusing, because I had actually planned on addressing this sort of subject in this review, albeit with a more limited scope. Specifically, I was going to address those rare instances where a band’s name is directly evocative of the music that they make. I don’t mean the sort of band names where it’s fairly easy to guess what sort of music they make, like how a band with a pluralized noun is probably a djent band, or a band with a Verb/Gerund The Noun name is probably metalcore/deathcore, or how a band with a name that doesn’t appear to be a real word is probably a black metal band.
No, as you might guess, I’m talking about a name like Diablo Swing Orchestra. I’ve been trying for a while to think of a band whose moniker is more perfectly suited to them, and I really haven’t found one. If for some reason you are unfamiliar with them, Diablo Swing Orchestra mix metal with a smorgasbord of orchestral music styles to create something that is truly unique. They have one of the most interesting back stories I’ve ever read, and while it may or may not be historically accurate, it certainly does a nice job setting the stage for their music. They live up to their name, sounding like the Glenn Miller Orchestra if they were doing a gig as Lucifer’s house band.
I’ve been following the band since I first happened upon their stunning debut, The Butcher’s Ballroom, where the mix of elements blew me away, not only because of the different styles, but also how smoothly they were mixed. DSO’s sophomore release, Sing-Along Songs For The Damned And Delirious, was certainly its predecessor’s equal, maintaining the same level of ferocious weirdness without running it into the ground. And now, we get Pandora’s Piñata, the DSO’s eagerly-awaited third album, and once again, these eclectic Swedes do not disappoint, delivering one of the year’s most creative releases thus far.
Musically, the band features the requisite guitar, bass, and drums, a male vocalist, a female vocalist (the incomparable Annlouice Loegdlund, whose soprano makes up most of the vocals), a cello, a trombone, a trumpet, and some infrequent keyboards. Throughout the course of Pandora’s Piñata, the Diablo Swing Orchestra cover a lot of ground, from swinging upbeat numbers like the album opener ‘Voodoo Mon Amour’ to slower classical moments like ‘Aurora’, through Latin rhythms like on ‘Guerilla Laments’ and funk like ‘Honey Trap Aftermath’. Throughout the album’s 53 minute runtime, the band utilize a seemingly bottomless bag of tricks to keep you on your toes, like the distorted chorus vocals of ‘Black Box Messiah’ or the absolutely stunning, completely unexpected electronic finale to the beautifully sinister album closer ‘Justice For Saint Mary’.
However, even with all of these musical twists, Diablo Swing Orchestra never lose sight of how to write a damn good song, something they share with the likes of UneXpecT, Sigh, and Pin-Up Went Down, three bands that they are probably most similar to. There’s a lot going on in these tunes, and yet the band never lose focus, which in the end is one of their greatest strengths. The balance on display here is incredible, both in terms of the album’s mix and the songwriting, with none of the individual aspects of the band threatening to overwhelm the others.
Diablo Swing Orchestra are not for everyone, obviously. They exist on the periphery of what can really be considered metal, and I imagine that there are plenty who would argue that they aren’t metal. To be honest, I don’t care what you call it, this is some of the most creative music you will hear this year. Whether it strikes a chord with you, well, that’s up to you.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Pandora’s Piñata will be released May 22 on Candlelight Records (UK/EU) and The Laser’s Edge/Sensory Records (USA/Can). You can locate DSO on Facebook via this link. The album art is quite amazing, with different graphics created for each song. To see it, use this link and this one. And here’s a video for the album’s first single, “Voodoo Mon Amour”: