[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”:
This is probably my favorite album of the year so far. I absolutely love it to death.
Also, is it just me, or do you hear somewhat of a Muse vibe on some songs where the male vocalist sings? Cause “Mass Rupture” sounds very Muse-y to me.
I actually do hear that now that you mention it. Interesting.
Sweet! That opening song is just as danceable as the ones on the other two albums. Can’t wait to hear the rest of the album.
Unfortunately, one probably does have to wait. Oh well. Sigh and Zu will do nicely until then. One shall also check out Pin-Up Went Down sometime soon.
PUWD are definitely different, and not for the faint of heart, but I think you can handle them just fine. Asphodel is the female equivalent of Mike Patton. Seriously. One of the most versatile, creative female vocalists I have ever heard.
Now I feel like putting on a zoot suit, getting drunk, and pissing in a bowler hat. Aces!
That reminds me… I need to buy a bowler hat.
This is fucking rad, thank you grover!
Not a problem. I highly recommend all three of their albums.
Dude . . . this is almost exactly the same review I wrote (it will be posted tomorrow).
Haha… great minds think alike, and apparently so do we.
Their name is so perfect, even I can see it.
How does this album compare with the last few? I remember their other material being “out there” but this sounds more whimsical and “jazz loungey”.
It actually compares very well to their other albums. With a band this experimental, I wouldn’t say that it sounds like the other albums, but if you like the others chances are you’ll dig this one too.
This song also reminds me of a Pixar movie and old school Sega game 🙂
Okay, drank the Kool Aid, gave the album 2 full spins and I enjoy it 🙂