Diablo Swing Orchestra - PacifisticuffsBack in ’12—when I was wearing an onion on my belt, as that was the fashion at the time—I encountered Diablo Swing Orchestra for the first time. These Swedish purveyors of the abstract and absurdly catchy had composed an album entitled Pandora’s Piñata that I downright lovedDSO went into hibernation after PP and resurfaced again with the news that their long-time vocalist AnnLouice Lögdlund was leaving the band. Lögdlund’s considerable lung capacity was replaced with Kristen Evegård, but unlike other band breakups when you lose a vocalist, DSO kept most of the rest of the band in place and produced a new album. 2017’s newest record is the wittily entitled Pacifisticuffs, which coming from Swedes is a great way of describing what appears to be the Swedish cultural state of nature.1

Pacifisticuffs gets started on weak footing with “Knucklehugs (Arm Yourself with Love),” a song that features a cringe-inducing “southern accent” and banjo, but improves. Similar to the band’s previous albums, Pacifisticuffs is a pastiche of different styles—ranging from bluegrass (“Knucklhugs” and “Porch of Perception”) to tango to ABBA-style schlager/disco (“Jigsaw Hustle”)—but the band manages to hold these things together with skill. DSO always manages to merge between styles with alacrity, demonstrating excellent musicianship and compositional flare. The record moves quickly, with 45 minutes pumping by, and no song passing the 5 minute mark. And it flows well—the dynamics of each song feed the next, making it an easy listen. They lead you by the hand through each mood and style, making it easy to follow and a roller coaster of feels and sounds.

Pacifisticuffs was recorded and mixed in Gothenburg at Top Floor and was delayed because of issues with the mix. I’m not entirely certain that it made it through to the other side of those issues. I was struck immediately by the fact that the recording is flat; almost claustrophobically brickwalled. After repeated listens, I’ve grown more accustomed to the sound, but it’s not good. This has the effect of undermining the dynamic nature of one of metal’s most interesting bands. As a octet, with 11 additional musicians, it is shocking that the majority of this record’s tracks are mastered to a bone crunching DR5. This matters, and it undermines some of the record’s charm.

But it’s tough to fuck up what Diablo Swing Orchestra does—I did just call them “one of metal’s most interesting bands” after all. Despite some initial reservations, I found what we all should have expected: Pacifisticuffs is witty, fun and well-written. And the album is not at all undermined by the other big change: the vocal stylings of Evegård. While she might be controversial for some die-hard fans, I think she offers a unique turn for the band. Her voice is small and sharp, more indie or jazzy than her predecessor. But while she’s not operatic, she doesn’t want for drama (see her performance on “Ode to the Innocent”)—instead drawing strongly on Kate Bush (“Interruption” quotes her directly). Bush’s influence gives Evegård a Tori Amos vibe, and when backed up by the band, it works well. The songs where she’s the center of attention are carried admirably.

The record also has a flow that holds everything together; moving from track-to-track like they’re part of a symphonic arrangement, rather than feeling like a ‘playlist’. All these elements combined—Evegård’s voice with the other 18 musicians involved—makes for a genuinely fun experience. While the not-quite-executed Americana and the production pull the album down compared to its predecessor, Pacifisticuffs is still a wild ride. “Superhero Jaggnath,” “Lady Clandestine Chainbreaker,” and “Interruption” are shining highlights, and despite initial hesitations I have just kept coming back. DSO is brilliant and idiosyncratic, and Pacifisticuffs just demonstrates that all again.


Rating: Very Good!
DR: 7 | Format Reviewed: 192 kb/s mp3
Label: Candlelight / Spinefarm
Website: facebook.com/diabloswingorchestra
Releases Worldwide: December 8, 2017

Show 1 footnote

  1. Remember, this is the culture where the guys from Nihilist all quit the band and reformed Entombed without Johnny Hedlund, because they didn’t want to risk confronting someone (it leads to dålig stämning).
  • VikingSchism

    Well, I guess it’s about time to rectify having never listened to DSO, seems like I might enjoy it

    • Norpal Nordickson

      It is absolutely crazy how they manage to mash together so many musical styles like complete lunatics, while still keeping the songs fluent and easy to listen to. They’re a blast, and this new album is probably my favourite from them.

      • VikingSchism

        I’ve got round to listening to some of their music, from Pandora’s Pinata, and I’m loving this so far, I’ll definitely need to give this new release a try at some point too

    • Nahuel Benvenuto

      listen to the first album, it is the most “avant garde” by them, after that they kinda became predictable with the formula, but fantastic music nevertheless

  • HeavyMetalHamster
    • Norpal Nordickson

      Look I understand you might not agree with AMG but that’s no reason to doxx him like that

    • Name’s Dalton

      Tht is some serious manmel toe.

      • FutureBeyondSatan

        That’s a moose knuckle

  • Siege Bantayan

    I just can’t get into her voice. Frankly speaking, she sounds like a chipmunk to me. The album as a whole is still classic DSO and when things get into the glorious chaos they are known for, it’s beautiful. But I can’t help but feel that they structured the album to fit her voice, which is more like a traditional jazz vocalist, and gave her the spotlight. But I quickly got tired of her schtick by her third solo track so basically what remained of the album on my playlist are the tracks where Daniel Håkansson is involved. And I am pissed that he doesn’t get a solo track of his own; ‘Justice for Saint Mary’ is one of my favorites off of Pandora’s Pinata.

    It is still a kick-ass album, don’t get me wrong. The instrumentation is still top-notch and overall this is more a jazz-with-metal album versus Pandora’s metal-with-jazz. However I am off-put by Evegård’s voice and I find it bland and annoying. In the next album maybe I’ll like it better.

    • Nukenado

      I suggest you finish the entire album. She changes styles eventually in the album, and even throws in some harsh vocals.

      • Brutalist_Receptacle

        NO.

    • PotaD0s

      The lack of a Daniel Håkansson feature track is one of the things I was most upset about on this album too. ‘Justice for Saint Mary’ is my favorite track off of PP.

      That said, I love this album. It’s grown on me like a damn fungus and I can’t stop listening to it.

      • He spends of the record doing impressions of famous swing vocalists, though. It’s one of the weaker parts of the album, IMO.

        • Siege Bantayan

          Karma Bonfire, though. When he started belting out in the beginning I was like ‘YEEEEEEEEEEEEEES!’. There was more energy in that song compared to the entire second-half of the album.

    • Kryopsis

      That’s a far more eloquent way of summarising what I felt than my own attempt at it. Evegård is an entity out of my secret nightmares, a gestalt construct of everything I hate about female vocalists, an anthropomorphic representation of the irrational, blind hatred I experience while listening to this album… It’s a shame because I used to love DSO.

    • Looks like I’m getting coal for Christmas… this album is a major step down in my mind.

      • Sharp-Blunt Boy

        I’m with you on this. I am a big fan of previous albums but I think they are suffering form ye olde law of diminishing returns. You can’t blame the singer, she is talented, as undoubtedly are the musicians. They just seem to have run their course on their song based genre smorgasbord. Nothing here gets me excited.

  • Planex

    Everytime I see the acronym DSO I think Deathspell Omega

    This is alright too i guess…

    • Nukenado

      Gotta have that capitalization.
      DsO vs. DSO.

  • Kryopsis

    I am surprised by this turn of events. After listening to Knucklehugs, I immediately gave up on the album as I felt it was a significant departure from a lot of things I liked about DSO. I will definitely give the rest of the album a try now.

    • Nukenado

      You never judge DSO by one track.
      It’s like judging Pandora’s Piñata by “Black Box Messiah” (the single).

      BTW, Knucklehugs is a grower.

      • Kryopsis

        I definitely see your point but the new vocalist’s nasal delivery makes me think of the ex-Mousketeers dominating the airwaves of my teenage years. Maybe I’m shallow, but I just can’t get past it. I went through Pacifisticuffs twice since posting my original comment and… no, I just can’t listen to this version of DSO.

        • Nukenado

          I really urge you to give it another go. Did you try the entire album? She switches between a lot of styles, including harsh vocals and some nice crooning.

          • Kryopsis

            I appreciate your enthusiasm for this album and, generally speaking, I have a lot of respect for your opinions. This time, let’s just agree to disagree. :)

          • Nukenado

            Yeah, I’ll back off.

            If you’re feeling dissapointed though I’ll stick you a recommendation for IDIO+SYNCRASIES by Troldhaugen, Astroschwein by Porky Vagina, and an old album, The Last Note In God’s Magnum Opus by Schizoid Lloyd. All have the “fun” vibe of DSO albeit not sounding the same.

          • Strapping Old Fart

            You might enjoy Cardiacs. Kiss the big ugly shark!

          • Nukenado

            I already enjoy Cardiacs :)

          • Strapping Old Fart

            All is well then!

          • Upvote for IDIO+SYNCRASIES!

            The perfect album to while away the months before another Nekrogoblikon release ;-)

      • TheKenWord2017

        I agree. Weirdly enough Knucklehugs is slowly becoming one of my favorite tracks on this album. But I can’t put this album down no matter how hard I try.

        • Nukenado

          The punky parts are really good. It’s an excellent instrumental track.

          • TheKenWord2017

            I agree. And I lied. I was only able to put this down to switch to Great Olden Dynasty, and then back again. Both are just fantastic to me. Lol

  • Brutalist_Receptacle

    DiablNo.

    • Nukenado

      NO.

      • Slimylimey

        Afraid I am going to have to side with our Barbarian_Vessel friend on this one.

        • Nukenado

          NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOHHHHH

  • Diablo Swing Orchestra came about during my nine year absence from staying current with music. I quite enjoy the embedded track and will definitely be checking out more from them. I think I’ll start with an earlier album, what would be the best starting point? Any opinions?

    • POWERLEMUR

      Pandoras Pinata or Sing Along Songs for the Damned and Dangerous. I’d lean to the latter, but it was my first exposure to them, so there may be some bias. It’s not like they have a huge discography, so it shouldn’t be too daunting a task.

      • Thank you, I will look into them. Funds are always limited so I wanted to make a wise decision!

        • POWERLEMUR

          Totally understand. I’m a Spotify fiend (need it to fuel my long runs) so can tend to forget the traditional model. I haven’t listened to either lately, but IIRC, Sing Along is jazzier and Pinata incorporates a wider range of other styles.

        • [not a Dr]

          The first 3 albums are available on bandcamp.
          Free to stream, so you can decide which one to buy first.

      • Nukenado

        *Delirious
        Sorry.

        • POWERLEMUR

          Grr, Spotify. Knew it sounded wrong.

          • I knew what you meant, no worries!

            I need to sell a kidney or maybe my house so I can afford to buy music. I don’t pirate music and like owning the disc and booklet.

        • Delirious?

        • Eddie Murphy?

          • Nukenado

            What?

          • Delirious is an Eddie Murphy stand up special from before you or I were born.

          • Nukenado

            Oh…

    • Nukenado

      Sing-Along Songs and the debut. Pandora’s Piñata is the most consistent but a bit less intense than I would have liked.

  • Huck N’ Roll

    I prefer this singer to the previous one, and wish they had some actual guitar instead of fiddle on the album. Other than that it’s good.

  • Kronos

    Definitely a less “metal” album than Pandora’s Piñata, and I prefer that one, but man, Evegard is one hell of a vocal talent. I definitely agree that the album seems structured around her style, and I guess when you have a vocalist that’s this charismatic that’s a good direction to go in.

    • Nukenado

      Her vocal style changes on Superhero Jugganath are unreal.

    • Huck N’ Roll

      Absolutely.

  • DrChocolate

    DBO’s talents are just magnified by the switch from Lögdlund to Evegård. Losing a voice and a vocal personality like Lögdlund would be catastrophic for most bands (e.g. Nightwish still hasn’t recovered). With barely a hiccup though, DBO picked up where they left off – Evegård has a much more cabaret, jazz style (like AMG said) and the band incorporate it with ease.

    I just love this band. Flat-out love them. They’re one of the most original acts, not just in metal, but music in general. …the production does hamper this release a bit though.

    • Nukenado

      Nah, Floor is more than a suitable replacement for Tarja. Tuomas’ songwriting just broke down like (and alongside) the last track on Imaginaerum.

      • Kryopsis

        Yeah, that’s more or less what I thought as well. I always loved Floor, incidentally.

        • Nukenado

          Mmm hmm.
          Her voice on ReVamp albums are crazy.

          • Kryopsis

            After Forever’s cover of “The Evil that Men Do” is one of my favourite covers in Metal (along with TYR’s cover of “Cemetery Gates”).

          • Nukenado

            Oh yeah. Her voice fits that song so well.

          • GardensTale

            In before Strapping Young Lad “Room 429”

          • Nukenado

            Went over my head.
            Care to enlighten me a bit?

          • GardensTale

            Best metal cover ever. That’s all.

          • Nukenado

            Wait, that’s a cover?

        • HeavyMetalHamster

          Yep ….going Dutch is always an upgrade in my books.

      • Nahuel Benvenuto

        Imaginaerum was a good album, but yes the last song must be the weakest track, Endless Forms… was just bad, a rehash of stuff they already did

        • Nukenado

          Oh, I do like Imaginaerum. The last track is unlistenable for me though.

      • Lithophyte

        Floor is great. Saw them live at the Palace before it was illegally demolished (sob!).

        And my dream gig has always been DSO and DT on the same bill for an excellent evening’s musical mastery and silliness. Final encore, both bands doing Bad Devil!

        • Nukenado

          DSO and DT… Drool.
          They would be an amazing tag team. Emotional but fun music.

      • Aguy

        Floor’s a fine singer and all, but when Nightwish lost the operatic vocals, they lost some of their bombast and uniqueness. We used to be able to accuse lesser symphonic metal bands of imitating Nightwish poorly, but now even Nightwish sounds like an imitator because they sound like all those other bands.

        Then again, I think Tuomas used up whatever talent he had writing Dark Passion Play, or maybe they’ve just been making the same kind of music for too long. Imaginaerum and Endless Forms Most Beautiful give me that “this is nice, but I’ve heard it all before” feeling.

    • I think Nightwish has been better with Anette and Floor. Tarja isn’t really that great a classical vocalist, which is a shame, since that’s the style she keeps shooting for.

      They’ve got some really good live renditions of old Tarja songs with Floor too. Check out the Wacken 2013 version of Ghost Love Score for proof that Tarja has been dethroned. (I’m being a bit cheeky here. Of course it’s a matter of taste, but to my ears, for what it’s worth, Tarja is actually kind of weak. This comes from someone who listens to a wee bit of actual classical vocal music on occasion).

      And uh… what am I missing here? “DBO” Diablo Bingo Orchestra? Shouldn’t it be DSO, or are you talking about another band?

    • Norpal Nordickson

      Anyone who thinks Nightwish “hasn’t recovered” or whatever, I challenge to watch their latest live DVD Vehicle of Spirit and then repeat that statement with a straight face. Especially the outdoor gig on the second disc is just a staggeringly good performance.

  • Ferrous Beuller

    What the fuck? Is this an AMG piece that actually fits the recommended paragraph/word count template?

    Poser.

  • Yolo Swaggins

    “…and no song passing the 5 minute mark.” The embedded track is 5:43.

    • Nukenado

      Interruption is also over 5 minutes. AMG need to get his data right!

      • buroggu

        I think that to pass “the 5 minute mark” means 6 minutes. You look at the length of every track and the biggest number you see ON THE LEFT is 5.

        • Nukenado

          Oh…

  • Embedded track is the first I’ve heard from DSO. First impression, Queen meets Gogol Bordello.

  • Nukenado

    Funnily enough, I think Interruptions is the weakest track, and I love Climbing the Eyewall which sounds like a 007 theme.
    This is a fantastic grower of an album. Needs time adjusting to for old fans, but it will wrap you around in time.

    • Igor Alencar

      Funnily enough, I think Interruption is one of the strongest tracks!! To me, the final riff and the whole rhythm section at end are one the heavyest things I´ve heard this year in any metal album.

      Just brilliant! But this is one of the great things about DSO albuns in general, they are all so diverse that they hit different spots in different people.

      • Nukenado

        Indeed. Their diversity really is one of their strong suits.

    • Nate Sweet

      Since you seem to be utterly in love with this band have you checked out Thank You Scientist? They do jazz-metal in a more pop-oriented approach but the music is still very exceptional. I recommend their album Stranger Heads Prevail and specifically the songs “Mr Invisible” “Caverns” and “Rube Goldberg Variations”

      • Nukenado

        Hah, Diablo Swing Orchestra used to be my favorite band period.
        Thanks for the recommendation, I’ll look into them.

  • PotaD0s

    Finally! I had just given up hope that we would see a review for this one. I shoulda known it was with the man himself.

  • Vic279

    Does anyone know the equivalent of AMG for rock and jazz reviews?

  • Thatguy

    Wot a blooming’ knees up!

    In Thatguy talk that means this is egregiously fucking horrible.

    • Nukenado

      Bah, you old man!
      I tried out Winter from Fen yesterday.
      Got bored. Should I start with Carrion Skies?

      • Thatguy

        Winter perhaps not the easiest way in. Try Dustwalker.

        I respect your love of DSO – I just cannot share it.

        • Nukenado

          It was all in jest. This probably isn’t your type of music.
          I’ll try that, thanks.

          • Thatguy

            All good, and it’s OK if you don’t like Fen – but it will make you unworthy.

          • Nukenado

            It’s just that they should be a band I adore by theory so I wanna take some more shots.

    • It’s nice seeing you branch out and hate things I didn’t review.

      • Nukenado
        • Thatguy

          I must be an old bastard. I don’t get this.

          • Nukenado

            It’s Kobe beef.
            Thus, nice beef.
            I have a horrible sense of humor so you’re alright.

          • Thatguy

            Nice beef…OK.

            I don’t feel bad about missing it now.

          • HeavyMetalHamster

            I thought I was the king of obscure humour on here…..want your beer back?

          • Nukenado

            Yes please.

          • Carlos Marrickvillian

            I still don’t get it…

          • But it sure looks delicious!

          • Aguy

            Is it just me, or does the marbling spell out the logo for an obscure black metal band?

          • [not a Dr]

            It actually spells “Nïcë Bëëf”.

          • Nukenado

            Nice grudge they’ve got there.

          • Carlos Marrickvillian

            Ah I get it sorry…Now thats embarrassing!
            Steel Druhm can you please delete all evidence of this embarrassing exchange!

      • Thatguy

        I want everyone to equally feel the hate.

        • sir_c

          Feeling a bit tense, so close to Christmas eh?

  • GardensTale

    The second half drops in quality a bit, but I agree with the score, and I like the new singer. Superhero Jagganath is a riot!

  • Solrac Avan

    December Sucks nOt

  • Jim Bob

    I like this, but I wouldn’t call it their best work. I’d say it’s better than Butcher’s Ballroom but worse than Sing Along Songs. Not a bad thing considering I haven’t found any of the albums to be bad.

  • Mollusc

    I bought PP, and whilst I liked it I found that DT did the metal with swing feel and jazz-y instrumentation better (and heavier) with the song Bad Devil. They have nice album art, though.

    • GardensTale

      Apples and pears, imo, but Bad Devil really is a bloody amazing song!

      • Mollusc

        Agreed! I want to like DSO, but I find them good but annoying, rather than annoyingly good.

    • I was just thinking the other day that, as much as I love DSO, I feel like they turned Bad Devil into an entire band…

  • Nate Sweet

    Lots of praise for the album but also what sweet cover! Not quite as good as PP but gives me the same happy feeling in some strange childish way.

    Also triangles. Triangles will be the new spheres. Mark my words metalheads.

    • Carlos Marrickvillian

      First to call it!

    • I disagree, I think pyramids will be the next spheres.

    • GrumpLumpusCrumpus

      THEY ALREADY ARE

  • Shrümpelstiltskin

    I’m psyched AMG reviewed this. DSO is amazing. I don’t like the new record as much as PP, but it’s still great nevertheless. I wasn’t on board with the singer switch at first, but after some time I definitely approve. The new girl has a more versatile voice that I think could take the band to some exciting new places. Can’t wait to see what DSO does next.

  • Wilhelm

    That song was bad, not bad as in good but downright awful.

  • AgonMcDuck

    I don’t understand the hate for “Knucklehugs.” Or I guess I do, I just don’t agree. It was the track that gave me hope for this record after “Jigsaw Hustle” almost extinguished it. It’s just such a fun song.

    All in all, this is a very good record, and is making a run for my year-end list. It shocked me how good this record actually is considering Annlouice’s departure. Should have known better than to doubt this band. It is a step down from Pandora’s Pinata (the middle section drags a little imho) but “Superhero Jagganath” and “The Age of Vulture Culture” are so good. And Pandora’s Pinata is unfuckwithable anyway.

    • Wontolla

      Vulture Culture is a seriously good song, but the most conventional one stylistically. A safe bet that would have made a good lead-off single.

    • I don’t hate Knucklehugs, but it certainly put me off kilter when I first heard it. Considering how different it is to the rest of the album, it was a strange single to choose…

  • Matthew Christensen

    Just can not get into this new female singer, way too close to pop music for my liking.

  • Dethjesta

    Great review AMG, as always. I felt let down a little but this album. I know they weren’t going to be able to replace Annlouice and I like Kristin vocal style so that in itself isn’t a problem for me.

    I do feel the album is less heavy than PP and this is a disappointment. There seems to be less focus on blending metal with their swing and other misc styles; the styles seem more separated.

    I still like the album but feel tricks were missed.

  • Willem Stander

    DSO beats out Archspire, Leprous and The Black Dahlia for my favorite album of the year, by a country-swinging f**king mile. 5/5.

  • The Unicorn

    Reminds me somewhat of Kontrust, but not as good.

  • Nahuel Benvenuto

    +1 for Simpsons reference

    Pretty good album, i doubt they are ever gonna get to the level of the first one but whatever, is still one of the best and most original bands out there, thought it has a lot of unpredictability, the new singer gives the band a different sound, but is pretty good

  • sir_c

    People who dig this must also give a listen to a French band called öOoOoOoOoOo, which is chenille (caterpillar). They have a bandcamp page ooochenilleooo and all I can say it is fucking brilliant.

  • Kilazur

    I’m a new listener of DSO and just discovered them with Pacifisticuffs, and even though I don’t like everything on this album, it’s a huge novelty of a band. I must have listened to Superhero Jagganath a hundred times in the past week. It’s absurdly epic, catchy and fun.

  • Aguy

    This was a mixed bag for me on first listen – some tracks I really liked, others were distinctly meh. Overall I’m missing the heaviness from earlier albums. Worth it for the good tracks, I guess, but also disappointing.

  • Javier McDrifter

    The new singer has a great voice. Despite of some quite good songs, overall i think this is DSO’s weakest effort to date, but there is enough talent to set proper course again

  • [not a Dr]

    Reviewed at last!
    Also, nice to see a guest appearance by Angry Metal Guy himself on the blog that has a suspiciously identical name.
    However, I must ask: why no Monuments I-The Anxious of Dreamgrave?

  • Very ambitious, just not very good. Sounds like music to a lost Monty Python movie. Vocals are especially obnoxious.

  • Simbod

    What annoys me most about the album is, that they totally just copied their fantastic ideas of Pandora’s Pinata, but in every case inferior to the “original source”. Like c’mon, “The Age of Vulture” has exactly the same beat and structure of “Guerilla Laments”, but isn’t as catchy, “Superhero Jaggernath” features the marching drumming of “Of Kali Ma Calibre”, “Ode to the Innocent” is like the “Aurora” of “Pacifisticuffs”, “Knucklehugs” is their goofy fun song that was “Black Box Messiah” on PP. Not even their boogie metal track, which has so far always been a guaranteed hit on every of the previous albums, really works for me this time.
    There are a few moments, where they really do something new and really wrote the music for the vocals of their new singer, like in “Lady Clandestine Chainbreaker”, but most of the time her vocal performance just makes me miss the old singer. It’s not that Evegård is bad, her versatility is actually quite impressing. But the operatic vocals made DSO really special, while the new, more poppy and jazzy singing style just doesn’t give this amazing contrast to the male vocals. And sorry, but her performance on “Interruption” is downright annoying (“oooh waahaaooo”… ugh..).
    To me, Pacifisticuffs is their weakest album so far. I love their debut and PP, I also really enjoy the slightly weaker “Sing Along Songs for the Damned & Delirious”. But “Pacifisticuffs” is just okay to me. I waited so long for this album, so I am pretty disappointed… :/