Diablo Swing Orchestra // Pandora’s Piñata
Rating: 5.0/5.0 — Mixing the meathead with the egghead. Also opera. Mandatory purchase.
Label: Candlelight Records
Websites: diabloswingorchestra.com
Release Dates: EU: 2012.05.14 | US: 05.22.2012

Diablo Swing Orchestra - Pandora's PiñataStockholm’s Diablo Swing Orchestra was one of those rare records that seriously took this Angry Metal Guy by surprise. One should emphasize from time to time just how much metal we get to review and how often it is simply easy to say: “Meh, I’ve heard this before.” This job is filled with highlights, for sure, every once in a while one gets a The 11th Hour or Sigh or Orphaned Land, but there’s a hell of a lot more Ravages and Diabulus in Musicas; records that just make you sigh and put your head down until you’ve given them their requisite listens. So when you get that record that really surprises you, well, you know you’re in luck. Early this year, I had Dodecahedron that really just surprised the hell out of me and creeped me out, but now I’ve got Diablo Swing Orchestra which is like an unholy union of meatheady groove metal, eggheaded orchestral arrangements and opera. All at a fervor more akin with satanic ska than most of their countrymen’s approach to metal and with a level of skill that is uncanny.

But what’s surprising about this album isn’t just the combination of these different styles into a coherent whole, it’s also how deftly they do it with the number of different tones, colors and textures they work with. For example, opening track “Voodoo Mon Amour” starts out with blaring, swinging horns and tom heavy drums with a crunchy, groovy guitar riff and all the retro pizzazz (feels like an appropriate time to break this word out) and vocal excess from Annluice Loegdlund you’d expect from a band playing a throwback kind of swing. But after a twisting and turning ride, they end up on “Justice for Saint Marie,” which is not only epic (8:17), but dark and sensual in its use of orchestral texture, with male vocalist Daniel Håkansson’s voice delicately texturing a masterfully dark song which ends with glich-like industrial beats and cuts out to end the 52 minute record. It is with a deft hand that a band must balance these kinds of contradictory styles and Diablo Swing Orchestra not only does it, but they do it masterfully.

Diablo Swing Orchestra - 2012In between these bookends, the album traverses through operatic, classical pieces (“Aurora”), groove laden samba (“Guerilla Laments”), a track that really reminds me of Beirut but with serious balls (“Kevlar Sweethearts”) and even some straight up thrash metal (What Would Slayer Do?) riffing on “Exit Strategy of a Wrecking Ball” before launching into chorus that if replaced by a female voice could be on a Nightwish record. All along the melodies and are subtle, often in non-traditional modes and keys, but don’t let that fool you: Pandora’s Piñata is infective in its poppiness and unapologetically pummels the listener with hook-laden track after hook-laden track.

I think that the use of an orchestra, swing and gypsy music—plus two different vocalists—gives the band a level of freedom that most bands just simply don’t have when they’re tied down by a single vocalist, two or three melodic instruments (guitars, keyboards, and bass). But not only that, the use of all of these instruments means that they’re able to take the one good thing that groovecore has to offer (the groove) and transfer it into this addictive blend of melodic genius and aural orgasms. There is literally not a track on here that I wouldn’t recommend, and there isn’t a single thing wrong with this album. From the musicianship, to the songwriting to the production, it’s a fucking riot.

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  • I have gladly witnessed an immense growth for this band since I first heard  “Balrog Boogie” (first track from The Butcher’s Ballroom) and was completely blown away in a manner very few bands have done for me these days. They succeed in every way in having a profound musical knowledge that spans many dissimilar genres and integrate them so tightly that metalheads can’t find fault in the execution and non-metalheads find surprisingly accessible.

    And their live shows are a blast, it’s like going to a big party, all of them have lot’s of charisma and you just can’t deny the excitement and perhaps try to dance (!) with a huge ear-to-ear smile the entire show and a few days afterwards. Annlouice has one of the most beautiful and powerful voices that I have witnessed in my entire life.

    I am so glad they are getting the perfect mark from AMG with this record because I have been preaching their previous efforts to everyone I know that loves music and they are almost universally loved. Great review AMG, as usual.

  • groverXIII

    Nailed it. This is a great album from a unique band… and how often do you happen across truly unique metal bands these days? All three of their albums are brilliant.

  • one of favorite bands of all time.  this album just reaffirms my love for them.  they just get better and better

  • “It’s a fucking riot”

    -You’ve said it.

  • This album is great, this band is great and this review was great.

    These guys are beyond creative.

  • Was looking forward to this album for a long time and I have to say they haven’t disappointed. On the contrary.

    Great to see such a breath of fresh air going through metal. I can also recommend everyone to go to one of their shows. The short one I’ve seen at the Metal Female Voice Fest a few years ago during their Butcher’s Ballroom tour was one of the best live performances I’ve ever seen. A shame it was cut short because of traffic problems though.

    Would love to go see them again.

    Great review by the way.

  • Well bud you just about summed it up haha. This album has already changed my life and gave me inspiration to take my band to the next level. Especially the dubstep breakdown at the end of Just for Saint Mary. But really Angry Metal Guy I think DSO should look at this review and realize how much of a Dark Side of the Moon this needs to be hahaha

    • Huh. Is that what dubstep is? I thought it was neat in the context. Techno is techno is techno is techno.

    •  If it was dubstep the record wouldn’t have gotten a 5/5.  It’s definitely industrial. When a band adds electronic music influences, dubstep and techno is used by post-hardcore bands and industrial is used by metal and rock bands, that’s how it’s always been.

  • Hey AMG.

    I went to a DSO concert here in São Paulo, Brazil, and it was UN-FUCKING-BELIEAVABLE. They are incredibly amazing live as well.

    If anyone who reads this has the opportunnity to attend to one of their concerts, do yourself a favor and DO NOT MISS IT.

    What a fantastic band.

    • Gustavo, ouvi hoje essa banda e me impressionou muito, quando que foi o show deles aqui em SP?

  • Zadion

    Yeah, man. You really did nail it. “Justice for Saint Mary” is a huge standout IMO, but the whole record is deliciously crazy and sophisticated in the best way.

    Add this one to the huge pile of awesome records you’ve turned me on to. Thanks, AMG!

  • Absolutely rad