Diablo Swing Orchestra - Sing-Along Songs for the Damned and Delirious
Ascendance Records
Avant-Garde Metal
10 songs (48:13)
Release year: 2009
Official Myspace, Ascendance Records
Reviewed by Charles
Perhaps it’s unfair on the band to bring this up first, but something about the blurb that comes with the promo grates:

”Since the release of their debut… the orchestra has gained a loyal fan base of their own. People have embraced their sound with open arms and they have been perceived as a breath of fresh air in a genre getting more and more stale and formulaic”

Publicity wonk-speak this may be, but assuming they’re talking about metal (which is the one repeatedly resurfacing element in Diablo Swing Orchestra’s eclectic mashup of a sound), then they are insultingly far off the mark. What this emphatically is not, is the album to outstrips the work of Cynic, or Wolves…, or whoever else you might want to pick, as the shining light that leads metal to musical pastures exciting and new. We are blessed with plenty of those already. What this is, is a cleverly conceived novelty filled with intrigue and surprises, which ultimately doesn’t quite leave the impression of something more substantial.

An obvious comparison is Mr Bungle. But instead of attempting the impossible task of emulating that band’s shock value and fanatically twisting compositional obscurity, this concentrates more intently on developing its central premise of metal music fending off a dual assault by the odd pairing of swing and opera. It is a tightly woven culture clash moulding a polished, grooving metal crunch (occasionally reminiscent of Tool, or Meshuggah, but sometimes straying further into “nu” territory), with an equally polished swing music sound and ragged opera sections (with the latter providing the best bits). Along the way, of course, there are ample harebrained diversions; notably on the appealingly morbid mariachi-meets-opera-at-the-circus of A Rancid Romance, and various short-lived excursions into the acoustic guitar-led gypsy jazz taking its cue either from Django Reinhardt, or maybe Gogol Bordello.

Rewinding a bit, you may correctly point out that “polished” is an adjective that does not bode well for either swing or, god forbid, metal. That’s exactly why I am sometimes left feeling like Sing Along Songs… is too clever for its own good. It doesn’t really get to the heart of either idiom, sounding a little like a caricature at times. But whilst overall it leaves me lukewarm, it is full of individual moments or themes that are eminently worth seeking out. Quirky female vibratos resurface throughout, and have almost the same pleasantly unsettling effect that they do in Augury; except here they sometimes form syncopated, sepia-tinged harmonies that are intensely reminiscent of the animated film, Belleville Rendezvous (see the opener, A Tapdancer’s Dilemma, for the best example of this). The tunes here are cleverly written and often extremely good. New World Widows opens with a growling, Tool-like thud and progresses through ominous string-instrument hacking (like Apocalyptica jamming along in the next room) and spacey synth noises, to reach a well-paced climax.

All in all, a clever but cartoonish expedition into curious musical territory, which will probably appeal, amuse, and irritate in equal measure.

The album is licensed to Sensory Records for North American distribution

Killing Songs :
A Rancid Romance, A Tapdancer's Dilemma
Charles quoted 73 / 100
Alex quoted 86 / 100
Other albums by Diablo Swing Orchestra that we have reviewed:
Diablo Swing Orchestra - Pacifisticuffs reviewed by Alex and quoted 92 / 100
Diablo Swing Orchestra - Pandoras Pinata reviewed by Alex and quoted 89 / 100
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