Progarchives, the progressive rock ultimate discography
Diablo Swing Orchestra - Pandora's Piñata CD (album) cover


Diablo Swing Orchestra

Progressive Metal

From, the ultimate progressive rock music website

Bookmark and Share
4 stars Third one's a charm

Oh who are we kidding here? So was the first and so was the second, reason for which the Swedes from Diablo Swing Orchestra can safely be tagged as one of the most outstanding bands that came into being in the 00's. As one would probably expect, Pandora's Pinata came with a series of novelties from its two predecessors: firstly, the album sees a change in the group's line-up - drummer Andreas Halvardsson has been replaced by the more technical former Therion drummer, Petter Karlsson (who subsequently left the band in spring 2012), while session trombone player, Daniel Hedin and trumpeter Martin Isaksson, have been dubbed full-time band members. Secondly, unlike The Butcher's Ballroom and Sing Along Songs for the Damned & Delirious, where the group was still giving the impression of a metal band decorated with lavish operatic vocals and exotic dance rhythms, which contributed to their being generically classified as avant-garde metal, on Pandora's Pinata all these adornments are now intrinsic to their cryptic musical ensemble. Furthermore, DSO's dedicated followers will also notice a completely new array of arrangements, especially as far as percussion is concerned, but also for strings and the brass/horns sections. Also, another pleasant surprise is seeing guitarist Daniel Hakansson, whose subtly pretty vocal timbre could make him a perfect candidate for the lead singer of an indie band, take over leading vocals on countless occasions; plus, Andy Johansson's bass is more prominent than before.

Track-wise, the album debuts with the traditional swing rocker, Voodoo Mon Amour, which encapsulates features from both Balrog Boogie and A Tap Dancer's Dilemma; while the lyrics which comprise the two verses of the song are not the group's most fortunate, the unbelievably catchy and upbeat chorus makes up for a superb song finale. Following this, is Guerilla Laments, a veritable stoner samba wannabe, including Annlouice's beautiful vox and delicious horn and wild percussion segments. While Kevlar Sweethearts and How to Organize a Lynch Mob are marked by charming orchestral arrangements lead by classically trained Johannes Bergion's cello, Black Box Messiah comes forth with a fabulous chorus worthy of a J-Rock piece. Next in line is, Exit Strategy of a Wrecking Ball, with its heavy intro courtesy of Daniel and Pontus on electric guitars with a modicum of electronic effects, marks Daniel's first song where he takes full lead on vocals, and what a rendition! ' a menacing chorus delivered in a howling manner. On Aurora, a straight-forward acoustic classical piece, Annlouice Loegdlund makes a daunting display of her operatic vocal abilities, while Daniel provides lead on the oriental flavoured Mass Rapture. This is succeeded by another dance oriented track, Honey Trap Aftermath, which for some reason I find it reminiscent of Michael Jackson's Blood on the Dance Floor. Of Kali Ma Kalibre, an operatic mariachi spiced power metal bit, precedes the album's epic and arguably best track ' Justice for Saint Mary. This splendidly orchestrated song sees Daniel Hakansson taking the full lead of the vocals yet again, but the element of surprise comes towards the end when the electronically distorted instrumental kicks in, finishing the album in a dubstep-ish fashion, which attracted a series of negative criticism, claiming that the band was now sold out. My perception of this is that the group, with their extremely relaxed sense of humour, found an innovative and clever way to not take themselves too seriously... As you do.

Overall, the extensive waiting for this album was well worth it, and the band managed the impossible: combining the traditional DSO sound with cutting-edge components that still maintains a high level of interest in their music. Perhaps the individual tracks are not quite as surprising as some found on The Butcher's Ballroom, and perhaps the album's cohesion is not as compelling as on Sing Along Songs for the Damned & Delirious, but Pandora's Pinata's strong point of view has the potential of turning it into a classic.

4 stars!

Report this review (#781615)
Posted Tuesday, July 3, 2012 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars This is the third album from this Swedish metal outfit, and the first full album I have heard from the group. I was surprised at how diverse their sound is on this album. What little I've heard from them sounded like a swing-influenced metal band with an opera singer. Granted, that is what they generally sound like but I was surprised, for example, at all the Middle-Eastern influence on this album; I wasn't expecting that. When they drift outside of the metal realm the results can be hit or miss. The lead vocals are a lot of the time done by a female opera singer but also non-operatic male vocals appear as well. The band now has eight members and there are a few guest musicians here as well. Besides your usual metal instrumentation, there is keyboards, wind instruments (mostly brass) and string instruments.

"Voodoo Mon Amour" starts the album with some metal swing (this is what I expected the whole album to sound like). Compared to some of the other songs this is one of my least favourite songs here. "Guerilla Laments" is a highlight. It opens with African style drumming...then goes into mariachi metal(?!). Nice vocal overdub effects. I've had the chorus to this song stuck in my head for days. Some of the drumming sounds Caribbean or Brazilian influenced. "Kevlar Sweethearts" is a symphonic folky ballad for the most part with some horn-laden metal at times. "Black Box" has a type of shuffle beat with fuzz guitar and techno synths. The singing here is at times weird: it sounds altered and in harmony but reminds me of Brian Johnson of AC/DC! One of the better songs, it should have been longer.

"Exit Strategy Of A Wrecking Ball" is a fairly straight-forward metal song with some cool spacey synths. Come to think of it with the male vocals here this almost reminds me of Muse. Just vocals and symphonic strings at times. Some brass shows up later. "Aurora" is basically just straight opera with some Middle-Eastern style music at the end. "Mass Rapture" also has Middle-Eastern influences, even the singing is done in a Middle-Eastern fashion. Nice mix of metal guitars and more spacey synths. "Honey Trap Aftermath" is basically some 1980s style white boy funk. Like "Aurora" I never really liked this song too much. "Of Kali Ma Calibre" is great majestic sounding symphonic metal. Some blastbeats here. Great drumming in general on this track. Just vocals and strings for awhile.

"Justice For Saint Mary" starts out as symphonic folk. A sinister sounding melody on strings later. That melody turns into metal at the end, just before turning into some kind of dubstep (?!). That last song really grew on me. A great sounding album with great performances. The music is diverse with lots of influences. Some songs I like a lot more than some of the other songs, so this isn't very consistent to me. A good album from 2012 anyway. My final verdict would be a 3.5 rounded up to 4 stars.

Report this review (#830173)
Posted Friday, September 28, 2012 | Review Permalink
5 stars [b]How To Organise A Musical Explosion[/b]

It took me a while to fully swallow [i]Pandora's Piñata[/i] as an album. I may have occasionally mentioned the epic endeavour that I undertook last year to compile my list of best albums, resulting in an inevitable overplaying of the same 30 or 40 records until my mind couldn't handle them anymore and I locked them in a special section of my library for never touching. Although it bred a great list, the strangest thing has happened since, involving the few albums that I excluded from that original set, to somehow discover my utter enjoyment for them. Pandora's Piñata had gained about 5 plays before I expelled it from the list, because I felt the novelty factor of SWINGMETALSWINGMETALSWINGMETAL had died off, and the music underneath really wasn't anything significant.

But like several other albums from what I now call one of the greatest years of music, [i]Pandora's Piñata[/i] came back to me in time, to my thorough enjoyment. Sure, the ridiculous elements of opera, swing, chamber and rock into some weird concoction may be the reason this album and band gets its fantastic reputation, but in fact there is an awful lot of well written music underneath the whole thing. I guess it's strange that I find the genre-defining opener "Voodoo Mon Amour" to be easily the weakest track on here, because it really is just swing metal with swing and metal and no real decent music underneath it. But every single other song, even 53 second interlude "How To Organise A Lynch Mob", bring something interesting to the table, both in forward-thinking structures and instruments, and the actually melodies and harmonies used underneath this.

I could pull every single song here apart and dissect the fantastic range of influences and sounds that Diablo Swing Orchestra utilise, but I really don't think that it's necessary. I'm really just going to talk about one thing here, one of the best things that has come from the realm of music in the last few years, at least in my ears; album closer "Justice For Saint Mary".

One of the things I notice about albums with "regular length songs" (whatever that means), is that very many of them feature an incredibly exquisite ending track in which the band decides for once to calm everything down and work on insane buildup, epic chorus and intense finish. And a significant number of these songs find themselves sitting on the highest heights of my best songs of all time lists. For some odd reason, when progressive bands do epic, 90% of the time it feels forced and useless, but when non-progressive bands do epic, it's explosive, it's insane, it's? epic. Taking a brief look at my lists, I'm reminded of the title track of Jimmy Eat World's [i]Invented[/i], "Say When" from [i]Fables From A Mayfly[/i] (Fair To Midland), even "Famous Last Words" from [i]The Black Parade[/i] (My Chemical Romance) and the incredible "But Home Is Nowhere" from [i]Sing The Sorrow[/i] (AFI, including its two hidden tracks of course). Hell, even "I Won't See You Tonight Part 1" from [i]Waking The Fallen[/i] (Avenged Sevenfold) is fantastic (although it's not a closing track). All of them settle into their little grooves and use development as key to epicness, without losing the structure that many prog bands lose in their longer tracks.

Although Diablo Swing Orchestra are most certainly a progressive band in the dictionary sense of the word, I don't really think the genre applies too well for them. The majority of [i]Pandora's Piñata[/i] is littered with fast, ridiculous and hilarious tracks with tubas and Japanese lyrics and opera singers, whereas "Justice For Saint Mary" slows everything right down. The other slower song on the record, "Exit Strategy of a Wrecking Ball", is my second favourite song here, but it lacks the intense buildup and release of the 8-minute explosion. The first few minutes bring forward a delicate beauty that was first introduced in "Exit Strategy", with solemn vocals and strings creating a more chamber influenced style than the bombastic swing violence that spreads throughout the earlier tracks. Although many (boring) people will claim that this song is generic and uninteresting at this point, I think it's absolutely stunning. The deep tuba underneath the strings keeps it up musically, and although the lyrics aren't top notch, you have to admit the vocal melody is pretty damn good.

I'll digress of the topic of this final song just for a moment while I talk about the "metal" on this record. To be honest, there isn't much. Diablo sure have a wide range of influences, but the only real metal part of this record is that insanely delicious guitar tone that comes in like a funky jazz beat in several songs. And damn, that tone is amazing. I mean, it's enough that DSO have all these influences and great songwriting, but great production too? The tone is fantastic, but don't ever think this is a metal album. But an expectation comes into "Justice For Saint Mary" near the end. The strings have built to a screeching crescendo. The epic line that they follow is chill-inducing, and yes, the moment when the guitar hits is phenomenal. Everything, the buildup of the track, the tuba, the strings, the guitar, the drums just comes together and for some odd reason it doesn't sound retarded. It sounds fantastic. And just when you think it couldn't get any better?

It explodes.

I'm going to go out on a limb and say that the breakdown at the end of "Justice For Saint Mary" is the best piece of music made in 2012. Or at least, it's the best idea, and the best executed. Maybe other moments, like the chorus of "Last Goodbye" from [i]Nine[/i] (Circus Maximus) might win, but this is the most utterly mind-boggling. Who else. Who else would put a [%*!#]ing dubstep breakdown at the end of an 8 minute chamber metal swing tuba rock song. But holy [&*!#], it works. Man, every time this comes on I have a [%*!#]ing eargasm. It's just so violent, so unexpected and so relentlessly attacking. A lot of metal bands try to do electronic, maybe putting some electronic drums in every now and then, but Diablo have gone full on here. This isn't just a breakdown, it's an incredibly well-produced piece of electronic cutting. This is Aphex Twin-level good. Man, the way the beat and the guitar are chopped and flung in all directions is insane. Diablo have clearly done their homework on this, because we all know how embarrassing it is when a rockband tries to incorporate electronic into their music and only proves how little they know about electronic music (COUGH MUSE COUGH), but DSO know exactly what they're doing here, and it is mind-blowingly, blood-pumpingly good. My pulse is rising just from writing about it.

But I do know that this explosion would not be as good without the immense buildup brought by the subtle beauty of the first half. On your first listen, it's unexpected, but on every other listen, it's the epic suspense that you know what's coming that makes it so good when it hits. It's why I get annoyed trying to show my friends this song, because they get bored after 3 minutes, and I don't just want to skip to the breakdown without the build up.

Man. What a song.

But anyway, although this review is already very long, I do feel I should comment a bit on the other 84% of this record for a brief moment. I have already mentioned my love for "Exit Strategy of Wrecking Ball", which may have you thinking that I simply love DSO when they're not being DSO. But no, this album is filled with some equally ridiculous moments that I adore, I just feel the slower parts were necessary to keep it coherent and fixed. The influences on [i]Pandora's Piñata[/i] are completely over-the-top, and somehow the album doesn't end up a complete mess. This is partially in part to the fact that Diablo clearly know what the [%*!#] they're doing. It's clear from the end of "Justice For Saint Mary" that the band clearly knows their electronic music, particularly glitch and dubstep, but "Aurora" is a fully-fledged opera piece, "Black Box Messiah" comes straight from J-Pop and "Guerilla Laments" even has a gypsy vibe to it. But where Diablo nail it completely is in the pure execution of these influences. Any band can put an emphasis on an off-beat and claim reggae influence, but Diablo really know all of the genres they're dabbling in inside-out. They know how to make good swing and they know how to make good metal and good god they know how to arrange a string and brass section. I think it's miraculous how there is not a single moment on this record in which the 15 or so instrumentalists playing together sounds cluttered. The strings merge perfectly with the operatic vocals and the tuba merges fantastically with the bass and guitar. Actually, come to think of it, that guitar tone does actually sound a bit like a tuba.

And that's not just it; the choruses here really nail it, too. If there's one think I love the most in music, it's an avant-garde band that uses melody as well as weird influences. The only other band I've currently found that can do it this well is probably Dog Fashion Disco, but even that isn't as catchy as some of these ones. As ridiculous as it may sound, the Japanese verses from "Black Box Messiah" are fantastically fun, even if I have no clue what I'm singing. Tons of fun is an understatement to some of these songs. And it's not as if music snobs can't listen to them too, since they can just rave about the impeccable use of trumpet as opposed to the catchy chorus.

[i]Pandora's Piñata[/i] is a bit of a beast. It's a fun, relatively accessible album, unlike every single other avant-metal album, but it's obviously got that incredibly deep range of influence and detail that we love to hear in these genres. It might alienate you a bit, but it's most certainly worth a try. And although I have commented a lot on "Justice For Saint Mary", I don't recommend simply listening to that song, it's at least 37 times more epic when heard at the end of a masterpiece.



Report this review (#861998)
Posted Monday, November 19, 2012 | Review Permalink
5 stars I have to admit...this band has flown by me these past few years. But thank the lord for relationships because they definitely bring in new music.

I have to admit, when first hearing this band, one of my first thoughts was, "Oh luck...a gimic band." But, as I was shown more and more stuff from this band, I was slowly becoming more impressed and becoming rather guilty at liking the very odd mix of swing and metal.

Now, most people associate these guys as "swing metal." Now, to a degree they are, but they are so more. Basically, these guys aren't afraid to dip their toes into a lot different genres, with a lot of surprises throughout.

Musically the band is just perfect. With an incredibly large ensemble, making rather complicated music could seem a challenge, but these guys pretty much are able to take a lot of styles and fuse them together without worry.

The opener "Voodoo Mon Amour" is the perfect opener for the album. With a very catchy chorus and a danceable groove, this song just makes you want to get on a table and dance like your in the 50s.

The single that was released from the album "Black Box Messiah" is a very odd and interesting song. With a chorus that sounds like every J-Pop song compressed into one and some rather odd instrumentation throughout just add to the oddness of the song. Also, if you don't mind having an epileptic seizure, I recommend you watch the music video for this song.

One of the biggest highlights on the album has to be "Aurora." Very much an aria, the song is a beautiful blend of orchestration with an absolutely jaw dropping mezzo soprano from Annlouice ( your heart out).

"Honey Trap Aftermath" is definitely one of the more easy listenable songs on the album with a very funky bassline on it. The mix of male and female vocals go very well together.

My personal favourite track has to be "Of Kali Ma Calibre." This has to be one of the best symphonic metal songs I have heard in the past few years, and probably of all time. With an incredibly boisterous vocal performance from Annlouice and an absolutely astounding instrumental performance, taking power and rhythms to new heights.

The final track, "Justice For Saint Mary" is an epic blend of an acoustic ballad and an over the top orchestra. With a beautiful falsetto based vocal from Daniel, the song is an absolute masterpiece. The ending, which received a lot of mixed looks with the dubstep sounding electronic bits. Personally, I really like it and I think it's an insane way to end an album.

In conclusion, these guys are doing something very different to what most bands are doing now. They're fun, enjoyable and very entertaining. Musically they are spot on, vocally they blend styles very well and they compose some pretty impressive music. The album seems to be their best effort so far, and only shows that this band's next release will just be as exciting as this album.


Report this review (#1110761)
Posted Wednesday, January 8, 2014 | Review Permalink
3 stars Diablo Swing Orchestra offer up exactly what they imply in their bad name: they combine the devil's own metal with, of all things, the classic sepia-toned sound of big band swing, with a flair for the dramatic and a big sound to add a little orchestral gravitas. The cartoonish collision of disparate genres represented here certainly wins points for originality, though personally I found this album is diminished by repeated listens - once the novelty of their schtick begins to fade they offer a flashy cross-genre sound but not much emotionally resonant substance to give meat and long-term staying power to their music.
Report this review (#1149498)
Posted Monday, March 17, 2014 | Review Permalink

DIABLO SWING ORCHESTRA Pandora's Piñata ratings only

chronological order | showing rating only

Post a review of DIABLO SWING ORCHESTRA Pandora's Piñata

You must be a forum member to post a review, please register here if you are not.


As a registered member (register here if not), you can post rating/reviews (& edit later), comments reviews and submit new albums.

You are not logged, please complete authentication before continuing (use forum credentials).

Forum user
Forum password

Copyright Prog Archives, All rights reserved. | Legal Notice | Privacy Policy | Advertise | RSS + syndications

Other sites in the MAC network: — jazz music reviews and archives | — metal music reviews and archives

Donate monthly and keep PA fast-loading and ad-free forever.