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Diablo Swing Orchestra - Sing-Along Songs For The Damned & Delirious CD (album) cover

SING-ALONG SONGS FOR THE DAMNED & DELIRIOUS

Diablo Swing Orchestra

 

Progressive Metal

3.98 | 191 ratings

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ExittheLemming
Prog Reviewer
4 stars Strum and Kerrang - The Three Euro Opera

As you can tell from the lame pun in my review's title, I can't seem to dislodge entirely the connections between this record and that of the dramaturgy of Bertold Brecht and the musical theatre of Kurt Weill. DSO are unashamedly northern European (Swedish to boot) and even when appropriating the strong jazz influence imbued in so much of their work, the flavour is unmistakably that of the 1920's 'decadent set' Weimar Republic brand. Similarly, their forays into metallic textures obey to the letter the charges set forth by any House Committee on Un-American activities. Way to go lads (and ladette)

A Tap Dancer's Dilemma - I had cause to suggest in my review of The Butcher's Ballroom that the band's portrayed image may give rise to lazy associations somewhat akin to Cab Calloway covering death metal. Well DSO have clearly decided that I should have to rue those badly chosen words post haste. This is a highly adulterated and wantonly perverse take on the sort of Big Band jazz that the Hi De Ho Man, Louis Jordan and Gene Krupa excelled at. Combining a visceral metallic guitar to some authentic swinging ensemble horn playing is no easy feat yet DSO pull this off here. Just sit back and luxuriate in the galloping Django Reinhardt on 'wacky dust' acoustic guitar at its centre and if you ain't smiling hereabouts, then presumably you still await the emergence of the world's first Gothic stand up comedian. (Don't hold your breath pale-face)

A Rancid Romance - Punningly alludes to the venerable Jerome Kern song A Fine Romance as if such were about to be defiled by the Hanna-Barbera of metal, Cannibal Corpse. It is clear that DSO take great delight in undermining both their and our perception of themselves as torch bearers through the state of the art gloom of Gothic mood lighting. Together with Alex Harvey's reading of Jacques Brel's Next, this is probably the 'other' most credible tango in 'rawk' to date. Borderline avant in places and perhaps indicative of the way ahead for this band's future direction. Great use of contrasting dynamics and pace exemplified by the plaintive and haunting chamber string writing that follows from the crunchy metal riffing.

Lucy Fears the Morning Star - Lucifer from the New Testament can be translated as 'light bearer' aka 'day star' as in the 'morning star' (you get my pentagram metalheads?.STOP) A rather clumsy pun but no reflection on a very fine song that undergoes several changes of mood and intensity with no discernible dips in the excitement throughout. Rather unnerving effects are ladled on the spoken vocals which imbue same with a creepy effect not dissimilar to a toddler wielding a chainsaw in response to the babysitter's entreaties to put them to bed. Towards the end DSO even embark on a percussion fuelled Latin salsa episode which (I can hear you retching already) is actually damn nifty and mercifully, consigns Gloria Estefan to the infernal regions where she and her flouncy sleeved ilk belong.

Bedlam Sticks - Is there a mental health theme hereabouts? Bedlam being a modernised corruption of Bethlehem via the Bethlem lunatic asylum in Victorian era London. For the fee of one penny visitors were allowed to bring long sticks with which to poke and torment the inmates.(and people say the lyrics of Karn Evil 9 are far-fetched) Daniel Hakansson's vocals utilise speaking on pitch and remind me in places of Einar from the Sugar Cubes, while the female background injections sound uncannily like those of Linda Blair during the sunnier parts of The Exorcist. It's surface amusing so I'm laughing, but somewhat apprehensively (after all it might turn out to be Bjork).

New World Widows - Lulls us momentarily into an Algerian Paint it Black cod medieval raga type 'thang' before whammo, 'cartoon style' DSO explode into metal chuggerama over which they turn the Garden of Eden entirely on it's head by weaving a snake charmer melody (but delivered by the serpent to seduce some credulous Eve?) God that Annlouice Loegdlund has lungs like pistons. 5 minutes in the company of this gal is like going 12 rounds in the ring with Wagner and a referee who speaks only Northern African dialect and can't count past 9. Thrilling, unnerving,a hopeless mis-match but you don't want to throw in the towel.(Does anyone on PA have her phone number? I think I'm in love)

Siberian Love Affairs - A tantalising but rather teasing little coquette of hallucinogenic fairground waltz music as if sung by stoned cossacks. Take a look at the cover and fill in the blanks as best you can. The perfect drinking song until....

Vodka Inferno - (Whoops) this one, a truly intoxicating cocktail of Weill, Brecht and punk speed-ball featuring some coruscating cello devilment from Johannes Bergion who clearly thinks dervish music is habitually played waaay too slow. Such is the resilience of this traditional sounding melodic invention, that some smart and ambitious new nation from the post Soviet empire should promptly adopt this as their national anthem. It would certainly scare the shorts off the opposition before football matches.

Wolfgang, we're losing three nil !

I'm sorry Gunter, I just can't get that damn wonderful tune out of my head

Memoirs of a Roadkill - Vaguely redolent of the Violent Femmes albeit with a clearly agitated Django Reinhardt sitting in front of some Cramps sheet (metal) music. Ends rather incongruously with some stark and atmospheric nylon classical guitar. Very beautiful and equisitely played yes, but this reeks of pinning the donkey to a tail.

Ricerca Dell'anima - Billy Idol meets surf guitar springs to mind on a crack addictive tune where Annlouice segues seamlessly from angelic soprano diva to kerbside Jezebel in the one breath. Nice subtle use of cello to undermine the surface 'rawk' artifices and a stunning clarinet solo which could be Klezmer as envisioned by Benny Goodman. This song is brilliantly constructed and might just be the best on the album.The title may translate as Quest of the Soul ? Suffice it to say if I heard this on the radio, I would rush out and buy the critter. Praise indeed from someone who is reluctant to even get out the bath for a pee.

Stratosphere Serenade - David Cross style eastern inflected violin riff sets the scene before a beautifully arranged song is revealed in very skilfully composed discrete sections. The rejoinder hook is the:This world is closing in refrain which returns periodically to memorable effect. Quite possibly the most overtly proggy track on offer as DSO dispense with their normal stylistic reference points and inhabit perhaps for the first time, a sonic landscape upon which they can plant their Swedish flag without any hint of self consciousness. The closing instrumental section exploits a digital delay on the guitar to set up a cascading rhythm utilising another middle eastern scale under which an irresistible pedal point is deployed in the bass end. Might be in danger of overstaying it's welcome a smidgen but let's not be churlish shall we?

DSO certainly walk a very fine line with their chosen milieu and although there always exists the danger that witty assimilation of influences is but a demi semi quaver away from twee pastiche and the realm of camp, they somehow avoid these traps with admirable consistency. The boyish blasphemies of those crude little runts that inhabit so much of the metal domain are absent entirely herein and one of the things I love most about this band is their refusal to take themselves too seriously. (So they don't feel the need to declare a fatwa on all things soft and fluffy in our midst). Also mercifully alien to this music is the sort of fretboard and meter wankery so beloved of the infant school of mathematical composition. Who you gonna call? Chopbusters !

I just know that these Swedes have at least one 5 star masterpiece in their locker and can only hope that they continue to entertain me in the course of hooking said critter out in the years to come.

ExittheLemming | 4/5 |

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