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


Diablo Swing Orchestra


Progressive Metal

3.98 | 191 ratings

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3 stars The only real positive I get out of listening to this album is how much it exemplifies Pandora's Pi˝ata as a truly phenomenal transition.

Before I go any further, I'll just say it outright - Sing Along Songs for the Damned and Delirious is a mess. A sloppy, gimmick-filled mess of ridiculous influences and uber-quirky deliveries. If you are curious about this band, leave this page now and listen to Pandora's Pinata to hear an example of stylistic restraint and quality songwriting, which is something that is so damn rare in avant-garde metal. If you are here because you've heard Pandora's Pinata and liked it, I would suggest you go and listen to some Madder Mortem or maybe Unexpect (although they have some similar problems), and if you really need to, go and listen to The Butcher's Ballroom. This, however, should be your last stop, and you should certainly not expect anything from it.

The strangest thing about this album, and how weak it is in comparison to its follow up, is that on paper, the albums are identical. They both utilise swing, big band, and opera music and dose it with a shot of rhythm guitars and drums taken from a metal band, and then float along merrily having fun. But the problem with this album is that there just isn't any substance. When I reviewed Pandora's Pinata, I pointed out that it was a rare album in avant-garde metal, because almost all of the bands in this subgenre rely so hard on style over substance. And that album had both. It had the gimmick of swing metal, the fun of horns and operatic vocals, and all the pomposity and over-the-top antics of being a circus metal band, but it also had quality songwriting and ambitious execution. The songs were songs, not methods of showing off how many band members you have. The melodies were memorable, the chord progressions were great, and a whole lot of restraint was shown in the arrangements, proving that they could be solemn and introspective as well as bombastic and loud.

This album is pretty much just run-of-the-mill avant-metal.

I must admit that I'm over-exaggerating how bad this is, because while it is a steaming pile of shit next to its follow-up, compared to the norm in its genre, it's pretty standard, and if you're in it for gimmicks (which is honestly why most people listen to avant-metal, to be honest), then you'll find plenty of them here. The songs here make their way by playing a different variant of the pre-defined gimmick that DSO have set up. We have horn-heavy big band songs and vocal- heavy opera songs, and even a touch of the electronics I was a huge fan of on "New World Widows". But the songs themselves are just not memorable at all. Take out the horns and take out the metal and take out the weird vocals and you just have okay-ish songs. They put so much weight on the instruments and the gimmicks that when they fall flat (which is often) there is nothing to hold them up. And to add to that, the metal on this album is not only more prominent, but less interesting. I praised the guitar tone on Pandora's Pinata endlessly, and while this one does feel close, it has none of the groove that I loved from that album, and just feels like a chugging background noise to add "metal" to the gimmick.

But above the songs being weak, there are just some downright bad parts on this album - regularly due to the vocals. "Lucy Fears the Morning Star" features Annlouice L÷gdlund slipping into her regular opera range, but it just simply doesn't fit. Whereas "Aurora" on Pandora's Pinata was a wonderful break from the main album into full operatic bombast, with operatic instrumentation to fit, this feels so forced and mashed together, especially when her vocals are accompanied by some half-assed death growls underneath. Many of these vocals feel like unnecessary Patton-isms in trying to be as quirky as possible, and it just gives nothing to the feeling of the album. Any groove that the horns and bass create (which is probably the best part about this album) is regularly snuffed out by awkward and LOOK HOW QUIRKY I AM XD vocals. So many of the tracks begin with reasonable clean vocals, then suddenly we have opera and it just kills any vibe that I was digging in the songs. To mention "New World Widows" again, there is a really nice Muse-like arpeggio in what would be a chorus, but instead of singing powerfully over it and changing the guitars to match, the entire sound is split between the retarded sounding Opera vocals (super high up) and the chugging guitars (far down low), with nothing in the middle, and it just loses all its power.

Is this any worse than most avant-garde metal? Well, probably not, but I'm still not going to throw much praise at it. To me, avant-metal is a genre that has the potential to be utterly amazing, but so many bands stop short when they've come up with their gimmick and simply don't bother putting any effort into making the songs good. And as the band who broke that mould for me once, I expected so much more from them. Obviously, this record came before Pandora's Pinata, so I can't exactly flame them for getting worse, and in fact I should really be praising them for improving so quickly, but I still can't help but feel a little bit disappointed in this album. If you're here for gimmicks and fun, you'll find them here, but every single aspect of this record was done better three years later, so I really don't see why anyone would ever listen to this.


Originally written for my Facebook page/blog:

Gallifrey | 3/5 |


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