Diablo Swing Orchestra - Pacifisticuffs,
There are times when just the name of the band is enough to make the casual critic to become quite intrigued, and that is definitely the case with this Swedish octet. Eight musicians? Yep, and it isn’t the line-up that one might expect from a rock band: Daniel Håkansson (guitars and vocals, Pontus Mantefors (guitars, FX and vocals), Kristin Evegård (vocals and piano), Anders Johansson (bass), Johannes Bergion (cello and vocals), Martin Isaksson (trumpet and vocals), Daniel Hedin (trombone) and Johan Norbäck (drums). In many ways, this doesn’t come across as a band, but something far more eclectic, as if it was a group of musicians performing a score for a Tim Burton movie. As a family we watched ‘The Nightmare before Christmas’, and some of the songs on here (especially “Superhero Jagganath”) could have been dropped into it and would have fitted incredibly well!
Since the start back in 2003 the band has defused the seriousness of everyday life with a humorous twist where everything is allowed. The musical framework is wide to say the least and DSO strive to constantly surprise and challenge their listeners: it is eclectic and rule-breaking, but somehow always makes total musical sense. The arrangements and melodies are unusual to say the least, but this is not out about being “out there” just for the hell of it. This is music that is both compelling and always interesting. Since 2012’s ‘Pandora’s Piñata’ the band have taken the opportunity to reinvent themselves and approach their task with fresh eyes and ears. Annlouice Lögdlund left the band in 2014 to pursue her opera career, but new singer Kristin Evegård has brought some serious new writing skills to the mix, both in the lyric departments as well as composing. It is also the first studio album for Johan Norbäck, who joined the fold in 2012 for the touring of Pandora’s Piñata: not many drummers have to wait five years to make their recording debut with a band, but he really has started with a bang.
Although it is possibly to call these guys progressive metal, the first word of that term in their case covers a huge amount of genres from swing to prog, incorporating some RIO and plenty of avant combining with musical theatre and soundtracks. At the beginning of “Jigsaw Puzzle” the strings are so delicate that they could have been used in a James Stewart movie, before it morphs into disco ELO, yet all in a way that just works. This is not a band who are content to sit within a genre, and treat music as it is a living free thinking animal that is going to go its own way in the jungle. There may be times when it will follow a path that has already been created, if it happens to be going in the same direction, but it never stays on it for very long as there is way more fun to be had in the wilderness.
It is seriously like nothing else I have heard in the last year, during which time I have reviewed more than 600 albums of different genres, and that is a statement in itself. Superb.