Review Summary: A sprawling tour de force that moves seamlessly between metallic technicality and full-throttle symphonic grandeur.
Diablo Swing Orchestra's approach to experimental metal revolves around staggering eclecticism. Swedish group merges a multitude of distinct influences incorporating swing, jazz, classical and even opera music into their core technical metal sound. As a result, their scatter-shot style, while occasionally cheesy, never ceases to be refreshingly original and enormously fun. Just like 2009’s Sing Along Songs For the Damned & Delirious
, Pandora's Pinata
is a collection of exuberantly performed compositions that are based on traditional song craft rather than excessive technicality so many contemporary metal acts are obsessed with.
The selling point of the disc lies in its amazing orchestration that seems immensely improved when compared to the band's previous releases. It's bewildering how swiftly the brass section and keys are complimented by such stringed instruments as cellos and violins. While this type of instrumentation plays second fiddle in many bands of this kind, Diablo Swing Orchestra don't underestimate the evocative power of instrumental diversity making the best of numerous musicians who have taken part in the recording sessions. In fact, the conventional, yet bombastic metal onslaught is overshadowed on occasion by classical and jazz orchestration that's arranged in an absolutely astounding manner. All these elements expectedly result in a grandiose scope overflowing even the most subtle tunes on the album.
Every single song on Pandora's Pinata
feels thoroughly rehearsed so as to achieve the perfect balance between plenty of instruments. The operatic singing that characterizes symphonic metal has been downplayed in favour of a more natural and fitting delivery. Out of the two songs that openly use operatic vocals though, stripped-down “Aurora” is a revelation of cinematic proportions which clearly surpasses pompous “Of Kali Ma Calibre.” The band's style has been dubbed avant-garde metal by fans and critics alike. However, there's hardly anything inaccessible about their music. Even though the record oscillates between a wide range of moods and vibes, the songs are never less than instantly memorable or even addictive.
With its sprawling fusion of swing and metal, opener “Voodoo Mon Amour” ranks among the most shamelessly entertaining tracks of the year. “Guerilla Laments” sustains the danceable vibe adding out-of-the-blue, salsa-echoing rhythm patterns. In contrast, “Kevlar Sweethearts” channels 1970s progressive rock with its melancholic vocal lines and dignified arrangements interspersed with technical metal riffing. When you begin to think Diablo Swing Orchestra have just run out of ideas to surprise you, “Black Box Messiah” introduces some creepy, childlike vocals into its circus metal aesthetics. On the other hand, “Mass Rapture” showcases an epic heavy metal foray into the East, whereas smooth “Honey Trap Aftermath” makes for an excellent funk rock tune due to its clunky bass lines and atmospheric trumpet solos. The group's singular greatest achievement that reveals their boundless versatility happens to be the album's closer “Justice For Saint Mary” though. This largely acoustic track evokes the palpable feeling of tension by means of a genuinely disturbing cello motif that builds to a vicious industrial breakdown.
captures Diablo Swing Orchestra excelling in their admirably accessible spin on experimental metal. This superbly orchestrated album blends multiple genres with grace and cohesion, which makes it a real treat for anyone who's willing to venture into the realm of exuberant, artistic music that ranges from cinematic to theatrical.