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Diablo Swing Orchestra - Sing Along Songs for the Damned & Delirious

Diablo Swing Orchestra - CD Review
Sing Along Songs for the Damned & Delirious
Diablo Swing Orchestra - Sing Along Songs for the Damned & Delirious

CD Info


 Ascendance Records UK

Sensory / USA Territory

10 Tracks

Mostly English Lyrics




And now for something completely different, as Monty Python use to say. The Diablo Swing Orchestra offered up its initial release in the 2006 –2007 timeframe. The Butcher’s Ballroom proved to be an innovative success, propelling the band to significant fame and fortune, mostly throughout Western Europe although I notice they are currently headed off to Moscow for a performance so they clearly have a following in Eastern Europe as well. They also have some aficionados in the good ole’ USA which bodes well for the future of American musical taste.

It’s hard to talk about DSO without mentioning the historical background utilized by the band to introduce themselves. Whether it’s fiction or not, it’s a damn fine yarn and worth repeating, if only in the short version, it having been around since the birth of the group. The band suggests that a previous version of DSO performed in Sweden at the turn of the century, the 16th century. It was a captivating sound, one that appealed to the masses. . but, unfortunately, not to the Church. And, at that time, the Church was pretty much in charge. Anyway, long story short, the Church decides humanity might be better off without The Devils Orchestra and makes several attempts to arrange that eventuality. When all else fails, they put a price on the heads of band members, charging them with all manner of sin, including the use of the ever popular but highly illegal tritonus interval in their music, OMG! Well, the boys go on the lamb and attempt to continue but finally realize all is in vane so they plot one big final hoedown, with the intention of going out with a bang. The concert’s a big success, but the band is captured and brought to justice; final justice, the kind you get at the end of a rope. But before their final "swing" as it were, they post letters to their future descendents to be opened 5 centuries later with the intention of continuing the orchestra’s music in a less religiously controlled environment. Legend says this actually happened and the descendents meet and charge up the band, with new music since the original scores were burned by the Church. . . and that, as they say, is the story, so help me God.

Sing Along Songs continues the innovative music that was introduced in Butcher’s Ballroom. You get different observations regarding those changes; some say the new CD is better, some like it less. But, there is no doubt that it differs from the previous offering. But those changes continue in the direction of interesting and different music. DSO is defined by the fact that the 6 musicians who participate have a range of musical talents, both in terms of instrumental capability and in the direction of their writing. The music is described using a variety of terms; yes, there is an element of swing. And having a favorite aunt who was a major figure in that era in the US, I am intimately familiar with the concept. However, the term avant-garde is also thrown around a lot and they do meet that definition as well. And, of course, there is the metal, along with a wonderful full opera female lead carrying the load on most numbers. That lead is Annlouice Loegdlund, a highly trained opera vocalist whose delivery is the main, but not only, vocal sound appearing on Sing Along. The remaining band composition has remained relatively consistent since it’s inception although former Therion drummer Peter Karlsson has recently replaced drummer Andreas Halvardsson.

Sing Along begins with A Tapdancer’s Dilemma, and we immediately get the "Swing" part of the repertoire. The orchestra, such as it is, gets fully involved, there’s horns, strings, drums, pretty much everything. And that goes for the vocals as well. In addition to the vocals provided by Loegdlund, DSO makes use of male vocals that go in a number of directions. Some of them are straightforward but most are more in tune with that "avant-garde" thing we mentioned previously. Not death vocals, more like what you might hear at a circus sideshow. And Loegdlund also takes her vocals into some strange and interesting directions. You hear most of it on Tapdancer, a title that carries on for some 5 minutes and visits some truly strange musical locales.

A Rancid Romance takes us in a more classical direction. Loegdlund goes operatic here and male vocalist Daniel Hakansson does a reasonable job of keeping the selection serious. There’s a bit more guitar to this selection as well. But, the music tends to follow the DSO motif of taking hard bends in the road whenever they feel the need and here that bend is in the direction of a string based classical component that brings the music to a conclusion.

Lucy Fears the Morning Star begins with a horn based musical line intertwined with a symphonic core. This is almost orchestral, probably just to prove they can do it. But, the guitars kick in and we are taken away to a different place. The opera is never far away and we visit it here, and be clear, this is first-rate opera from a first rate soprano. This format serves as the basis for most of the songs on Sing Along but there is the occasional foray into different territory, just as there was in Butcher’s Ballroom. The strangest of these may well be Siberian Love Affairs, a largely instrumental track that actually sounds like a foray into the Russian wilderness complete with an accordion and a background of Cossacks making Russian music. And, since the following title is Vodka Inferno, we can assume they aren’t working without liquid enticement. The Vodka title again moves through several individual sections, one being the operatic vocal, and another utilizing a more subdued vocal from both vocalists. Lyrically, the band mimics their playful musical style on this and other titles. Here, those lyrics play with the listener:

Absinthe love affairs, we fill our lungs with hymns of

Pride and poverty and we shall overcome

Bring her into our hearts of tar and stone

Until that warm embrace will come

Nothing particularly profound there but this is not profound music, it’s there for the fun of it and the lyrics play along.

There is often a sense of the macabre to the DSO music. A bit of crazyland, both in the music and the message. And they appear to relish this insanity, enhancing it musically when the words don’t go far enough. And, with the range of instruments available to the band, they have a large arsenal to work with. Ricerca Dell’anima takes us to this locale. We hear cellos, we hear various horns and we hear the vocalists playing with reality while laughing all the way home. The guitars get a little too, but it is the inclusion of less traditional instruments that define the song. Lyrically, the band again speaks with a twisted message, some Gothic, some twisted love:

Time now has stained the peace we once had

Drenched in delusions and burned by your hand

Have faith in a new world, insane as before

Seduced by your wishes, now we want more

DSO is here for the fun of it. Nothing regarding the eventual dispensation of our mortal souls here, nothing about the lack of hope that defines our mortal existence. Just good interesting music, done well and waiting to be appreciated. Somehow, I think even Monty Python would appreciate it, and get a good laugh while listening.

9 / 10