Monday, December 7, 2009

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

The steps leading up to the dark and decrepit mansion are damp from evening moisture and the fog sends goose pimples across the flesh. One tentative footstep in front of the next, you and your company approach the heavy wooden door, and you hear the wooden wheels of your horse drawn coach rattling eerily against the cobblestone drive as it hurriedly races away from this ghoulish structure. As your hand grasps the bronze door knocker, you feel its cool texture against your palm, yet there’s something else. A deeper vibration rumbling through the cold metal courses through your nerves, further embellishing the goose pimples brought on by the exterior chill. Before you’re able to swing the knocker to announce your arrival, the door slowly creaks inward to a foyer coated with two decades worth of dust, cobwebs hang from every surface, half burnt candles softly flicker within the wall sconces; chasing sinister shadows deeper into the gloom of the darkened mansion, and a massive blast of sound erupts with a defined rhythm.

Deeper within the gloom, figures can be seen writhing in time with the sounds of some distant band. The light in the great hall is cast in hues of crimson as you make your way deeper into the throng of gyrating souls, and you quickly glance around to see chandeliers swaying precariously from the ceiling, shadowy figures skirting along the open balconies, masked revelers passing drinks and whispered words between each other, and the smell of brimstone and death assails the senses. At the far end of the hall, as if belched from the bowels of hell itself, you finally see it . . . but you can’t believe your eyes. A colorfully garbed group of musicians assail chaos upon their instruments, a cacophony of sound set to an oppressive tone, conjuring up some dark magic that leaves the gatherings patrons in a state of frenzied mindlessness!

One part opera, one part jazz, another part metal, another part Hell’s very own marching band, all of it avant garde, this is Diablo Swing Orchestra . . . and they’re performing tracks from their latest album, Sing Along Songs for the Damned & Delirious.

Opening the set with “A Tap Dancer’s Dilemma,” Diablo Swing Orchestra quickly shows the revelers why they are one of the more interesting musical units banging around the countryside. It’s a song filled with so many huge musical movements that I’m sure I’ll pass over more than a handful in describing the epic piece of sonic art. The opening drum salvo and subsequent groove of bass with accompanying horn section capture the swing in the band’s name. Add the huge walls of distorted guitars and the harmonizing female vocals, and this song captures the imagination by transporting the listener to some deep dark corner, the seediest of the seedy jazz clubs of the 1940’s. The composition of this track is absolutely, hands down, one of the most impressive and compelling pieces that I’ve ever listened to. I mean, listen to how the band seamlessly shifts from over dramatic male vocal performances, to harmonized female vocals, dropping all of the instrumentation out of the mix and leaving the guitar, acoustic nonetheless, hanging for a brief, yet brilliant moment, then dropping the instrumentation again to leave the bass guitars to deftly reach out and grab all of the instruments back into the fold. Listen for the fantastic guitar solo being played over the more subtle jazz rhythms, and then how the guitar fades out, leaving nothing but bass rumbling its groove. The incorporation of the various instruments leaves me breathless. How in God’s name did they patch this bad boy together and make the whole thing work?

And, it’s not just the first track on the album. Diablo Swing Orchestra creates and re-creates this same musical effect on all ten tracks gracing Sing Along Songs. “A Rancid Romance” starts off with a classically distorted wall of guitars powering out the rhythms in time with the fabulously produced drums. Then, seemingly out of nowhere, the triumphant strains of a trumpet screams through the din, providing a bit of a Latin flair to the music. And then another trumpet harmonizes with the first . . . and then the operatic vocals of Annlouice Wolgers (?) in duet with guitarist/vocalist, Daniel Hakansson . . . and then the emergence of the cello providing an air of macabre . . . and then the dual vocal harmonies at the chorus creating an overwhelming sense of panic . . . and then horns again . . . It’s a psychotic journey of paranoia and superb musicianship. Owing as much to classical music as modern metal, Diablo Swing Orchestra have created a sound that is clearly their own. It’s refreshing to hear a new and unique, and utterly compelling voice in the world of music!

“Lucy Fears the Morning Star” moves the tale of Diablo Swing Orchestra along at a clip nearing light speed. One of the more chilling and haunting tracks off of the album, “Lucy,” features a heavy dose of Annlouice’s operatic pipes, some intricate and outstanding drum work from Andreas Halvardsson. The cello work, performed by Johannes Bergion, comes from some dastardly place, deep within a seeping crevice of ooze and gore. It’s absolutely brilliant! The tones Bergion brings out of the instrument conjure up images of torment souls as they dance an eternal dance of despair. The low end, provided by bassist Andy Johansson, creeps along the songs like low lying fog. It’s always there, camouflaging the ground making each step we take along this musical journey an uncertain one. By the end of the song, we’ve gone from chilling pseudo-opera to full on Latin swing . . . the band brings in a barrage of polyrhythm’s that work perfectly with the full fledged assault of horns. Man! What an amazing journey!

Folks . . . buy this album. Don’t wait until the end of this review. There’s no need. All I’m gonna’ do is summarize a few things.

Diablo Swing Orchestra are beyond anything that words can describe. At one point, while listening to Sing Along Songs for the Damned & Delirious, I openly questioned to no one in particular if these guys were for real. Thankfully, I didn’t get a response, but after repeated listeners, and let me tell you . . . this album has been non-stop for the past week and a half, it apparent that Diablo Swing Orchestra are the real deal, they have no peers, and they will have your full attention with every note struck. If you like your music complex, filled with dynamic tempo shifts, or dramatic breaks in sound, then this album will be your Holy Grail, your Ark of the Covenant, your Spear of Destiny. The music moves and never seems to let up. Even when the musical passages begin to soften, you just know that something terrifying is gonna’ pop out of the darkness to strip you of your sanity. You’ll have to excuse me now . . . there’s a party at some creepy mansion that I need to get back to . . . - Pope JTE

Buy here: Sing-Along Songs for the Damned & Delirious

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