Diablo Swing Ochestra - _Pandora’s Piñata_
(Candlelight, 2012)
by: Johnathan A. Carbon (7 out of 10)
Listen. I like Diablo Swing Orchestra -- though I am not crazy about their music. This Swedish experimental outfit does a successful job at combining heavy metal and pre-1950s orchestration. The result is a theatric combination of horns, heavy beats and the sultry voice of Annlouice Loegdlund. I enjoy swing music. I enjoy heavy metal. This should be a home run. The band's last two records were decent, yet they have done little to redefine heavy metal. Beyond the successful combination, there is disappearing room to grow for the band, as the difficult task of experimentation yields a furnished room with no exits. Whether or not a new album can be successful hangs in the very balance.

Visually speaking, the artwork progresses with each release. 2005's _Butcher's Ballroom_ was a hazy yet evil looking drawing detailing a sullen cello player. 2009's _Sing Along Songs for the Damned_ was infinitely more cheery with its cartoonish carousel scene, yet retained its dark undertones. 2012's _Pandora's Piñata_ takes design and packaging to a higher echelon by presenting a rainbow club logo which both speaks to modernity as well as a love for the past. This last sentence was true until I saw the actual cover, which mashes what was initially described with a cheap digital image of two children and an ominous piñata. Well, it almost worked. I only speak of design so much as each album retains the same progressive characteristics in its music.

_Pandora's Piñata_ does not make itself apparent until the third track. After two expected numbers, "Kevlar Sweethearts" combines soft vocals over powerful drumbeats and an ominous brass section. The song is impressive in the fact the band sheds its obligations at being a swing metal act and produces a fantastic song full of intrigue and craft. There is a sense of experimentation in making an interesting song rather than pleasing a niche of metal listeners. _Pandora's Piñata_ triumphs when the band employs their talent at making off kilter metal tracks with unrestricted space. It may be their least swing record in the catalog, but goddamn, it is one of their best.

The moments of joy and pleasure are when Diablo Swing Orchestra travels the furthest away from metal. While this sounds strange, stunning vocal tracks like "Aurora" and the closing "Justice for Saint Mary" are perhaps the finest hour for this strange band of misfits. In these sections, the band not only embraces big band structures but retains the dark overtones. Suddenly "swing metal" is less interesting than the promise of dark vaudeville. Contrast this with silly upbeat tracks like "Honey Trap Aftermath" and one can see the years of maturation. I'm sorry if you just spent all that money on a black Zoot suit. There will still be time to wear it out.

I was surprised at how much I enjoyed _Pandora's Piñata_. The band has always displayed an interesting and successful spirit which speaks to both talent and imagination. _Pandora's Piñata_ is a testament to the idea of continual tinkering which eventually yields stunning results.

(article published 3/6/2012)

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