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Diablo Swing Orchestra - "Sing-Along Songs for the Damned and Delirious " (CD)

Diablo Swing Orchestra - "Sing-Along Songs for the Damned and Delirious " CD cover image

"Sing-Along Songs for the Damned and Delirious " track listing:

1. A Tapdancer's Dilemma (5:12)
2. A Rancid Romance (4:27)
3. Lucy Fears The Morning Star (6:34)
4. Bedlam Sticks (3:29)
5. New World Windows (5:56)
6. Siberian Love Affairs (:58)
7. Vodka Inferno (4:08)
8. Memoirs Of A Roadkill (3:30)
9. Ricerca Dell'Anima (5:34)
10. Stratosphere Serenade (8:25)

Reviewed by on October 26, 2009

"Their sophomore album, “Sing Along Songs For The Damned & Delirious” sounds like an opera composed by a schizophrenic carnie, taking avant-garde metal to a whole new level."

If there is any advantage that metal has over other musical genres, it’s how strange a good portion of the musicians are. Sure, pop has Lady Gaga randomly bleeding on stage at the MTV VMA’s and rap has a pair of white guys from Detroit wearing face paint and calling their fans Juggalos, but metal is where the human oddities inhabit. This includes bands that wear masks for no reason, use deer antlers as mike-stands, and put on corpse paint and preach how Satan will rape the world.

Even with all of these offbeat characters around, a band like Diablo Swing Orchestra can still even make a long-time metal fan raise an eyebrow. Their sophomore album, “Sing-Along Songs For The Damned & Delirious” sounds like an opera composed by a schizophrenic carnie, taking avant-garde metal to a whole new level.

Unlike bands like Unexpect and Sigh, Diablo Swing Orchestra is very accessible to those hesitant to submerge themselves into the bizarre and zany world of avant-garde. The songs resembled a hellish version of swing music, as horns, percussion and strings enact a groove-infused catchy quality. Guitars are prevalent, but are mainly used for rhythm and a way to strengthen the sound as a whole instead of hogging the attention.

The big attraction is the two boisterous and operatic vocalists, Annlouice Wolgers and Daniel Håkansson, who share the spotlight on many of the tracks. In particular, their duet on “New World Widows” is superb and handled to perfection. With a range that will astonish many listeners, the duo is able to avoid coming off cheesy or over-the-top.

Diablo Swing Orchestra throws all their chips into the pile, making each song a big gamble that usually pays off. There is a great supply of variety at the forefront of the album. “Lucy Fears The Morning Star” is a fast-paced trek that includes tribal percussion and a horns cacophony fit for a Mexican standoff. “Ricerca Dell’anima” is one of the few tracks where the guitar takes precedence, cranking out riffs guaranteed to get a few people shuffling.

While the album tends to be upbeat, there are several instances of unexpected darkness that creeps in. The acoustic-driven “Memoirs Of A Roadkill” starts off with good intentions, but suddenly turns grim. “Speak now, you better go in peace/forgiven words, forgotten all I’ve seen” is complimented by a lone acoustic guitar slowly plucking out hollow notes. It is easily the most emotionally charged section on the entire album. “A Rancid Romance” ends on a depressing note as well, with poignant cello work piercing into the heart valves of the listener.

The album flows succinctly from one song to the next, with only a few notable missteps. The pointless interlude “Siberian Love Affairs” lacks any replay value, but it is short enough not to cause too much damage. Closer “Stratosphere Serenade” is a failed opus that goes on for about two minutes too long, a frustrating end to an album that was hitting all the right notes up to that point.

“Sing-Along Songs For The Damned & Delirious” came out of left-field, but delivers on creating a quirky and unconventional atmosphere. The crisp production, done by Roberto Laghi of In Flames fame, is stellar, with all the instruments coming across clearly and perfectly balanced in the mix. The band is way out there on a musical level, but reigns it all in to have enough commercial appeal to not be deemed obscure, like much of avant-garde metal. For those who wish that somebody would combine the classiness of opera with the infectious weirdness of the carnival, Diablo Swing Orchestra accomplishes that odd request with their fantastic sophomore effort.

Highs: Operatic vocals, quirky and offbeat, surprisingly dark at times, infectious choruses.

Lows: Unnecessary interlude, closer "Stratosphere Serenade” is too long.

Bottom line: The opera from hell that showcases the catchy side of avant-garde metal.

Rated 4.0 out of 5 skulls
4.0 out of 5 skulls


Key
Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)