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Diablo Swing Orchestra - "Pandora's Piñata" (CD)

Diablo Swing Orchestra - "Pandora's Piñata" CD cover image

"Pandora's Piñata" track listing:

1. Voodoo Mon Amour (4:32)
2. Guerilla Laments (4:55)
3. Kevlar Sweethearts (4:25)
4. How To Organize A Lynch Mob (:53)
5. Black Box Messiah (2:57)
6. Exit Strategy Of A Wrecking Ball (6:02)
7. Aurora (5:05)
8. Mass Rapture (6:03)
9. Honey Trap Aftermath (4:15)
10. Of Kali Ma Calibre (4:25)
11. Justice For Saint Mary (8:17)

Reviewed by on May 29, 2012

"Diablo Swing Orchestra continues to warp minds with the twisted 'Pandora's Piñata.'"

Since its inception, Diablo Swing Orchestra has been a lone wolf with its avant-garde metal. There are glimpses of a traditional metal band somewhere, but it’s usually blocked out by the operatic female vocals and use of enough orchestral instruments to overwhelm the guitars. Each album from the band has been sonically separate from the previous one, and “Pandora's Piñata” follows the same approach. The orchestration is more prominent, the male vocals are toned back, and the whole atmosphere feels much grander in nature. Solid as usual, “Pandora's Piñata” is lacking the bouncy catchiness rampant on “Sing-Along Songs For The Damned And Delirious.”

In keeping with the past releases, the band goes ahead and makes it hard to dislike the album with an excellent opener. “Voodoo Mon Amour” is one of the few songs with the type of chorus to sing loud and proud, and the use of male/female vocal interplay is glorious on the ears. The closest the band comes again to something this gripping is the groovy swagger of “Honey Trap Aftermath” and the poppy beats on “Black Box Messiah.”

Much of “Pandora's Piñata” is heavy on stringed instruments, horns, and bustling paces. The band has brought in more instruments, and some of their usage provides the most thrilling moments to be had on this album. The trade-off between the guitars and strings on “Kelvar Sweethearts” is a duel that is far too short, and “Justice For Sister Mary” has what seems like a 50-piece orchestra dominate the sad proceedings created by vocalist Annlouice Loegdlund.

Loegdlund handles the brunt of the vocal work on “Pandora's Piñata,” and she does a phenomenal job. While it’s disappointing that the sultry chemistry between her and the male vocalists has been subsided, she takes this role and sinks her teeth into it. She hits everything from high falsettos to a sultry croon, all of which are pitch-perfect. Her operatic tone is given free reign on “Aurora,” the single track that seems out-of-place.

Other than the male vocals, what is lacking on “Pandora's Piñata” is the hard edge contained on “Sing-Along Songs For The Damned And Delirious.” No riffs have as much impact as the ones from “Ricerca Dell'Anima,” though the blast beats on “Of Kali Ma Calibre” come very close. The guitars, which had a decent amount of power on them before, are buried by all the extra accompaniment. Except for “Exit Strategy Of A Wrecking Ball” and a few nondescript spots, the guitars don’t get the space to go at it alone.

Diablo Swing Orchestra continues to warp minds with the twisted “Pandora's Piñata.” A few new members, along with a slew of session musicians, do a lot to evoke an important feeling to this record. It’s not as immediate as their last two albums, requiring a feeling-out process to grasp songs like “Aurora.” Those who were confused by the band’s previous outputs will continue to scratch their heads in amazement. “Pandora's Piñata” does its part in continuing the band’s legacy as masters of weird avant-garde metal.

Highs: Continues their off-beat avant-garde metal style, fantastic female vocals, oozes creativity

Lows: Lack of prominent male/female vocal interplay, not as heavy or catchy as their last album

Bottom line: Slightly less compelling than their previous albums, but still a rousing interpretation of avant-garde metal.

Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls
3.5 out of 5 skulls

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)