Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Diablo Swing Orchestra: Pandora's Piñata (2012)

Smash It Open

I've been talking a lot lately about the names that bands choose to define themselves. There simply is no better-named band than Diablo Swing Orchestra. It's perfect because they sound exactly like a band with that name should sound. Instantly, you can understand their attitude and their musical approach. You can Google it easily. You can remember it. And it's awesome.

Likewise, their third LP has a perfect name. Pandora's Piñata is of course a humorous spin on Pandora's Box, suggesting all the sweet candy that will come pouring out of the album, as well as the strong Latin element of the music.

I've been a fan since the first record, but presumably there are those who aren't familiar with the band, and can't quite conceive of what Diablo Swing Orchestra should sound like. Let's break that down: It's metal with plenty of swing (including trumpet and trombone) as well as old-fashioned classical music (cello and operatic female vocals), and pretty much anything else they want to include. It's a little like Sigh. It's a little like Unexpect.

Yet it never comes off as self-consciously weird. Instead, it seems like all of the disparate elements belong together. So they can move from an Asian cello interlude into a J-pop/metal mashup without any problems. In fact, the band has never sounded so cohesive before, even when they combine funk, swing, and early 90's pop in the same song. They've also never recorded an album that's this much fun. Yes, this is more delightful than The Butcher's Ballrom or Sing-Along Songs for the Damned and Delirious.

A cinematic side to the band has also been allowed to shine through. "Aurora" brings out The Sound of Music. They out-Wagner Therion with "Of Kali Ma Calibre." And closer "Justice for Saint Mary" is big-budget Western soundtrack before transforming into metal and finally being deconstructed, remix-style.

The Verdict: When you need a break from all the dour, depressing doom and misanthropic black metal, put on Pandora's Piñata. It is easily the most fun you'll have with metal this year. I give it 4.5 out of 5 stars.

Preorder/buy Pandora's Piñata (The album will be released May 22.)

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