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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

Diablo Swing Orchestra

Sing-Along Songs for the Damned & Delirious

Review by Gary Hill

Those who follow my reviews carefully will know that I love music that combines unusual sounds to create something unique. Much of that type of music defies classification. Well, this is one of the most unusual pairings of sounds I’ve heard. At times we get music that’s very big band oriented and quite traditionally jazz. At other places this is very thrashy metal. Still, there are also rockabilly sounds in the set. Add in some classical music and ethnic and world sounds and you have a good idea of the kind of genre bending this band does. Often times you’ll hear many musical territories in the same track – sometimes even in the same passage of music. It’s an easy bet that this isn’t for everyone. The truth is, though, as odd as the combinations are the music is generally catchy and quite entertaining. I like this album a lot and look forward to hearing more for this group of musicians. I should note that I’ve included this in progressive rock because really, isn’t the crossing of boundaries (or perhaps in this case shattering of them is more appropriate) a big part of what progressive rock is all about?

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2009  Volume 5 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
A Tap Dancer's Dilemma
Drumming opens this. Then the horns join and we're off in style. This works forward with a jam that's full on swing jazz, but also has some scorching hot hard rock in the mix. It drops for the vocals, but the intense, driving rhythm section remains. This is a such a powerhouse tune. It has some bass that makes me think of Les Claypool. The cut continues alternating between the mellower sections for the singing and the more powered up ones. The thing is, it's also got some distinctly jazz prog stuff at times, too.
A Rancid Romance
Piano starts this off, but then we get a killer thrash riff to take us on. A horn blows across the top of this and the soundtwist is on in fine fashion. This has a tango sort of approach as it drops way down for the female vocals. We get a duet of male and female theatrical singing. Then classical strings take the track on what (if played on guitar) could be pure metal journey. It does eventually modulate out to pure metal, but drops down to violin for quick reminder of what band this is. Then we get more horns over the top of the thrashing guitar. After another bit of vocals they take it to pure metal and then operatic vocals come over the top and this feels a lot like Green Jello to me – I know they changed their name to Jelly, but they are Jello in my book. This runs through and then we get a full classical string section from there to eventually take it out.
Lucy Fears The Morning Star
This enters with a full orchestral take like out of some old epic movie. That holds the piece for a while and then we get more metal guitar from there. It drops back for the female vocals and then builds up from there. It explodes out into metallic fury again after a while. Some cool processed vocals are introduced and we eventually make our way back out into Green Jello territory. They alternate between these contrasting segments as they continue. Later they take us into some of the most metal music we’ve heard thus far (and yet there are jazzy drums in the background). Then it ends with more pure jazz. 
Bedlam Sticks
Theatric jazzy music starts this and holds it for a time and then some metallic guitar joins the fray. From there we move into territory that’s quite metal – and seems along the lines of both Green Jello and Faith No More. This stays closer to pure metal than some of the other music, but we get enough surprises during the course of it to keep it interesting. 
New World Widows
This is arguably real heavy metal. Mind you, it’s a European epic metal style and there are some drops to symphonic music. Of course that’s not uncommon in that genre. There is some pretty crazed music on this later, though – with some more definite genre-bending.
Siberian Love Affairs
A bouncy accordion type sound leads this off and then other musical elements make this feel like some kind of crazed carnival. We get some ethnic vocals and then it moves out to a world music meets metal approach that’s rather along the lines of a whirling dervish. This has a lot of klesmer music in its mix. We get some rather pure metal thrown in later, but then they lace it with bits of symphonic music over the top. It drops down to mellow ethnic music from there. They continue the genre smashing from that point as this is turned more rocking by surges and then powers to a metal meets klesmer jam to take it to its close. 
Vodka Inferno
This starts with a stripped down jazzy arrangement and as the vocals enter it reminds me a bit of The Violent Femmes. They take it through this sort of sound for a while, but then drop it way down to a very mellow progressive rock meets symphonic music segment and then we get a jump back to rockabilly with some jazz from there. An acoustic guitar solo that’s quite intricate and pretty takes it later and holds it to the conclusion. It’s obvious this is a song with zero metal in the midst. 
Memoirs Of A Roadkill
This fires out with a metal motif that reminds me a lot of Faith No More, but the vocals come in like the more theatrical and energized portion of Kate Bush’s repertoire. This style holds it for a while, but after a time they take us out into an acoustic romp that’s reminiscent of both jazz and rockabilly and then a killer guitar solo soars over the top of this. From there, though, they drop it back to a mellow symphonic meets jazz meets acoustic flamenco guitar treatment. Gentle female vocals come over the top of this and carry it for a while. Then we’re back to the metal motif from there. Instead of fully embracing the metal, though, a clarinet solos over the top bringing in more jazz. We do get taken out into more pure metal from there and yet later jazz jamming comes in over the top of this thrashy backdrop.
Ricerca Dell Anima
Classical strings start us off and hold this for a time. Then the metallic elements join and it feels a lot like epic metal. Still as violin solos over the top later this becomes more classical even than that. And yet we get more pure metal further down the road. They continue seriously alternating these various elements in some unique ways and this is another powerhouse example of the way these guys can take some seriously insane combinations of music and make it work.
Stratosphere Serenade

 

A violin leads this off and it feels a lot like a continuation of the previous number. As it builds, though it turns into one of the most mainstream tracks on show here. That said, it has a definite progressive rock texture to it. This is arguably the strongest track here – just because it’s more “normal”. However, that also makes it less unique. They do take us to some more pure metal later, but then modulate out into some more quite prog oriented stuff. Then a techno metal, neo-classical jam takes hold. As they continue along through the extended outro it has an almost space rock element to it at times.

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