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Diablo Swing Orchestra – Pacifisticuffs Award winner

Diablo Swing Orchestra
by Jon Conant at 06 January 2018, 10:33 PM

What is it that makes DIABLO SWING ORCHESTRA so fantastic? WELL, You never know what you’re going to get, it’s never what you’re expecting, and it is always really, really good. Their latest full-length release, “Pacifisticuffs”, is all of that and more. Now, that does depend to some degree on the listener, for not everyone is up for a Jazz-Metal-Rock-Salsa-Swing fusion that keeps you on your toes, and thus some folks may be turned off. But despite the personal preferences of music fans, the music is objectively well written, flawlessly produced and mastered, and performed with an invigorating level of skill and unique energy.

They originally started out as Metal-Fusion, but the Metal label was always a stretch. On “Pacifisticuffs”, we see that aspect of DIABLO SWING ORCHESTRA go away almost completely. They have now moved into a decidedly Rock sound, but even calling it Rock is a bit of stretch. The Swing and Jazz elements define their sound even more than they have in the past, and it has become a triumphant and original piece of art. It’s Jazz and Swing like you’ve never heard it before. The sound is fresh, bold, and very much belongs in the modern day. Nothing pleases me more than seeing a band who are willing to push themselves and their genre to the limits (and enjoy it as much as they clearly do).

But don’t think that this is just a Jazz/Swing album, an endless list of genres and styles make an appearance (yes, even plenty of guitar and Rock), and everything is done on purpose. Nothing is swept under the rug as a filler, and that is the sign of quality writing.

Album opener “Knucklehugs (Arms Yourself With Love)” makes it very clear right off the bat that their latest sound is different, quirky, and unlike anything you’ve heard before, even by DIABLO SWING ORCHESTRA’s standards . Daniel Håkansson‘s vocals greet you right away with a sound that reminds me of 60s BEATLES Rock, but is decidedly modern. It is a perfect combo, and by the end of the song you are in the exact mood to enjoy the rest of the album.

Track 5, “Lady Clandestine Chainbreaker”, is the first song on the album that knocks it out of the park in a big way, and that’s not just because it features the most Metal-esque guitar thus far. The melody is gorgeous and new female vocalist Kristin Evegård delivers a performance that will earn her the love of DIABLO fans everywhere. I just want to make one thing very clear, she absolutely kills every performance she gives on the entire album. She is a highlight in a band that is full of highlights.

Track 6, “Jigsaw Hustle”, continues the fun. The vocals are off the charts, the melody is epic and soaring, the instrumentation is complex and expertly delivered, and the brass section gets to shine on this track with a South American Swing sound that will make you fall in love. Granted, the brass section kills it on every song, as does everyone in the band. Are you starting to notice a trend?

Track 8, “Ode to the Innocent” switches things up on a dime, beginning with a hauntingly dark and gorgeous violin solo that has a classical European vibe, setting it apart from the Jazz and swing of the album. This song sounds like a musical theatre piece; it belongs on the stage. It is emotional, and the performance from Evegård is raw and passionate. The string section carries the mood, presenting a vibe that feels like a bar room in England in the 19th century; and we were just in South America on the previous track. Who knows what to expect when listening to a DIABLO album? The fun doesn’t end, and I love it.

And now, track 9, “Interruption”. Beginning with an EDM pulsating sound that sounds like the beginning of a CHEMICAL BROTHERS song and not what you would expect from the album. It then breaks into one of the fastest, Jazziest, and most Rock vibes on the album, but then we slow down again and allow the piano and Evegård to work their magic and create a seductive mood. This is how you keep the attention of the audience; and with 13 tracks all bringing a different flavor, there is no room to lose focus - blink and you’ll miss it. But of course, that only helps their cause, as an album of this caliber requires many re-listens to truly get a grasp of it and fully acknowledge it; the unending layers of instrumentation alone require multiple listens to hear and appreciate them.

This is a powerhouse of an album that doesn’t do much wrong. If you are in the mood for the bizarre, amazing, and new sound they present, you are going to have a hell of a time. DIABLO SWING ORCHESTRA’s have been around for 12 years, but this is only their 4th release. They clearly have lots of new ideas left and are now industry veterans. This is a band and a career to follow. “Pacifisticuffs” killed it in the best possible way, and I eagerly await their next album; and if history is any indication, that’ll be in 3-5 years, but it will be worth the wait. For now, enjoy “Pacifisticuffs”; you certainly aren’t going to get bored of it any time soon.

Songwriting: 10
Originality: 10
Memorability: 10
Production: 10

5 Star Rating

1. Knucklehugs (Arms Yourself With Love)
2. The Age of Vulture Culture
3. Superhero Jagganath
4. Vision of the Purblind
5. Lady Clandestine Chainbreaker
6. Jigsaw Hustle
7. Pulse of the Incipient
8. Ode to the Innocent
9. Interruption
10. Cul-De-Sac Semantics
11. Karma Bonfire
12. Climbing the Eyewall
13. Porch of Perception
Daniel Håkansson - Guitars & Vocals
Pontus Mantefors - Guitars & FX
Kristin Evegård - Vocals & Piano
Anders Johansson - Bass
Johannes Bergion - Cello
Martin Isaksson - Trumpet
Daniel Hedin - Trombone
Johan Norbäck - Drums
Record Label: Spinefarm Records


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