“Pandora’s Pinata” is the third full-length from avant-garde Swedish metal band Diablo Swing Orchestra. This band enjoy mythologizing themselves, have a “history” that stretches back to 16th century Sweden. The band claims to have ancestors who performed music in defiance of the dominant Christian religion decided to put on a last spectacular show before being killed for their heresy. In their shows and their recorded material, strive to recreate the feel of a last celebration before martyrdom.
The album was passed along to me accompanied by fairly high praise, and therefore my expectations were similarly elevated. Essentially, this album has a gimmick: this is swing music with a metallic edge and heavier instrumentation. It’s not brilliant swing music, and nor is it cutting-edge metal. However, the combination is at least novel enough that it is worth a listen, if you happen to like metal that incorporates an eclectic, cabaret feel.
I feel like this review requires a caveat: for years, I was an amateur swing dancer. I was never terribly brilliant, but I competed a bit, participating in the first Detroit Lindy Exchange, for example. I even met my ex-husband swing dancing. So, this music appeals to me, for all it’s cheesier elements and big-band dorkiness. I can imagine a routine evolving in my head, can feel myself moving to imaginary choreography, and for that reason, “Pandora’s Pinata” is a fun, quirky listen for me. To someone else without such a background? I am not so sure the appeal is universal.
The alums strengths are entirely bound up in the catchy, infections rhythms and in Annlouice Loegdlund’s fantastic soprano voice. Fans of symphonic metal will certainly find these elements enjoyable. “Exit Strategy of a Wrecking Ball” is perhaps the most metal track on the album, at least at the beginning. The full orchestration supports a powerful lead, and then the song shifts sweeping, symphonic ballad. The impertinent, passionate violins are also a highlight on this song. Throughout the album, the various instruments are well-balanced and play off each other well, making this very full line-up (eight permanent members) seem absolutely necessary to the dense and layered sound they are going for.
I like the concept that Diablo Swing Orchestra embody, the smashing together of two very physical forms of music. While I am not sure that the entirety of metal culture is going to embrace what they have done here, “Pandora’s Pinata” sure is a fun album to dance to.