The line between clever and cheesy is a narrow one. There are bands like Therion who (for whatever reason) walk that line every single release and never seem to fuck up. I love Therion which might surprise some. Then there’s Diablo Swing Orchestra, who I’ve always felt that I should love. They are weird and very unique. So I keep trying to get into them.
Their latest album “Pacifisticuffs” represents another attempt for me to get into them. Let me start by saying if you love DSO, you will love “Pacifisticuffs.” It’s the same over the top, odd ball stuff that they have done. There is NO questioning how talented this band is musically. They are excellent and the arrangements are very tight. So why do I find they always over step the line into being cheesy?
The vocals. First off, the vocalists are good singers so it’s not that they aren’t able to hit the notes that need hitting. The problem is that it comes off as very “Broadway” and it sounds affected rather than organic. It’s all part of the show. And I know many people love that sort of thing. So this review is tricky because “Pacifisticuffs” has confirmed to me that I will never be into DSO. BUT there’s no denying the talent and quality on this album.
The album starts with a quick, thrashy blast of “Knucklehugs” which is really good. “The Age of Vulture Culture” is also a solid song with strings and I think a tuba?? “Superhero Jagganath” is so weird musically (I mean that in a good way) but again the vocals are a tad too goofy sounding. “Lady Clandestine Chainbreaker” is the start of the downswing for me. Vocals are too cutesy for my taste. Unfortunately, that doesn’t change as the album progresses.
I think “Jigsaw Hustle” was the breaking point for me. DSO goes disco?? Yeah they do. “Interruption” is a good example of my issues with DSO. The music is varied and very cool. The vocals ooze bad Broadway. Vocalist Kristin Evegård reminds me A LOT of Tori Amos on this track. Having never liked Tori Amos’ voice or delivery, that poses a problem.
The pluses are that the arrangements are big and even epic, the melodies are very strong and the band are still one of the most unique bands on the planet. It’s hard to compare them to anyone really. I suppose they sound like a band that Mike Patton should be in. Maybe that would actually help me get into them! If you like metal mixed with old school jazz with a huge helping of big band music, “Pacifisticuffs” is an album for you. It’s sure to please DSO’s long time fans and who knows maybe even convert some new ones. They aren’t for everyone of course. It’s tough to rate this album but…
1. Knucklehugs (Arm Yourself With Love)
2. The Age Of Vulture Culture
0. Superhero Jagganath
4. Vision Of The Purblind
5. Lady Clandestine Chainbreaker
6. Jigsaw Hustle
7. Pulse Of The Incipient
8. Ode To The Innocent
10. Cul-De-Sac Semantics
11. Karma Bonfire
12. Climbing The Eyeball
13. Porch Of Perception