Diablo Swing Orchestra – Swagger & Stroll Down The Rabbit Hole (Album Review)

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We are usually encouraged to do most of the relevant actions that we carry out with creativity and innovation. However, achieving it requires an effort that sometimes prevents us from translating it into our activities. Therefore, the achievement of innovation and creativity becomes a flag that we should pursue since it will raise our actions to a higher level no matter how difficult it is to accomplish. For this reason, it results surprising the apparent ease with which the Swedish band Diablo Swing Orchestra manages to incorporate both concepts within their music. The result of such incorporation can be appreciated by a unique constant, which sees the listener repeatedly direct his hands to his head in astonishment. 

Being creativity and innovation concepts inevitably intertwined, their union allows them to create or produce something out of nowhere. It will be until November 2 that we can witness a new result of the band’s artistic vision that allowed them to create a unique piece that goes by the name of “Swagger & Stroll Down The Rabbit Hole”, which will certainly not leave anyone who enters into that particular world indifferent.

And how could anyone remain indistinct to the world that Diablo Swing Orchestra presents? You just can’t. “Swagger & Stroll Down The Rabbit Hole” is so vastly rich in nuances that it results difficult not to be hypnotized by its proposal and to resist being dragged into an ambitious journey that promises to blur the very existence of musical genres and their rules. The journey will take the listener through the most various passages that will make us feel a different range of sensations, from a deep sense of melancholy and sadness to a plethoric and liberatory insight, creating a cathartic and uplifting experience, seasoned with a dose of theatricality, a hint of aggressiveness and chaos.

At times, it seems that we are listening to the soundtrack of a strange film, in which epic and passionate moments are interspersed with cartoonish and humorous passages that are not taken so seriously, creating a compelling contrast that only enriches the record’s dynamism. In this way, the Swedish band contrasts different musical approaches that will lead them to successfully combine progressive, metal, and heavy passages with swing, electronica, gospel, surf rock, and orchestral moments. 

On occasions, there will be a lot of stuff going on simultaneously that results overwhelmingly to dissect all of what is happening, requiring to listen to the album repeatedly to discover countless secrets that the music hides. It does not matter how many times someone has listened to it; the listener will keep finding elements previously unnoticed, which bears witness to the complexity and magnificence of “Swagger & Stroll Down The Rabbit Hole”.

The opening track, “Sightseeing in the Apocalypse”, consists of a beautiful piece that increases its intensity as it develops. However, such song does not waste time showing the contrasts that Diablo Swing Orchestra boasts by referring to an imminent apocalypse with a musicality so intense in emotion, presented in an uplifting manner, that at first sight would not correspond to the end of everything. After the first song, which could be considered to have a subtle approach, chaos is about to unleash. The subsequent tracks reveal the mayhem, madness, and the endless pit of geniality and creativity that the band constantly portrays.

Released as the first single, “War Painted Valentine” is a fantastic and provocative track that depicts the current state of political and global matters while being ironic about truth relativity and the message propagated by supposed powerful men, who are presented as nothing more than chickens and cartoons. The mix between tribal sounds and crushing riffs that intentionally reminds us of Sepultura allows the band to continue carrying out contrasts between the brutality of the music and the concept portrayed, with the playful and cheerful voices that sing it. On occasions, those voices resemble a shy schoolgirl taken from an anime; other times, Goofy comes to mind, and even a verse is sung by a voice generator, like the one that allowed Stephen Hawking to speak.  

By now, it should be clear that Diablo Swing Orchestra is not a typical band. Their artistic commitment usually goes beyond what is presented through an album. For instance, the release of their latest album is scheduled for a Tuesday, which is completely contrary to the common practice of releasing an album on a Friday. For Diablo Swing Orchestra, it is more important to match the release of “Swagger & Stroll Down The Rabbit Hole” with “Día de Muertos”, rather than try to capture a greater range of days in search of a chart position.

And why did they try to match the release day with Día de Muertos? That is because the Swedish band paid homage to the Mexican tradition with “Celebremos Lo Inevitable”. Such song brilliantly captures the essence of Día de Muertos, a practice through which we honor the memory of those who are no longer with us and that during that day, we will receive them at our homes once again.

For this homage, contrasts are presented over again. On this occasion, it sees the band confronting what seems to be a traditional and delightful bolero with sudden passages of madness and heaviness, as well as beautiful instrumental passages. The accomplished and risky musical proposal is duly noticed, just as the performance of vocalist Kristin Evegård that, with an exceptional Spanish pronunciation, delivers emotional lyrics that managed to resonate within my heart, moving me to the core and bringing moisture into my eyes.

After the intense experience of remembering those who are no longer with us, with “Speed Dating An Arsonist” it’s time to move to what seems to be a cabaret with the unbridled swing that invites the listener to dance. Just as the music boasts many resources, Kristin‘s vocal approach is not far behind. She approaches the song with diverse vocal styles that display that the Diablo Swing Orchestra is not short in terms of musical tricks. I can only imagine the joy that will be to experience this track live. You would not want to miss it when the Swedes land near your city.

“Swagger & Stroll Down The Rabbit Hole” Album Artwork

Suddenly, a choir has taken over the Diablo Swing Orchestra. Although there is a quasi-country passage at the beginning of “Jig Of The Century” and thunderous and heavy riffs are performed by guitarist Daniel Håkansson throughout the song, the central claim consists of the choir that has taken hold of such track. Something similar happens with “The Sound Of An Unconditional Surrender”, only that in such piece which takes the baton is the orchestral aspect of the band, and mainly, the delicate and touching cello of Johannes Bergion.

Being a band with eight members, the music of Diablo Swing Orchestra allows all the members to shine. In “Malign Monologues”, is the turn of the wind instruments to lead a theatrical song with swing overtones all over it, which invites the listener to be carried away by its pace and enjoy its energetic proposal. When everything results surprising, sometimes it is possible to start to lose the capacity of wonder. Already deep into the album, despite everything being shocking thus far, it could become challenging to continue amaze the listener. So, what to do with such possible dilemma? The solution is simple, just place “Out Came The Hummingbirds” as the next song. With its intriguing proposal that combines metal with elements of electronics and dubstep, hearing it live will cause difficulty in trying to understand whether the listener is at a metal concert or at a rave.

Until now, the listener might dare to think that has started to understand the unexpected turns contained on “Swagger & Stroll Down The Rabbit Hole”. Fortunately, nothing is further from reality. With tracks such as “Snake Oil Baptism” or “Saluting the Reckoning” the listener is reminded that the Swedes never stop to amaze. The first track uses gospel elements with hard rock to thrill us, while the latter gives the listener enough courage to dare question Mr. Orange with its surf rock approach and strange vocal performance.

We find “Overture To A Ceasefire” as a closing track, a dreamlike and introspective ballad that wraps the album with the Swedish collective sounding like a marching circus band. Its proposal resembles the final score of a film that is not entirely clear if it is suitable for children, despite many cartoons participating in it. The experience has been intense and has taken the listener through strenuous stretches, but the journey was worth it. Along the way, we find memorable and emotional moments and other aggressive and unbridled ones. Moments for reflection and self-recognition and many others to question what is happening around us. Fun and enjoyable moments and others that invite you to dance without restraint. Certainly, “Swagger and Stroll Down the Rabbit Hole” is not short on emotions.

Chaos is often used to describe the unpredictable. “Swagger & Stroll Down The Rabbit Hole” is a chaotic, innovative and daring experience that sees Diablo Swing Orchestra tearing apart any musical and artistic preconception. By blending genres and musical approaches, the Swedish band attests that they do not play swing or metal. Instead, it shows that they move freely within the immense world of possibilities that music and their creativity provide. Their fifth album is a triumph of the band´s artistic will and constant risk-taking, maintaining a vision, sticking to it, and delving into it until its last consequences.

Released by: Candlelight Records
Released Date: November 2nd, 2021
Genre: Avant-Garde Metal

Musicians:

  • Daniel Håkansson / Guitar
  • Pontus Mantefors / Guitar, synthesizer, FX
  • Anders “Andy” Johansson / Bass
  • Johannes Bergion / Cello, backing vocals
  • Martin Isaksson / Trumpet, backing vocals
  • Daniel Hedin / Trombone, backing vocals
  • Johan Norbäck / Drums, percussion, backing vocals
  • Kristin Evegård / Lead vocals, piano

“Swagger & Stroll Down the Rabbit Hole” track-listing:

  1. Sightseeing In The Apocalypse
  2. War Painted Valentine
  3. Celebremos Lo Inevitable
  4. Speed Dating An Arsonist
  5. Jig Of The Century
  6. The Sound Of An Unconditional Surrender
  7. Malign Monologues
  8. Out Came The Hummingbirds
  9. Snake Oil Baptism
  10. Les Invulnéables
  11. Saluting The Reckoning
  12. The Prima Donna Gauntlet
  13. Overture To A Ceasefire

9.1 Excellent

With their fifth album "Swagger & Stroll Down The Rabbit Hole", Diablo Swing Orchestra carries out the culmination of their unique artistic vision, resulting in their most ambitious record to date. We find the Swedes do not know about musical barriers, which allows them to freely navigate the infinite sea of possibilities that music provides, showing no limit to their creativity and innovative essence. Prepare to be embarked on one of the best musical experiences that the listener will find throughout 2021

  • Songwriting 9
  • Musicianship 9
  • Originality 9.5
  • Production 9
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