Diablo Swing Orchestra – The Butcher’s Ballroom

Calm down, people. Diablo Swing Orchestra is admittedly a pretty cool band. I actually really enjoy ‘The Butcher’s Ballroom’ and have listened to it a number of times in preparation for this review. But they’re not ‘the future of metal’ or some sort of incredibly brilliant Renaissance artists or any of the shit that I’ve been seeing written about this band. What it is, however, is an enjoyable, experimental breed of rock/metal that’s better as a listen than an artistic statement.

If you haven’t heard, the whole gimmick of Diablo Swing Orchestra is essentially that it’s hard rock/heavy metal combined with a myriad of influences, chiefly being, as one would ascertain from the band’s name, orchestral compositions and swing. And they’re not bullshitting you on these influences: they make up at least half if not more of the music, and frequently the music sounds like merely swing with thicker guitars. The orchestral influence is no slouch either: unlike, say, Tarja Turunen’s ‘orchestral’ wailings with Nightwish, the vocals here are genuinely operatic, as opposed to merely emulating the style. So yeah, it’s a gimmick, but it’s a very professionally done and well-designed gimmick that has some actual talent to back up the novelty. None of the swing or orchestral or jazz or electronic influence on this album is added merely to add influences; it all has a place and is used effectively.

Yet despite this myriad of influences, it’s pretty simple music when you get down to it. I wouldn’t even call it ‘progressive’; experimental maybe, but not progressive, as there’s no real ‘progress’ going on here. Technically, it’s surprisingly simple: the band themselves have admitted that it’s mostly rhythmic, dancey music, and that the riffs are composed based off the drums, so it’s not like we’re dealing with Psyopus here. Even the compositions themselves aren’t that complex: the music only has a couple layers going on at once (the guitars most often harmonize with the drums and vocals), and above and beyond that, it’s essentially rock music: the structures are uniformly verse/chorus in nature, and the number of actual movements within songs is very limited compared to the vast majority of heavy metal. This isn’t particularly said to denigrate the album, but merely to state the facts: that Diablo Swing Orchestra is not making ‘progressive’ nor even particularly original music.

That being said, I do like the album. The songs have a good swing to them, the operatic vocals are actually very enjoyable, and the riffing and overall construction is very professional and well done. The songs have various catchy hooks within them that stick in your head long after your listen is completed, and the album works extremely effectively as a whole as opposed to merely isolated songs: there hasn’t been one time in my listening to it that I’ve only played isolated tracks. The only major flaw I notice is that the first ‘act’ is considerably better than the second: ‘Balrog Boogie’ and ‘Ragdoll Physics’ are obviously the highlights of the album, and they both appear within the first half, making the second dwindle a bit in comparison. But even the weaker songs are still strong compositions on their own; it’s merely a matter of comparison that brings them down a notch.

So, contrary to what everyone’s saying, Diablo Swing Orchestra have not created the ‘future of metal’ with ‘The Butcher’s Ballroom’. Instead, they’re created a fun, enjoyable album that holds many listens without getting stale, and is full of elements that most metalheads or rockers would enjoy. Please give it a try on its own terms, but don’t expect some sort of artistic revolution. Just expect a good slice of music.

(Originally written for http://www.grindingtheapparatus.net)

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~ by noktorn on May 16, 2007.

One Response to “Diablo Swing Orchestra – The Butcher’s Ballroom”

  1. you’re a fag

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