In the world of experimental and avant-garde metal, one can hardly know what to expect and more often than not, a band digs deep into the recesses of experimentation only to conjure up some type of music that is dense and complex and requires some serious investment of time and energy in order to find a footing in the newly created sonic universe that they have constructed. And then there’s bands like Sweden’s DIABLO SWING ORCHESTRA that not only catches your attention from the very first seconds of first contact but manages to suck you in and enjoy the music from the get go and when all has been played and you have a chance to reflect upon the crazy combo effect of the music at hand, you will ask yourself “It’s such a logical combination of things, why hasn’t someone thought of this before?” DSO is one of those blender bands that takes everything including the kitchen sink approach, alloys all kinds of disparate musical styles and throws them into a salad bowl and then tosses all the components around until they form a whole new form of musical expression.
While this music is primarily based on a healthy supply of metal guitar riffing married with the jump blues and swing revival scene that was all the rage in the 1990s and graced with the female classical soprano diva vocals of AnnLouice Lögdlun belting out operatic enunciations like there’s no tomorrow, the music also incorporates all sorts of other styles including Flamenco guitar, Middle Eastern, spaghetti western, surf rock as well as good old-fashioned rock ’n’ roll. THE BUTCHER’S BALLROOM is the full-length debut album but technically isn’t the band’s debut release since a four track EP titled “Borderline Hymns” came out in 2003, a full three years before this album. However, BALLROOM contains all four tracks from that debut EP thus rendering it completely irrelevant and a mere footnote in history. They haven’t even been re-recorded or anything so in effect this one could very well be considered the debut.
THE BUTCHER’S BALLROOM is divided up into two Acts which are supposed to represent some sort of story line but i honestly have no friggin’ clue as to what these two divided themes are all about. They probably have some reference to the band’s tongue-in-cheek approach to creating a completely faux mythology regarding their timeline which purportedly begins with their ancestral history that goes all the way back to 16th century Sweden. The current band is supposed to be the ancestors of past band members who created diabolical music that was strictly forbidden by the Lutheran church. The tale becomes more elaborate as the members of this secret musical organization had to go into hiding for centuries up until the right time would allow the inheritor’s of this secular music to expose their musical world to the public. Well, wait no longer, DOS is here to stay!
While all these styles sound like a possible road to disaster and very likely could have been if DOS weren’t so skilled in how they pull all these disparate styles off. Daniel Håkansson is the sole songwriter on this one and clearly has the knack of knowing just how much of the different ingredients to add to this musical salad and just like a fine cuisine knows when too much lettuce and too many tomatoes can throw off the balance of the whole. It’s fairly uncanny in how accessible the music is upon first listen but has ways of letting you dig deeper into the song constructs once the initial WOW factor has waned. In addition to the aforementioned styles that dominate THE BUTCHER’S BALLROOM, the listener will also be floored with all sorts of other instruments that aren’t supposed to work here but somehow do. A didgeridoo can be heard accompanying surf rock and jazzy opera singing. Flamenco dances side by side with electronica and cellos happily accompany heavy distorted metal riffs.
The trick to enjoy DIABLO SWING ORCHESTRA’s conglomerating mass of styles is to not become too enthralled in any one particular genre style. While often fitting into the vague descriptive category of avant-garde metal, this is definitely no headbanger’s paradise as metal is not the dominate force on this one but more of an accompanying sound effect to wrap itself around the dominating gypsy swing, classical and jazzy undertones that swing from one musical thread to another. This is simply wild and crazy stuff and the only band that comes to mind with their ability to mix and meld so many styles and still create a very melodic and musical experience is the Japanese band Sigh. THE BUTCHER’S BALLROOM truly was like no other album or band that came before. DOS truly found a total unique identity from their inception and nothing else has even come close to copying it and with a lineup that includes not only guitars, bass, drums and keys but ample extras such as lute, flute, cello, double bass, violin as well as a few ethnic touches here and there, you know you’re in for a wild ride unlike another other. Love it!