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Andrew’s Judgmental Album Reviews: Diablo Swing Orchestra – Swagger & Stroll Down the Rabbit Hole (2021)

The JAR ventured across an avant-garde metal band from Sweden. Join me down the rabbit hole as we see where this album takes us!

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The JAR ventured across an avant-garde metal band from Sweden. Join me down the rabbit hole as we see where this album takes us!

You know, the title of this album oddly befits the way I stumbled upon the band. Spotify was just playing through associated acts during my Dream Theater review; and it starts playing Exit Strategy of a Wrecking Ball. At first I thought it was a Muse song, and Muse isn’t a band I’ve listened to actively in a while so I looked over at the tab. Saw Diablo Swing Orchestra and was intrigued by the name of the band, and how they really mix up their sounds and instruments they used from song to song.

With that being said, apparently, DSW has been around since 2003 and I’m just very late to the fancy party. So my repressed theater kid is a little excited for all this, my music nerd is ready for ear candy…long and short, I’m actually kinda hype for this. The beauty of experimental bands is unlike Progressive bands, they don’t go for pretentious as much as “AND NOW A MILK JUG AND A HARPSICHORD SOLO”.

Time to see if this rabbit hole leads to Wonderland!

  • Artist: Diablo Swing Orchestra
  • Album: Swagger & Stroll Down the Rabbit Hole (2021)
  • Label: Candlelight
  • Total Track Time: 60:47

Sightseeing in the Apocalypse the title alone is amusing, the song starts out with a small marching band/military drum march, a choral arrangement and it sounds really uplifting. I feel like there’s a Theremin effect in the song, but the music goes from uplifting and marching to a future beyond, but then the final lyric of “a future I cannot be near…” ends the song abruptly and immediately changes the tone. War Painted Valentine starts off quickly out of the abrupt silence, and there’s trumpets which are mixed like an old chase scene from the 60s Adam West Batman. It then breaks down into this whispery female vocal, with a jazzy swing and a rap in a different language, similar to something Little Big would do. And then the chorus hits like Muse, while we go back to a swingy interlude with possibly…barnyard noises? Okay this is frenetic, but fantastic. A little bit of the computerized voice effect on a line just adds to the interesting…whatever…is going on in this song.

Celebremos Lo Inevitable we go from psychosis to a tango intro for this next song. It starts off like a beautiful James Bond club scene love song. After the subtle open it speeds up and reminds me of an Emilie Autumn song where it hits a frantic point and then returns to calm tango. With a title like Let’s Celebrate the Inevitable, I suppose the movie aspect of things is pretty fantastically fitting. I’m not going into the lyrics just because the instrumentation is fun and gets a little more grit later on in the song. So it’s just a fun ride. Speed Dating An Arsonist, ahh yeah been there man, but haven’t we all? Wait-what? ANYWAY- the song is a swingy little jazz number initially, trumpets, light guitar and some female voices doing a little scat singing in the background before the proper vocals kick in. It’s quirky, it’s jazzy and the way the female vocals sound distanced and echoed out paints a nice visual of this being a song playing in a crazy person’s head while they set the world afire. Soo…if this was still 2004, I’d totally expect many Harley Quinn fan music videos with this song. It’s cute, a little unassuming, but completely unhinged.

Jig of the Century takes us to the Celtic aspect of this avant-garde crazy trip.  It keeps the spirit of a Dropkick Murphys song, with cleaner singing. So almost like a Celtic Sabaton especially when it hits the heavy guitar sludge and the trumpet bleats to get across a darker tone. We’re playing in a Celtic Folk/Symphonic Metal mixture. The Sound of an Unconditional Surrender starts with sounds of a violin, xylophone and a triangle. So…stab me in the face with a clarinet, this is different. A light little cello pluck seems to there in the background as well. Then we get a dark pitching ocean ride kind of vibe from either a cello being played with the bow or possibly a stand-up bass. The female vocals come in and ebb and flow with the music, a pitching Siren song is the feeling that smacks me in the face. It’s beautifully theatrical, like In All My Dreams I Drown from The Devil’s Carnival. Malign Monologues oh a very basic jazzy swing here, like we all have heard something like this before. But the guitar and piano start directing it into heavier waters. Very Aladdin, to the point where I almost wanted to start saying “Mr Aladdin sir…”, meets Dream Theater in a dark alley. Then it lightens up to a comedic point like a play talking about following him to his theater of lunacy, we go back to the jazz intro and then build the heavy tension back up a little. This whole album so far really feels like a theater kid’s fever dream, and it’s marvelous so far. It is definitely a bit much for some, similar to Twelve Foot Ninja, but if you’re in the mood to be taken on a ride, this doesn’t disappoint so far. Oh nice a little a cappella moment before we come up with a violin run, and a harpsichord.

Out Came the Hummingbirds so apparently the song is playing Contra to start with, and then we get a very heavy techno/electro sound after the video game-esque open. With the darker techno aspects and ever present sci fi/80s/synthwave/video game parts, it’s just interesting. The whispery vocals give a really big 80s retro vibe to the whole song. Snake Oil Baptism aside from the obvious jazzy instrumentation, the Led Zeppelin or Jesus Christ Superstar approach to the male vocals stands out so far. The fact the chorus has a low croon to give the idea of a group of people saying it in unison like judgment is interesting. Les Invulnerables chimes and horns start this song like a Trans-Siberian Orchestra symphonic number, and then drop out for some really tempered male vocals. The horns remain and an acoustic guitar pluck complement a more somber delivery, similar to Kamelot’s Sailor Man’s Hymn. Which applies well since there is the sea faring feeling with the instrumentation and the line “She’s breathing water” – be it literally drowning or just being overwhelmed by thoughts so it feels like your mind is an ocean, the song is hauntingly beautiful with great moments of brass kicking in for a bridge toward the end.

Saluting the Reckoning starts with a different, more Rock & Roll guitar tone. And it comes off like one of those songs you’d hear at a beach during an Elvis movie or possibly the dance scene from Pulp Fiction. The deep vocal delivery complimented with the female vocals and the very swingy Rock & Roll guitar and drum with trumpets as well, it’s really a song that you’d expect to see people surf to and kids dancing on the beach. The Prima Donna Gauntlet heavy distortion on the intro to this song, but then when we get to the first verse it lightens a bit and the vocals come in clean and pleading with the violin accenting the emotion. The song seems to be this rising feeling in the singer to protect or get vengeance against those who have wronged the subject of the song. Vocally, this is very similar to Muse again, but the vigilante justice aspect of the lyrics is subdued by the almost romantic and uplifting instrumentation. It makes the idea sound much more beautiful until the last portion when the guitars get heavier, the distortion returns and we get growled screams of “Repent” about five times. Very cool way to juxtapose the message at the very end.  Overture to a Ceasefire is our final song on this crazy ride. It has an almost Carnival melody to it, so it harkens into that Emilie Autumn area again with the cellos, violins, light drums in more of a military march and chimes of some sort. I’m just waiting for the harpsichord. Well I don’t think we get the harpsichord but it was different. Probably the weakest song on the album, but still not bad.

Hold on a second, I have to process what this was. This really is just a manic rollercoaster ride of ear candy, different genres that meld well together and some ridiculous (at times) lyrics that just help to drive the beat. I think the line from Malign Monologues about “Follow me, into my theater of lunacy” fits the concept and even more so given the Alice in Wonderland inspired title.

I enjoyed the trip down the rabbit hole, even if it felt like we spent far too much time with the Mad Hatter. You have to enjoy progressive and experimental elements in your music to enjoy this fully, but for those who do, you will be beautifully blown away. This might end up being my highest rated album yet – no might it will be. Damn enjoyable.

 

Final Judgment – 9/10


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Bandwagon Nerds #114: Return of the Reverend

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Bandwagon Nerds
Bandwagon Nerds #114: Return of the Reverend

The Reverend Rey Cash returns to the Bandwagon just in time to discuss all of the latest Marvel Cinematic Universe news and rumors surrounding the upcoming Dr. Strange, Fantastic Four, and Black Panther Films! Patrick figures out why Dave doesn’t care for The Witcher season 2 in the Bandwagon’s review of season two, episode 5.  And finally, are there problems between Disney and Pixar brewing?

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Andrew’s Judgmental Album Reviews: Eliminator – Ancient Light (2022)

YO! The JAR tends to like the New Wave of British Heavy Metal sound. This band is inspired by that 80s sound and it shines brightly! Check it out!

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YO! The JAR tends to like the New Wave of British Heavy Metal sound. This band is inspired by that 80s sound and it shines brightly! Check it out!

Now this is not exactly a unique band name since I’m aware of at least two other “Eliminators”, but this one is from England and been around for about a decade. Similarly as to the first review of 2022, I was clicking around looking for something that struck my interest early on in this new year.

They are from England and stick in that Iron Maiden/Judas Priest New Wave of British Heavy Metal sound. I’m interested to see if they stick in the classic Heavy Metal sound, or if they put their own spin on it. Let’s get to the album!

  • Artist: Eliminator
  • Album: Ancient Light (2022)
  • Label: Dissonance Productions
  • Total Track Time: 50:43

Arrival it definitely strikes you in the face with that Iron Maiden kind of vibe. But the fun this about halfway through, they solo out the bass to lead into a great dueling guitar instrumental section. It doesn’t have the Maiden Gallop but it feels more like old Kill ‘Em All Metallica in the approach to how they put that together. Really rocking opening song with great guitar parts. Silent Stone opens with a very prominent Bassline complimented with just a quick guitar flair and then into more of that Maiden-esque sound. I really appreciate that the dual guitar parts are more harmonic and less lead trades. They complement each other very well and the rhythm section ties it all together beautifully. So far these first two songs feel like they were ripped out of time from Iron Maiden’s cutting room floor, but that’s not really an insult; because I’m referring to good Maiden. Like Somewhere in Time, No Prayer for the Dying, Fear of the Dark; that era. So not the 80s peak, but still notable Maiden.

Ancient Light starts a little more erratic and then goes into a slower ballad like delivery before the guitars start to drive the tone and tempo back up to the established energy level of the album. While the instrumentation really does stay in league with the band I keep referencing, the vocal tone the singer takes feels more like Geoff Tate from Queensryche until we get to a breakdown and he turns up the head voice and vocal fry usage like 80s Bruce Dickinson. Goddess of Life is the first song to really utilize that Maiden Gallop in the instrumentation. It does flip the arrangement from the last song where it starts off heavy and galloping and then really slows down to this epic moment when the guitars kick in for their duel and reignite the tempo. Only real complaint is they stay in that gallop for so much of the song, the tempo change is the only really intriguing part of the song, and the rest almost becomes a metronome boring me just a little bit. The Sculptor of the Stone Lady well they got their naming conventions from either Iron Maiden or Nightwish. So this is at least very on brand. One of my favorite aspects of these first few songs, is how audible the basslines are. They keep things moving, lock really well with the drum for the rhythm section and too often do bass parts get lost in the mix (I’m looking at you And Justice for All). This song also has a little flamenco guitar break similar to Marty Friedman’s in Holy Wars. The difference is the break actually bridges into a verse with the adjusted tempo, they come out and adjust the tempo again to the swaying almost rock anthem sounding instrumentation. I’m not gonna lie, all of the small changes really had me feeling some Dream Theater vibes, but it was all done really well. They’re just this great building flourish to one final line and then the song ends after a little more noodling. Damn fun song.

Lord of Sleep, Dreammaster someone call Dokken, we need the Dream Warriors! Not really a lot of places to go with breaking this down, the lyrics play in this high fantasy section, so it’s cool and it has many of the similar elements from previous songs with tempo changes, guitar duel and stays driving but the drummer does a much better job with fills to keep the song engaging and not hypnotizing. The Library immediately, I got some King Diamond vibes. From the simple yet ominous title to a quicker opening before steering back into the ominous haunted feeling. But the guitar tone while still very Maiden, reminds me more of like a Welcome Home. And when it picks back up about 2/3rds of the way through the song, again that Maiden/Diamond mixture really just resonates with me. It’s a well put together song and paints great imagery. Mercy definitely using much more vocal fry technique, this sounds more like later 90s Dickinson where it’s going for a heavier tone instead of the grandiose epic vibe. While not bad, the lyrics not being overly enunciated for the sake of using fry and the instrumentation not being anything creative, it falls into that ‘kinda boring’ vein.

Foreverless so a made up word is either going to be a poignant song, or irritating. While it takes about 50 seconds for the lyrics to kick in, it switches things up 2 or 3 times and then goes into a straight Iron Maiden epic sound. We mean like more current Maiden, Benjamin Breeg comes to mind. But they keep the rhythm rocking, the drum crashes and fills mixed with a proper amount of falsetto and fry actually do drive this song well. It’s pretty cool when we get about halfway to a small guitar solo before the story of the song switches to more of the Maiden gallop and what could be interpreted as a glorious resolution. The Nightmare of Aeon let’s see if they are using Aeon to mean life or if they’re just really big fans of Final Fantasy 10. This takes a demonic almost approach, with church bells, a trudging tempo and what sounds like drowned out choral backing vocals. So it’s really hammering down on the dark and foreboding vibe. We get a nearly listless feeling from the guitar solo as it bridges the verses together. We go from an implied spiral to slowly picking up steam back into the Maiden-esque gallop and power, even with an audible fret slide. Hitting the last line if “Nightmare of aeon…” as the song just fades is a nice touch.

So I’ve seen a couple comments and I can’t help but agree; that this album is what Senjutsu could have been. We get the Iron Maiden album we deserved last year. Eliminator does a great job at not dragging on too long, even songs that had that longer epic feel, quickly came to fruition with the longest song being Foreverless at 6:31. That may not sound short, but when current Maiden likes 9+ minute songs…6 and change is short as hell. But what does this all mean? The album is really damn good. I may have started to get a little bored at times, but nothing was egregious or terrible.

With all that said, if you like Iron Maiden you’ll love this band. Give it a spin!

 

Final Judgment: 8.1/10


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