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Diablo Swing Orchestra - Swagger & Stroll Down The Rabbit Hole review




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Reviewer:
7.5

59 users:
7.76
Band: Diablo Swing Orchestra
Album: Swagger & Stroll Down The Rabbit Hole
Release date: November 2021


01. Sightseeing In The Apocalypse
02. War Painted Valentine
03. Celebremos Lo Inevitable
04. Speed Dating An Arsonist
05. Jig Of The Century
06. The Sound Of An Unconditional Surrender
07. Malign Monologues
08. Out Came The Hummingbirds
09. Snake Oil Baptism
10. Les Invulnérables
11. Saluting The Reckoning
12. The Prima Donna Gauntlet
13. Overture To A Ceasefire


"Cease fire! We spit fire! Sit back and watch it backfire!"
So I did, and so I saw. It backfired on them.

Diablo Swing Orchestra has been one of the bigger names within the avant-garde boundaries of metal for a while now. I’m still in absolute awe every time I listen to their debut. In fact, their first 3 albums form a trilogy of some of the most entertaining and playful metal-related music I've ever heard. The “riot opera” D:S:O (not to be confused with the other great DSO) created on those records remains fresh, wild, inventive, aggressive and seductive even to this day.

I lost touch with them since the release of their 2017 opus Pacifisticuffs as it left a weird taste in my mouth. While the departure of soprano Annlouice Lögdlund was sorely mourned by yours truly, I thought Kristin Evegård provided a fresh new sound that beautifully matched the band’s quirkiness. The main problem I had with that album was that a certain aggression, a feeling of being able to let loose, was missing. It relied too much on symphonic influences, making the release too orchestral, predictable and lacking bite. I wanted those beautiful riots!

After the solemn, Queen-inspired opening track we are blasted by “War Painted Valentine” which is one of the feistiest tracks the band has released. The tribal drums and heavy riffing set a dangerous atmosphere that is intoxicating and very charismatic. It’s also a great example of how the rhythm section has always been one of the biggest highlights in D:S:O’s career, often being the main factor that adds high amounts of energy and catchiness to their music. The maddening jump of genres includes tracks like the sensual bolero-metal “Celebremos Lo Inevitable”, the ridiculous electro swing of “Speed Dating an Arsonist”, the violent EBM of “Out Came The Hummingbirds”, and the groovy as hell Zeppelin/Soul/Cabaret sonic meteor “Snake Oil Baptism”. One could argue that D:S:O are trying a bit too hard on picking different genres for each song. It is a valid point to make, but I honestly commend this band for trying to push boundaries, sounding coherent while doing so, and having fun doing it (and on the topic of fun, I just want to say that I deeply love their whacky song titles, this album keeps the tradition).

Swagger & Stroll Down The Rabbit Hole, has more bite than its predecessor. It sounds more aggressive, unhinged, playful, catchy, varied and also, hmm, really awful.

I’m not talking about the songs themselves. D:S:O’s songwriting skills have always been top-notch. A fact they cemented already in their early days. I’m not talking about the performance, either. The whole band comes together flawlessly, while also shining as individuals with incredible talent. The problem lies in the production, mastering, mixing, just everything that doesn’t have to do with the actual songs and band. Dear lord, look how they massacred these songs! This isn’t about sounding clean or polished. For a great, muddy-sounding avant-garde metal example, I’d point you to The Meads Of Asphodel. In this case, it is more about the songs sounding so compressed you think they are just rough tapes coming from another room. Like using opaque lenses to shoot a beautifully acted and written movie. Like downloading a 100×100 JPEG of a renaissance painting and resizing the poor thing to 500×500, frame it and call it a day. This drags the songs down so much. The intense riffs and percussion get lost through the thin and choppy production, as if one of my speakers just broke. The intricate and delicate layers get lost or sound cheaply added. This is far from the worst I’ve heard, but it is particularly baffling coming from such an experienced band.

Swagger & Stroll Down The Rabbit Hole is a great album that sounds unfinished. This release sees Diablo Swing Orchestra as a band that consists of excellent musicians who use a fantastic range of influences to write great songs through shitty production. That’s three positive things out of four. If you think 3 / 4 isn’t a bad score at all, then you clearly never sat on a chair with a broken leg before.


Rating breakdown
Performance: 9
Songwriting: 8
Originality: 8
Production: 4





Written on 24.11.2021 by An extremely lazy reviewer but he's so cute you'd forgive him for it.


Comments

Comments: 11   Visited by: 119 users
24.11.2021 - 14:01
RiouxMax

That was a really well written review!

Malign Monologues is personally my favourite song from the album, but Out Came The Hummingbirds was such a mind-blowing surprise. Really creative stuff. I was a bit disappointed by Les Invulnéables. Usually their longer songs are such amazing musical journeys, and this one doesn't go much anywhere.

The production on the songs is obviously something that keeps on popping up in people's negative comments about the album, but the band keeps on saying that it's exactly as they wanted it to be. I guess having the guitars so blurred in the back makes the vocals and brass stand out more? I don't know.
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24.11.2021 - 14:34
Netzach
Planewalker
Making good music and then ruining it ought to be a greater sin than making bad music to begin with. At least the doubtful possibility exists that they would release another mix of it...
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24.11.2021 - 15:37
X-Ray Rod
Skandino
Written by RiouxMax on 24.11.2021 at 14:01

That was a really well written review!

Malign Monologues is personally my favourite song from the album, but Out Came The Hummingbirds was such a mind-blowing surprise. Really creative stuff. I was a bit disappointed by Les Invulnéables. Usually their longer songs are such amazing musical journeys, and this one doesn't go much anywhere.

The production on the songs is obviously something that keeps on popping up in people's negative comments about the album, but the band keeps on saying that it's exactly as they wanted it to be. I guess having the guitars so blurred in the back makes the vocals and brass stand out more? I don't know.


Hi man! Thank you for your comment!
I think I could have written more and more if I were to dissect each track. Malign Monologues is another goodie with great male vocals. It seemed like a real "classic" DSO from the debut's time.
Les Invulnéables was indeed very flat and it seemed to go nowhere as you said. Long and too calm.

At this point I honestly believe that the band is in denial when it comes to the production. No one can defend such a mess specially when every layer is presented on the crescendos of tracks like "Celebremos Lo Inevitable" but I think "The Prima Donna Gauntlet" is the worst culprit here. I just can't believe how compressed and fake-sounding it is. The chorus sounds so bad and the vocals just drown below the odd sounding guitars and drums.
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Written by BloodTears on 19.08.2011 at 18:29
Like you could kiss my ass
Written by Milena on 20.06.2012 at 10:49
Rod, let me love you.
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24.11.2021 - 16:48
Karlabos
Meat and Potatos
Wow, even you are complaining about the production on this one

I guess I listened to too much lofi and now my years can't discern good or bad production anymore. For me it's just another DSO release
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Rose is red, violet is blue. Flag is win, Baba is you.
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24.11.2021 - 16:58
X-Ray Rod
Skandino
Written by Karlabos on 24.11.2021 at 16:48

Wow, even you are complaining about the production on this one
I guess I listened to too much lofi and now my years can't discern good or bad production anymore. For me it's just another DSO release


Like I said: It doesn't have anything to do with lo-fi music per se. (See: The Meads. Shit, even Sigh has some filthy production). I live for extreme metal music which usually has lo-fi or very layered production wher everything is on top of each other.

But this remaster is bullshit. You can't listen to "The Prima Donna Gauntlet "and not hear how the speakers are basically blown off.. It's as if you downloaded the songs via youtube and converted them to 320 mp3.
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Written by BloodTears on 19.08.2011 at 18:29
Like you could kiss my ass
Written by Milena on 20.06.2012 at 10:49
Rod, let me love you.
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24.11.2021 - 18:46
This is definitely the album I was most looking forward to and the most disappointed by, which is crazy to me because I really like the music and performance. I don't think I've ever been so hindered by production when trying to enjoy an album that I clearly would like. It's the listening equivalent to having someone dangle something you want just out of reach.
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24.11.2021 - 19:39
qlacs
"The Quaker"
Oh man, saw this from a mile ago. I hope it's gonna be one of those cases where they remaster it a few years later and finally gets its due.

Just to reiterate, the mix itself seems pretty damn good underneath a sh*tty master. It's like some stuff left turned on at the final render where it was only supposed to be for checks.
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24.11.2021 - 19:48
Unhealer
Eclecticist
Well I'm glad I'm not the only one who though this. I'm not a big fan of the songs either tbh, it is the worst output by them so far without a doubt, but the production ruined this 100%
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24.11.2021 - 20:53
Ivor
Staff
Roddy, to be frank, I remain unconvinced that the production is at fault anywhere here. It's not a question of that they can't balance it. There are songs that are perfectly fine as you'd expect them to be. The others sound more like period-pieces, a nod to inspirations, if you will. In some cases it's just maybe a tad too evident where transition becomes too plain (I've been listening to it on the go, so can't really name songs). Moreover, there's no real problem of not being able to distinguish between elements, vocals or the instrument placement. If it sounds as if in the background it also feels that it should be in the background. I'll grant that this may be an album that plays better in some conditions than others. I've run into albums that I can only decently listen to in my car, and others that require a pair of tower speakers to make sense. So far I can say about this album that production has not bothered me while listening to it with high-quality headphones. I've been hooked on it as I haven't been since their debut album.

I.
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No friends for playing games
No foes who scorn my name
Computerized machines of steel and rust
/---/
No friends in my house on Mars
No foes in my house on Mars
I was born in my house on Mars
I will die in my house on Mars
-- Ayreon - My House on Mars
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25.11.2021 - 09:49
As far as I have been able to see, they have removed all frequencies above 13 khz.
Although the other day listening to music using the mobile phone speaker, the songs on this album were the ones that sounded the closest to what they would sound like if you used a good sound system. I don't know if that's why.
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25.11.2021 - 15:10
Didymus

So relieved there's more people who echo my sentiments. I am also baffled by the mix they decided on. It's such a shame 'cause, arguably, this album has some of their strongest or at least most fun compositions but I just... can't listen to it. I had this problem with the previous album already but it wasn't that actively irritating. This one though... I hope they listen to the feedback.
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