Three new albums have been keeping me company during my commutes this month, which has been particularly useful for those nights when the interminable 405 construction has left me stranded in a traffic jam at 10:30pm!
I’ve been meaning to check out Diablo Swing Orchestra for a while now, and I’m glad I finally did. My first experience with them is the aptly named Pandora’s Pinata (2012), and it’s a delightfully inventive explosion of diverse styles, from heavy metal to Latin to ska to classical to swing. The vocals are a weird blend of rock, jazz, Broadway musical, and opera, and the standard rock group orchestration is fleshed out by horn and string arrangements. It’s one of those albums that keeps you off-balance, each song an unexpected left turn from the last. Impressive stuff, right up my alley.
For some reason, Lost World Band’s Sound Source (2009) is only $1.99 on iTunes. This Russian ensemble feels like it time-travelled to the twenty-first century from the mid-seventies, old school progressive rock in the vein of, say, early Genesis, Jethro Tull, or Yes. All instrumental, it has a classic rock sensibility, but adds melodic flutes and violins that give it some postmodern classical feel. I quite like this, and at the price, it’s great value for the money.
One of the more artful djent bands, TesseracT released its first album in an instrumental-only version that I found very agreeable: an intense blend of heavy riffs and melodic compositions, characterized by chugging palm-muted guitar chords and polyrhythmic funk-metal drumming. I bought the deluxe edition of their new album, Altered State (2013), which is basically the same album twice: one with vocals, one instrumental. Unsurprisingly, I prefer the non-vocal version. The vocals aren’t bad, actually: more textural and melodic than the guttural screaming typical of this kind of prog-metal. But to me it also conventionalizes the sound and distracts from the rhythmic complexity. Either way, it’s a rich and accomplished collection.