Swedish Avantgarde Metal band Diablo Swing Orchestra has released a new video clip for the song “Black Box Messiah” which can be viewed below. The track comes off the band’s “Pandora’s Piñata” album that was published via Candlelight Records on May, 22nd 2012.
Interview By Andy Axworthy
A band unafraid to liberally sprinkle some synth and associated electronica into the mix, Amiens’ C-Rom are an intriguing mélange of styles, ranging from the mellifluous and melancholic through dance and darkwave to martial metal, all dusted with a soaring, soulful vocal. With second album “Flames of Knowledge” now safely under their belt, Femme Metal caught up with vocalist Christelle to talk about the latest release, styles and themes, opera and amongst other things, a penchant for of tea and cakes.
Hi Christelle, welcome to the Femme Metal experience. Let’s start, if we may, with a little of the story so far. How did you come to join C-Rom and could you introduce us to, and tell us a little about your fellow band members?
I started with C-ROM in 2001. At that time, the band had only begun rehearsals for a few months, and had only 3 members: François (keyboards and programming), Cédric (guitar) and Laurent (bass). They were looking for a clear female voice and my first tries were conclusive as they wanted something contrasting with C-ROM’s first songs. After 2 demos, Christian (guitar) and Axel (percussions) joined the band and gave C-ROM a new dimension on stage.
What about the band’s name? How did you all decide and settle on C-Rom?
The founder members wanted something short, without any “real” sense. The only connotations that can be found suited C-ROM quite well: the similarity with the terms “cd-rom” and “serum”.
We have not played live that much in 2010 but “Flames of Knowledge” received a lot of good reviews in magazines, fanzines or on the web. We are proud of that album, because it looks like we wanted it to become since the first songs were written by François.
“Flames of Knowledge” plays as a rock opera with its theme based upon the myths of Prometheus and Pandora. How were you drawn to this idea and do the tracks play out as episodes from the original stories or is there a more contemporary message within the songwriting?
Most of the structures are composed by François as I told you above. Then everybody works on them and gives his/her ideas in rehearsals, but the main structures generally remain the same. Some songs were composed by Cédric too. As for the lyrics, we really tried to work as a group. François and I, as well as one of our close friends who already worked with us for “The Winding Star” worked together on the lyrics. The Prometheus/Fire theme is also represented in the album cover. What can you tell us about the idea and design for the artwork? Fire had to be represented on the cover and booklet as every song is linked to it. We also wanted technology or science to be on the cover. These were our only criteria and wet let our new designer Flo work on the subject. Her first drafts were mainly the cover and elements people can see on the cd. She immediately understood what we wanted, and is really professional. Like for “The Winding Star” we also wanted a symbol representing the album…Christian who had designed the “Star” for our first album, started to design the “atomic fire” (as we call it) and Flo improved it in order to include it in her project. Then it could be used for our tee shirts and sweatshirts too!!!
I’ve seen the band’s sound described as electro-metal but that does not really begin to sum up the range of styles to be heard, be it from plainsong to gothic, choral to industrial, sometimes all in the space of one track. Who or what are the band’s main influences and if you had to pick a word or phrase that best represents your sound, what would that be? Yes, all these styles can be stuck on C-ROM’s songs. As we always have to put labels on bands or albums, we kept “electro metal”. Speaking of style, is “Flames of Knowledge” still a metal album?? Some people or reviews speak of “darkwave”, “pop” or “electro pop” with catchy melodies, and sometimes even “disco industrial” and “dance floor”…We invite people to make their own idea of our music, by listening to “Flames of Knowledge”.
Your voice easily switches from light and lyrical to strong and sustained during the songs. How did you get into singing and how do you warm up when signing either in the studio or for a live concert?
I’ve got a good song teacher (who is the choir master of my lyrical group). With her, I practice many vocal exercises and learn many things. I need to work/warm up my voice before singing, and I need to be alone to do that. It helps me to be more relaxed. Before the studio, it’s easier: I can sing in my car, I’ve all the time to get prepared! Before a live concert, I try to isolate myself while guys drink some beer!
I understand that you also sing opera. Can you tell us a little about that part of your life? What is your favourite opera, part or aria?
I sing in a lyrical group called “Les Mezzos Sopranos”. Currently, we play Jacques Offenbach’s “Le Voyage Dans La Lune” which is funny, fairy and really interesting.
I play the role of a man who collects women: “Le Prince Qui Passe Par Là” (the role was rewritten for soprano voice). I sing alone (very impressive!) and sometimes sing together with the choir. I like operas because it’s a complete art: I can be a singer, an actor and share many good moments. At the moment, I work (during my lessons) on a beautiful aria extracted from “Il Re Pastore” from Mozart. Otherwise, I like “La Traviata” from Verdi, Puccini’s opera: “Turandot”, “Madame Butterfly” (very sad but beautiful), “Carmen” from Bizet…
What a good idea! If we decided to write this kind of album, I would like it to be an opera that opens on different horizons. “Le Voyage Dans La Lune” could be this opera. It talks about love (and many other feelings), about women’s place in the society, new experiences. It stimulates imagination. We could use our electronic, industrial and symphonic sounds…why not?
As beautiful as your voice is, do you ever get the urge to grab a guitar (or any other musical instrument) and let rip during any song or when you are in the studio? : ) I’m unable to play the guitar or any other instrument. The only thing I can do is using my little keyboard when I read a part!
“Temptation” is a good lead out video for “Flames of Knowledge”, introducing the fire theme and setting the stage for the rest of the album. What can you tell us about the video shoot? “Temptation” was shot by our usual director Xavier Labarre. He is a friend of ours, and is very receptive and open-minded and works hard on all his projects. As a non-professional director, and with our “no or low budget” he always manages to create something we can be proud of. He really works well.
Both “Temptation” and the video to “Doubt” (from first album “The Winding Star”) feature a motif and use symbolism to help illuminate the songs and their themes. What is the story behind this? Does it represent a common thread within each album and can we look forward to this continuing with future C-Rom videos?Yes, the symbol used on the albums should be used in the video clips….and the flames can also be found somewhere on our third video clip (“Narthex”, which has just been released…this is a scoop: cf. link below). In a way it is a graphic summary of the albums’ themes. Our third album would probably have one too. But it is too early to say…
What is your favourite C-Rom song, and how or why does it inspire you?
It is very difficult to choose… It depends on my temper! In “Flames of knowledge”, if I had to choose one song (and only one), I would say “Mercy of the Gods” because it’s dark and full of great emotions. Every time I listen to it, I’m carried away (even if I know it by heart). I could easily cry on this song!
When you are touring is there any venue that you really look forward to playing? Also, if you could play a show/festival anywhere, where would you choose and why would that be?Touring in Europe with bands like Samael or Pain would be great. Their public and ours is sensible to the same things and we would enjoy to meet another public which would be more electro and “darker” than the one of female singing voices bands.
How about having 24 hours to call your own and to do what you want. What would be your perfect day?
First, I would wake up with no alarm clock. I would like to go to Axel‘s studio, to work on a new album with a lot of “cups of tea and cakes”… I would go to the swimming pool too…and walk in the nature. Then in the evening, I would cook dinner for my friends….
It could be a very good day…
Finally, I’ve read that Laurent has hinted you might already be working on new material. Can you tell us anything about that and C-Rom‘s plans going into 2011?
We are currently looking for shows but nowadays in France, it is hard to find places to play. And when we find some, we have to accept to play for nothing or on stage with bad conditions. But we always enjoy playing live and meeting public. We are OK to play in any kind of festival: contact us !!! We are also thinking of our next album. Some songs have started to “grow” in François’s head. We just know that it will be more un-organic with more machines.
Thanks so much for speaking to us Christelle. Is there anything you would like to add for our readers as a finale?
It was a real pleasure to answer your questions (even if you had to wait a lot… very sorry). It was a very complete and detailed interview. Thanks for your support.
Interview by Miriam C.
For the second time we give space to one of the most eclectic act of the last years : Diablo Swing Orchestra. This time we have had the pleasure to have a nice SkyPe chat with Daniel Håkansson for unleash more details about the third album “Pandora’s Piñata”.
Hi Daniel, first of all how are you?Do you mind present your band telling a little about the Diablo Swing Orchestra‘s history?
Our ancestors performed orchestral works in defiance of the ruling church at the time. The orchestra was forced to go into hiding, performing in secret, with the assistance of oppressed peasants during the era. After years of performing for the pleasure of these peasants, the story claims that the church put a bounty on the performers lives, and that this bounty was so high that the orchestra knew they would soon be captured, and thus chose to play a spectacular final show before becoming martyred to the church. We got letters back in 2003 and did some research to find each other and since that day we perform as Diablo Swing Orchestra.
We are here for speak and introduce “Pandora’s Piñata”, DSO third album. What you can tell about its genesis? When you have started composing it?
The songs on the new album I started to write for back in 2010 but we didnt start seriously to arrange the songs until 2011.
Ok.. who’s like the recording process an a DSO album? I mean you have first the music and after you compose the lyrics or it viceversa?
First normally comes a rytmical idea (beat or riff) and if it’s interesting enough I start to try and find a melody that fits. When that is done I normally start to find the “theme” for the song (arrangemets etc) Then me and Pontus (guitar & FX) do demos for the others to take part of to start working on their parts. too.
And when Annlouice comes in?
When the demos are send out. I normally check the key of the songs with her before we finish them so that the intervals are suitable for her voice.
So connecting to this question.. What you reply if I ask to say more about her – I mean her musical background and stuff like that? And how she got involved in this project?
She is a classically trained singer and works full time as an opera singer here in Sweden. She was introduced to the band when we started to look for a singer by the opera house’s PR department. She got to hear a demo and she liked it and the rest is history =)
So she sing in the theatres as full time job?
Yes, indeed. We gain a lot for all her experience on stage even if it’s a bit different.
Well, I think that something different from the usual singer helps to get more people to like your music and be noticed, I mean people get curious.
Yes, it gives the band a certain flavour also a different flavour that after can attract different people from different musical ambients
At your concerts I bet we can find a metalhead, someone who likes jazz and why not opera… but the metalhead but be really openminded.
Sure, we seem to have a mixed crowd.
And talking aboout crows and live gigs… it sound strange to me that, according to the press release that I have in my hand, it’s hard playing gigs in US and Northern Europe. Why? On the contrary, for DSO music it’s very easy planning tours in South America. What the differences between the 2 continents? I mean, in my point of view since you’re close, should be more easy organize concerts in Europe instead in SA…
Well, we do have a much bigger following there which the promoters have picked up upon. It’s starting to get better in Europe and we’ve signed with an italian booking agency so we will do a full blown tour in italy in the future. Also more gigs in europe will follow. They are just not finalized yet. It’s probably the latin vibes in many of the songs that makes it work really well over there.
Now talking a little about the lyrics — I quote the press release about the album’s theme – “The theme of ”Pandora’s Piñata”, are the seven cardinal sins that one can imagine falling out of this like-no-other-audio-visual-piñata”. Well, you can explain to us the real concept of the album because I haven’t really caught the sense, maybe it’s my fault but I haven’t really understood it and I for this I want to give you free speech and hear directly from the mastermind the truth hahaha….
Yeah, that theme is more in the artwork than lyrics. The lyrics are of a more personal level and based on my own experiences.
Mmh.. interesting so are you gonna unveil more details about it? Because you have really anticipated my next question…
The only differnet one is “Guerilla Laments” which I wrote based upon many email and letters we get saying our music has helped them though tough times.
Nice to know it, for the artist (in these case you) should be like heaven reading those letter and emails…
Well, I’m glad that the music can help them but I’m quite horrified what people have to go though not very nice stuff and most time I don’t feel qualified to answer
It’s quite common that people tries/finds something to attach on because those words/melodies helps them not to give up I think that no one is qualified for the replies.
True, but I am glad that what we do can help peole. I truly am.
You know, the reality it’s so brutal that sometimes we need to get away for it and sounds sweet be embraced by the music.
Yeah, it’s one way to have a brief excape from everyday life.
Exactly..turning back to the artwork side.. I know that Peter Bergting for the second time is working with you for all the “Pandora’s Piñata” graphics but who’s Peter Bergting and can tell us more about him and his work to who don’t know him yet?
He’s quite well know here in Sweden and thoughout the world in come circels as a illustrator and have done some high profile jobs. He used to be Anders’ teacher in university and they have kept in touch since then.
Interesting.. never imagine that, really! Congrats to him and Anders. Watching the site we get a preview of the album artwork with this 2 childrens and the snake. Can talk you more about its visual concept?
We always want to wrap up what the music is a bout in titles and art work. The music has both a playful and an aggressive/dark side to it. The name “Pandora’s Piñata” kind of encapsulates it. It kind of shows how someone is tricked into let some malign out that is wrapped out in a pretty package.
Sounds like the reality to me and the everyday society.
Yeah, good point
Well, you know I haven’t imagined that I was thinking something more fantastic and unrealistic the meaning of the title..
Yeah, we wanted a title that both wrapped up the album and piqued the listerer’s interest.
Well I was talking about the previous album and that’s it – If I recall well, your last album that you publish was on 2009 with “Sing Along for the Damned and Delirious” under Ascendance Records. Why took you so long to publish a new platter?
It seems that it takes us about 3 years to write and record an album, it was the same amount of time between the 1st and 2nd record as well (2006-2009-2012) so next time is 2015 then =)
Yes, but this sounds so funny like the three time table haha.
Yeah, I wish we were faster but it seems we dont really control it.Songs are done when they are done.
And “Pandora’s Piñata” is your first album under Candlelight Records, finally I’m so happy you, you’ve reached the ambitious deal with a prestigious label. How was the first approch with them? I mean who contacted who, when happened the first contact?
Actually we first realeased the first record it ourselves and later it picked up by Candlelight and but this time we had the deal with Candlelight figured out form the start and they seem to do some good work with the promotion.
Let me understand before to sign properly with them you have only a distribution deal?
Well, we licened the album to the one year after we released the “Butcher’s Ballroom” ourselves.
Reading the 2012 live line up I’m noticed that the only real change is the drummer: why Petter Karlsson is not coming on tour with you?
Petter decided to leave since he wanted to focus on his own music.
Still talking about line ups that are changing, can you talk more about the new members Martin Isaksson and Daniel Hedin? What are their musical background?
They are both classically trained and were brought in as session musicians for “Sing Along for the Damned and Delirious” and we got along really well and they added so much to the band so we decided they should join the band
Any plans for a DVD/live album? It should be an interesting release to buy…
We’ll do it as soon as we feel we’re good enough and have the money to do it properly .
Daniel, we’re at the end. I really thank you for everything!! Thanks so much for the interview!!!!
Thanks for a nice one yourself.
Label : Candlelight Records
Review by Luisa Mercier
Back in 2006, when “The Butcher’s Ballroom” was released, I truly felt it was something totally new, a breath of fresh air in the female fronted scene that started to show signs of lack of inspiration. They also were really underground, it was hard to find a copy of the album, but thanks to the very effective “word of mouth” on the web, soon their fame increased. And here we are, six years later, with a world tour incoming and albums sold all over the Internet and physical shops. In the meanwhile, they released another album “Sing Along Songs for the Damned & Delirious” which showcased their classy trademark avantgarde metal mixing Russian folk, Italian opera, metal and much more. After three years, a new record deal with Candlelight, D:S:O are again on the stage with “Pandora’s Piñata”. I have to admit that I did not expect a great surprise since, after the first album, the avantgarde scene got filled up with bands, and a lot of ideas were alreay taken. I am happy to say that Diablo Swing Orchestra changed my mind after a few listenings. “Pandora’s Piñata” is a mix of metal of various kinds and folk from all over the world blended by D:S:O unique way of doing music. The opener “Voodoo Mon Amour” is a classic DSO tune that reminds me a bit of “Ballrog Boogie”. Metal meets swing, while in the following “Guerrilla Laments”, Diablo Swing Orchestra have created a new genre: samba metal. The usual jazz influences are not missing. Ann-Louice really is shining through the record with her opera vocals mixed with an atmosphere that seems coming out straight of Rio de Janeiro Carnival. “Kevlar Sweethearts” is one of my personal favourite and has a beautiful soft string arrangement, while Ann-Louice uses her non-opera vocals. They are beautiful, elegant showing how she can handle different styles. The song is a bit less fast than the previous ones, more guitar driven but the hook never misses his goal. “How to Organize a Lynch Mob” is just a string instrumental break. One of the craziest tracks is “Black Box Messiah” with its crazy kids chorus that reminded me of Pin-Up Went Down. Male vocals make their appearance and I can hear some folk influences from distant China. A nice contrast between chunking guitar riffs and strings in the intro of “Exit Strategy of a Wrecking Ball”, finding its way through electronics, trumpets and drums. The way male vocals have been handled in the end, recalled me some of the more symphonic Muse stuff. A musical feeling is what you get from “Aurora”, a track to let Ann-Louice show all her skills. It is a completely orchestral aria that would not make a poor impression on a Broadway stage. Middle-Eastern feelings is what you get from the beginning of “Mass Rapture”, and all over it is a very symphonic piece, quite different from the rest. Another gem, for sure. “Honey Trap Aftermath” is not metal, it is very jazzy, swing oriented, while “Of Kali Ma Calibre” has almost black metal blast-beats. Another highlight of the record. Closing track “Justice for Saint Mary” was a bit of a let-down since til half of the track sounds the same. It is a ballad that slowly changed and turns into a stormy metal track and in the end into a dubstep track. We are at the end of this crazy trip and all I can say is that D:S:O again delivered a very good record. They are among the strongholds of avantgarde metal.
Rating – 75/100
- Vodoo Mon Amour
- Guerrilla Laments
- Kevlan Sweethearts
- How to Organize a Lynch Mob
- Black Box Messiah
- Exit Strategy of a Wrecking Ball
- Mass Rapture
- Honey Trap Aftermath
- Of Kali Me Kalibre
- Justice for Saint Mary
- Annlouice Loegdlund – Vocals
- Daniel Håkansson – Guitars & Vocals
- Pontus Mantefors - Guitars & FX
- Andy Johansson – Bass
- Petter Karlsson – Drums
- Johannes Bergion – Cello
- Martin Isaksson – Trumpet
- Daniel Hedin – Trombone
Style switcher only on this demo version. Theme styles can be changed from Options page.
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