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Swans - Cop CD (album) cover

COP

Swans

 

Post Rock/Math rock

3.48 | 29 ratings

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siLLy puPPy
4 stars While many will claim that the 80s were one of the worst decades for music but i must disagree wholeheartedly since some of the most original thinking musical entities emerged from this period. On the aggressive side of the musical equation, the punk and metal that had been gaining steam in the late 70s and early 80s really took off during this period. While punk and post-punk had splintered into a gazillion subgenera, metal on the other hand was only starting to see the potential of different styles emerging from the hard rock that had developed it a decade before. Out of all this craziness came SWANS whose unique style to this day is unclassifiable as they exist in their own musical universe but was even more the case in their beginning days. This NYC band led by Michael Gira existed in a strange gray area between punk and metal although they were technically part of the short-lived no wave noise rock movement.

Their debut album "Filth" set the tone for their abrasive unrelenting assault on melody with undulating waves of distorted noise grinding in a jarring rhythmical fashion like a thousand jackhammers pounding the city streets in unison and only slightly deviating from each other until a true cacophonous din results. On their second album COP, the band of four continues this aggressive assault and takes it even further with even heavier bombastic drum and bass beats accompanied by screeching downtuned and dissonant guitar riffs along with Gira's tortured soul vocalizations that preceded the world of black and death metal by several years. It's no wonder that early SWANS have been cited as one of the major influences for the heavy down and dirty approach of sludge metal because the thick guitar riffs that buzz to infinity create one of the loudest albums of the early 80s as if the band recorded this in a deep industrial bunker in the darkest recesses of the cockroach filled underbellies of a post-apocalyptic world.

While many comparisons have been made with doom metal and i can honestly see those connections, i find COP is more of a unique fusion of snarling punk attitudinal posturing with heavily cranked up adrenaline inducing distortion from the guitar and bass akin to the early extreme metal of Venom and Hellhammer with a bombastic drone-like march of a souless percussive drive that hypnotizes by sheer brutal force. Part of the allure is the ambiguousness of the subject matter at hand with lyrics flirting with scenes of sexual domination in unseen corners in dimly lit dungeons. The tempo on COP is much slower than "Filth" which adds a sense of valium laden dread to the abrasiveness of the fuzzed out guitar tones grinding the eardrums into audio submission like the morbidly obese woman on the cover depicts in utter despair. COP took the art of ugliness to perfect heights as the holy trinity of audio, visual and emotional impact impaled the listener from all angles.

COP is almost universally deemed SWANS' most brutal album and i doubt anyone could disagree once encountering this seductively repulsive sonic terror. If the guitar dissonance and vocal anguish wasn't enough, the drum and bass experience a hypnotic repertoire that is jagged with off-kilter time signatures that succeed in disrupting melodic flow in every way possible. Both "Filth" and "Cop" as well as the two EPs of the same era are cited as a major influence on bands like Godflesh, The Young Gods and the 90s sludge gods Neurosis with an almost tribal rhythmic drive gone horribly wrong into arhythmic sado-masochistic sonic torture sessions. This is not one for the faint-hearted by any means. After this album, Gira would incorporate the feminine charm of Jarboe to the band's sound which would change the band's style and sound drastically. However on COP, these guys pumped out one of the most monstrous and tenebrous death marches of all the early 80s. While bleak, this stuff is morbidly beautiful in its own way as it creates its own musical lexicon.

siLLy puPPy | 4/5 |

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