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SWANS

Post Rock/Math rock • United States


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Swans biography
Founded in New York City, USA in 1982 - Disbanded in 1997 - Reformed in 2010

Part of the original No Wave scene in the early 1980's, the New York City rock band SWANS has since become one of the most respected experimental rock outfits to the present. Led by the visionary vocalist, multi-instrumentalist and songwriter Michael GIRA, SWANS operated for nearly two decades from their inception in 1983, he is also well known producer. His daunting and impressive songwriting abilities created some of the strangest and revolutionary music to date. Influences of post-rock are seen in numerous records, notable in Soundtracks for the Blind, which predates a lot of the crescendo-core stuff, and the band has influenced numerous post-rock bands with their ever expanding sound and advanced technical approach to rock music. Although they broke up in 1997, SWANS reunited in 2010 to record two more albums, My Father Will Guide Me Up a Rope to the Sky and The Seer.

Bio written by The Truth (Tanner) and updated by zravkapt (Darryl)

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SWANS discography


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SWANS top albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.73 | 59 ratings
Filth
1983
3.39 | 40 ratings
Cop
1984
3.45 | 32 ratings
Greed
1986
3.55 | 32 ratings
Holy Money
1986
4.28 | 100 ratings
Children Of God
1987
3.57 | 34 ratings
The Burning World
1989
3.72 | 61 ratings
White Light From The Mouth Of Infinity
1991
3.57 | 36 ratings
Love Of Life
1992
3.60 | 52 ratings
The Great Annihilator
1995
4.12 | 85 ratings
Soundtracks For The Blind
1996
3.83 | 50 ratings
My Father Will Guide Me Up A Rope To The Sky
2010
3.83 | 167 ratings
The Seer
2012
3.94 | 198 ratings
To Be Kind
2014
3.86 | 79 ratings
The Glowing Man
2016
3.83 | 10 ratings
Leaving Meaning
2019

SWANS Live Albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

4.12 | 17 ratings
Public Castration is a Good Idea
1986
4.20 | 5 ratings
Feel Good Now
1987
3.24 | 6 ratings
Anonymous Bodies in an Empty Room
1990
3.50 | 4 ratings
Real Love
1992
4.00 | 5 ratings
Omniscience
1992
5.00 | 2 ratings
Kill the Child: 1985/1986/1987 Live
1995
4.28 | 13 ratings
Swans Are Dead
1998
4.22 | 9 ratings
We Rose From Your Bed with the Sun in Our Head
2012
4.40 | 10 ratings
Not Here / Not Now
2013
4.25 | 4 ratings
The Gate
2015
3.60 | 5 ratings
Deliquescence
2017

SWANS Videos (DVD, Blu-ray, VHS etc)

SWANS Boxset & Compilations (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.05 | 5 ratings
Body to Body, Job to Job
1991
4.33 | 6 ratings
Various Failures 1988-1992
1999
5.00 | 1 ratings
Forever Burned
2003

SWANS Official Singles, EPs, Fan Club & Promo (CD, EP/LP, MC, Digital Media Download)

3.87 | 11 ratings
Swans
1982
2.97 | 11 ratings
Young God
1984
3.16 | 6 ratings
A Screw
1986
3.00 | 6 ratings
Time Is Money (Bastard)
1986
0.00 | 0 ratings
Celebrity Lifestyle
1995
4.00 | 9 ratings
Die Tür ist zu
1996
5.00 | 2 ratings
Oxygen
2014

SWANS Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 The Glowing Man by SWANS album cover Studio Album, 2016
3.86 | 79 ratings

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The Glowing Man
Swans Post Rock/Math rock

Review by TCat
Special Collaborator Eclectic / Prog Metal / Heavy Prog Team

4 stars This album by Swans sounds nothing like Swans of many years ago. That's no surprise to those that have followed their albums through the years. However, "The Glowing Man" does have a lot in common to those early, muddy and plodding albums. That common thread is the study of repetition. It's just not as thick as it used to be, however, it can be just as unrelenting and unnerving at times. No doubt that this album is much better than those early albums as the music is so much more varied and exploratory, expansive and epic now. This is the path they continue to follow, however "The Glowing Man" is probably one of the most apparent in showing Michael Gira's obsession with repetition and the development of repeating passages.

There are only 8 tracks on this monster of an album, and on the surface, it may seem like it could be chore to get through some of these tracks that push the half an hour mark, especially if it is based around repetition. However, the one thing that seems to stand out on this album which was less apparent on the previous album "To Be Kind" is that there are sudden shifts scattered throughout the album, especially on the longest tracks. This brings in a variable element that makes this album not stagnate so much. There are many times when you hear a repetition that seems to push the limit of you insanity, and just when you think the repetition of an idea has reached your limit, the song can suddenly go off into a completely different direction. That is what makes Swans stand out above the many post rock artists out there. While many of them follow formulas that sometimes get boring, this band continues to break new ground, and many of those other bands end up following in their footsteps. Swans is an innovative band and always has been, whether you like them or not. This is the case with this album, and the sudden shifts are what makes this album stand out in their repertoire. Other than that, with tracks as expansive as the ones on this album, it is very difficult to try to take each track apart and analyze it.

This is not one of my favorite Swans albums, but it is still one that I play through from time to time. I don't recommend it as one to start your Swans exploration with, but it still is an excellent album and sits just above the previous album, but not quite as good as "The Seer". Anyway, it is an excellent album for "experienced" Swans and/or progressive music fans.

 Leaving Meaning by SWANS album cover Studio Album, 2019
3.83 | 10 ratings

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Leaving Meaning
Swans Post Rock/Math rock

Review by Lewian
Prog Reviewer

4 stars On Bandcamp, Michael Gira writes that "I dissolved the line up of musicians that constituted Swans from 2010-2017. Swans is now comprised of a revolving cast of musicians, selected for both their musical and personal character, chosen according to what I intuit best suits the atmosphere in which I'd like to see the songs I've written presented. In collaboration with me, the musicians, through their personality, skill and taste, contribute greatly to the arrangement of the material." There are well known names such as Ben Frost, Anna von Hauswolff, the Necks, and actually every single official band member who played on the previous Glowing Man album among the collaborators. This sounds like another new approach for this band, who went through many different phases in their long existence, although their last three albums were a rather homogeneous trilogy.

Yet, leaving meaning clearly bears the hallmark of Swans' most characteristic feature at least in recent years, namely the shamanic approach using monotonous rhythms and conjuring meditative vocals that slowly build up to trance-like ecstatic states, speaking to deep ancient layers of our conscious and subconscious existence.

There is in fact also change. The approach on leaving meaning is less openly aggressive and heavy, somewhat slower and cleaner, and dominated by acoustic instruments. I was pondering whether to say "more relaxed" here; more relaxed than Seer/To Be Kind/Glowing Man it is, but the atmosphere is still tense and dark and many of the songs are still relentless and won't let the listener's attention go for one second; despite Swans' strong use of post rock elements like the straight rhythms, the slow build ups, and the absence of traditional song structures, this isn't music to relax and calm down, it is still tense and captivating. The songs here are no longer than 12 minutes (on the previous three albums they had some more than half hour tracks), but somehow many of these still have the same kind of "eternal" feel - surely they haven't started to rush through things.

The somewhat calmer approach leaves space for a rich yet subtle mostly acoustic sound spectrum (Hums, Annaline, The Nub). The Hanging Man, leaving meaning, and Sun[%*!#]er sound much closer to Seer-trilogy Swans (with which I'm absolutely fine actually, this trilogy is the highlight of the 2010s for me), but more acoustic, making for a more meditative atmosphere, which creates its own unique and convincing version of the shamanic trance mood evoked by Swans' music.

The first eight tracks of leaving meaning are a straight five stars masterpiece hands down. Unfortunately I have more difficulty connecting with the last four tracks. I respect that after more than one hour of extremely captivating music Gira doesn't call it a day but gives us something even different, at least hinting at more traditional "songs", or rather, in "Some New Things" (of all titles) at a clearer reprise of the more electric sound of the Seer trilogy that is otherwise absent here, but in shorter format. This is OK as an experiment, but to me these tracks come over as quite a bit more shallow than the first eight; some loose tentative messing around contrasting the pure magic that we got before, but then not really far enough from the earlier material to show anything like a proper new direction. This shouldn't of course stop you from buying and appreciating the album, but it makes me eventually go for just 4.3 stars here. Probably I'd have appreciated more to get track 1-8 as another 100% iconic release and the remaining four as a stand-alone EP.

This is the fifth release of Swans in the 2010s, and that's a lot of music; except the first one, which was a bit of a warm up. all of them have two CDs worth of material. It is also the fifth very strong release, cementing their rank as the best band of the decade, with some distance, in my view. Up to The Nub the album is total music, a spellbinding and deeply moving piece of shaman magic. Then there are some additions that I currently suspect of being rather forgettable, but anyway, feel the magic!

 Filth by SWANS album cover Studio Album, 1983
3.73 | 59 ratings

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Filth
Swans Post Rock/Math rock

Review by progtime1234567

3 stars This was my first SWANS album and it is the only one that I can get in to. Filth is an album full of chaotic noise that is augmented by two bassists, two drummers, and a single guitar player. Micheal Gira's growling, ugly vocals add to the soundscape. The album isn't as proggy as the later albums and the songs are not as long but the experimentation and avant-garde are still present. Now the reason why this is the only SWANS album I can get into is because it is an industrial album. Industrial music is my number one all time favorite genre of music and I have heard so much of it that I am able to listen to Filth. While the album is not as prog as the later SWANS albums and there were better SWANS albums to come (according to people on this website) Filth was a great start and it really got the band on a path where they made their prog masterpieces. (Again according to people on this website.)
 Filth by SWANS album cover Studio Album, 1983
3.73 | 59 ratings

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Filth
Swans Post Rock/Math rock

Review by TCat
Special Collaborator Eclectic / Prog Metal / Heavy Prog Team

3 stars Sometimes, it's hard to believe the person responsible for this brutal and heavy no-wave music is the same person responsible for the progressive masterpieces they would produce in the future. Michael Gira says about the band's formative years that it just felt good to make music as loud and harsh as possible, and that is what they did.

"Filth" is Swans debut album, released after their first EP. The music here continues in much the same vein, however, there had already been a disruption in the band's line up since then. Using two bassists that double over the same chord, and two drummers using angular and chaotic drumming patterns, Swans used noise and power to get their point across and to make songs that lamented about the societal disfunctions the world was experiencing.

Since this album was released in 1983, it was a musical style that was way out of the norm of the music of the time. Even punk music couldn't match the straight ahead, unrelenting sound of this music, and because of that, the album was pretty much ignored by the masses. However, it was still very influential to the many different heavy styles of music that are currently out there now.

The music is unrelenting and noisy, yet it has a certain swing to it that keeps it moving forward. Where the band's sophomore album "Cop" has the feeling of a tyrannosaurus rex slogging through a tar pit, slow and brutal, this album is comparatively up beat, but that's not saying much so don't get the wrong idea. This album is actually easier to listen to, not quite so depressive, but again, that's like comparing mud to thickening cement. Swans through the years have seemed to center their musical wanderings based on repetitive patterns and pushing them to the limit. That is also the case with this album, but the main difference between this one and much of their earlier work, is that there is a lot more diversity amongst the tracks, and that is the main strength of this album in comparison to their other early albums.

Even with the positives of this album, however, it's still hard to rate it higher than a 3 for me, though if it were possible, I would give it 3 1/2 stars compared to 3 or lower for their other early albums. It is my favorite of their early recordings. If you have heard their later albums, the ones that are more progressive, and never heard their earlier albums, just be warned this is nothing like that. However, keep in mind that this music is still very influential for heavy music to come. Listening to it, I can't help but admire that it was so ahead of it's time.

 The Seer by SWANS album cover Studio Album, 2012
3.83 | 167 ratings

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The Seer
Swans Post Rock/Math rock

Review by TCat
Special Collaborator Eclectic / Prog Metal / Heavy Prog Team

5 stars "The Seer" by Swans came out of nowhere and knocked any expectations of the band right on its ear. Everyone knows the Swans discography started out with some of the most brutal music known to man, then it morphed into a sort of thinking- man's gothic rock, slowly becoming better and better as time passed, and then suddenly, the bands light went out. Michael Gira, the main person behind the band went on to form "Angels of Light", still creating great music, but sounding hardly anything like any of his previous work. When the time ran out for that project, Gira turned his attention back to Swans, and no one had any idea how much his musicality had grown until this album came out in 2012. It is now the band's masterpiece.

So, to create this double monstrosity of an album, Gira and the members of the band put together a lot of music, sound, textures and such, and no one was going to tell him what he was going to do, or if they did, he didn't listen. He pulled out all of the stops, making tracks for this album that varied in duration from one minute to over 32 minutes long. And, when you listen to this excellent album, you discover that the music is anything but random.

So, the music is harsh and also lovely. But not harsh like it was back in the early days. Now the music is full of dynamic and style changes. Even though it is not near as brutal, it is still more emotionally charged and hard hitting than ever. The band was now incorporating everything that was great about the new style of progressive rock, and making it all mesh together wonderfully. The tracks on this album are an amazing study in repetition, noise, textures, drones, post and math rock sensibilities, and progressive styles that make things as unpredictable as possible. And Gira's vocals were working better than ever with this new sound. There are times in this album where riffs are repeated almost to the point that they become obnoxious only to suddenly change out of nowhere and everything is planned and calculated to push you almost to the limit before suddenly veering off in another direction, but nothing about it sounds random. What it sounds like is genius at work.

The album has its share of surprises and guests, including former fellow bandmate Jerboe on "The Seer Returns" and "A Piece of the Sky", "Low" bandmates Alan Sparhawk and Mimi Parker on opening track "Lunacy", "Yeah Yeah Yeah"s vocalist Karen O on "Song for a Warrior", and others. What results from this is an album with a surprising amount of variety, yet cohesiveness. The thing that holds the album together more than anything is the long-form tracks that sit just as comfortable among the "normal" length tracks like they are all part of the grand design. The 3 extra long tracks here are almost like "mini-albums" all on their own. "The Seer" is a 32 minute behemoth of a track that takes the listener on a guided tour of the gears in Gira's mind that gives insight into what the overall process of creativity must feel like from inside his head. When listening to this track, and to the album as a whole, it is easy to understand why he decided to pack so much length into a track that isn't divided up into multiple tracks, because once the track is over and you are catching your breath, you feel like the statement has been made and now it is time to move to the next. But be prepared, because you are going to have your breath taken away two more times with the two long form songs on the 2nd disc.

As much as it is a temptation to explain in detail every single track on this album, it is also a fruitless exercise to do so. Words just won't explain the experience of the album. The music might not sit well with everyone, and it's not supposed to. If you can't tolerate a sense of unease in music in order to arrive to a destination, then this is not for you. You do have to be patient to get to some payoffs, and other times they come quickly, but in the end, you feel like there was purpose behind it all. It would be impossible to try to figure out Gira's reasoning behind some things in the decisions he makes when determining where to take his compositions, but that is not our job. It is our job to listen to this music and enjoy it, be stimulated by it, or just decide to shun it all together. But, "The Seer" is a definite masterpiece that shows the development of an artist who wasn't ever afraid to do what he wanted in music. In the world of modern progressive music, it is difficult to achieve what Gira did with "The Seer", using new-form progressive composition to create something that could be considered innovative and as impressive as say Yes' "Close to the Edge". But to those that are patient and are willing to explore the music, you will find that amazing music still exists, it just takes time sometimes to get it. But, then , the best music always does.

 Soundtracks For The Blind by SWANS album cover Studio Album, 1996
4.12 | 85 ratings

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Soundtracks For The Blind
Swans Post Rock/Math rock

Review by TCat
Special Collaborator Eclectic / Prog Metal / Heavy Prog Team

4 stars "Soundtracks for the Blind" is the 10th album from Swans, and, being released in 1996, was their last album before going on a lengthy hiatus. Their next album would not come about until 2010, and during that time, Michael Gira would go on to create the excellent, but mostly overlooked band "Angels of Light". However, SftB would be Swans final statement before this long hiatus, and in producing this huge double album, would be quite a huge statement. The album steps into Post Rock territory almost completely and moves away from the more gothic sound of the earlier 90's, and even further away from the sludge post-punk of even earlier.

Gira wanted this album to be like a soundtrack from a non-existent film. What it turned out to be was probably Swans most varied album ever. Part of the reason for this is that the album comes from many different sources through the years that Swans was in existence. He was interested in Brian Eno's sounds and the way he manipulated source material to create new songs and styles. He pared old Swans source material from previous recordings and added new material to that and claims that he just threw it all into a computer and assembled it into this album. At times, there are passages that are playing together that could be from two different decades. So, yeah, you can see why the styles on this album are so varied. Yet, somehow, he makes it all work.

Amongst these tracks, there are sound collages, field recordings, drones, huge lengthy tracks and many short ones, quite a mix, that makes up a total of 26 tracks and lasting well over 2 hours. And there are some real gems on here and its no wonder that after the release of this album, the interest in the band would grow over the time of their hiatus. Other reviewers have done track by track analyses, so it's not really expedient to do that here, even though, for an album like this, it is probably the best way to review it, since it is so varied.

The album really flows surprisingly well starting with an atmospheric instrumental, moving to a spooky, mostly spoken word, recording to the epic and excellent "Helpless Child". This one moves from the astoundingly beautiful to the disturbingly dissonant, remaining dark all the way through. It covers a lot of territory, from an almost minimalistic and pensive lyrical section to a hard and heavy section that is actually quite a study in restraint. This music can try the patience of many listeners, and that is what it is doing as a post-rock style of music, it takes it's time, not wanting to rush to its climactic conclusion, but to build on it slowly and evenly, making a 15 minute track based on anticipation. When the Swans came back in 2010, they would use this formula to its extremes, mixing long soundscapes with shorter tracks, and end up establishing themselves as true progressive artists. These songs on this album are their first big steps to that.

The songs can also mess with your emotions, mixing a sparse and apocolyptic array of instrumental darkness with the loop of a child singing happily in "Beautiful Days". There is also the electronically enhanced sounds that manage to mix a rave-up sound with Jerboe's singing brightly off beat on "Volcano" with a melody that should mix well with the constant thump of the drums, but is strangely off kilter. As the album rolls on, there are tracks that are very experimental and sound nothing like Swans have ever sounded in the past, and yes, the influence of Brian Eno is there in the low minimal sections and in the harsh and almost industrial passages, as in the extreme contrasts evident in "All Lined Up". In the meantime, "Animus" tips even the post-punk world on its ear, almost like the polar opposite of "Cop" even though it's still in the key of "sludge" but surprisingly minimal and noisy at the same time.

The 2nd disc continues in the same experimental vein as the first. "The Sound", another epic 13 minute track moves along slowly and pensively with Michael's slow singing accompanied by layered synths and sparse percussion and bass making it sound like a theme from an old western movie. The music becomes denser as it moves along until layers of grungy guitars and crashing cymbals overpower everything else. It's not until the 10 minute mark that we get a reprieve from the heaviness when it all returns to the minimal sound again with indiscernable vocals. As with the first disc, there is quite a variety of sounds and styles here, but you also hear the Eno influences in the interesting collages, spoeken word recordings, the mixing and layering of recordings and etc. Probably the most unexpected sounds here are the ones that involve Jerboe's vocals. There is some very odd experimentation here, sometimes using her voice like in "Hypogirl" and her startling delivery. The odd and yet intriguing collection of tracks culminates in "The Final Sacrifice", which is recorded live and eventually brings in the most emotion of any of the tracks.

The album is one of Swans most versatile albums, with a lot of experimentation, drone-like passages, post-rock styles, and so on. Overall, the collective feel is quite dark, as is probably expected, eeire, pensive and most of all, inventive. Just like me though, there are some of these tracks that you'll find quite appealing while others will just absolutely rub you the wrong way and you might even find irritating. But Swans never were here to make music that everyone would understand, and this album was quite a statement for what was the last we would hear from the band for a while. In the end, though, I am always intrigued by this album, and find enough here to merit a 4 star rating.

 The Great Annihilator by SWANS album cover Studio Album, 1995
3.60 | 52 ratings

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The Great Annihilator
Swans Post Rock/Math rock

Review by Kempokid
Collaborator Prog Metal Team

4 stars Despite respecting the fact that Swans went way out of their previous sound with their albums from The Burning World through to Love of Life, I can't help but feel underwhelmed by the vast majority of the results that came from it, as despite the production being incredibly lush and immersive, I found a lot of the songs in these albums to sound extremely similar to one aother. The more depressive tone set here was one that I also personally found far less engaging than the intense anger and hatred conveyed during the no wave era of the band, and found that a core part of their identity ended up becoming lost once the dark, eerie atmoshere was all but completely removed. The Great Annihilator is somewhat a return to form for Swans in this case, having a darker tone and applying a similar approach to some of their older material, with repetitive, droning rhythms that often can feel extremely empty and cold, no matter how dense the song actually happens to be. While this isn't a perfect album, as it still suffers from being overlong and occasionally dull, it's nonetheless one that I find great enjoyment in listening to.

Despite going in with a relatively new style on this album, there are definitely still strong gothic overtones throughout many of these tracks, the soft backing vocals providing many tracks with an ethereal feel, as can be seen in the opener, In. I Am The Sun is the first real song however, and it definitely sets a precedent that this is going to be a different listening experience to past albums, having a fast pace and powerful intensity without becoming abrasive or noisy in the process. The deadpan chanting that makes up the bulk of the track provides a disconcerting, ritualistic tone to the song that's further heightened by the pounding drums that make their way into the mix as the song goes on, adding another layer of depth. She Lives takes this repetitive, eerire feeling another few steps further with having the bulk of the instrumentation be limited to the same couple of echoey chords being repeated ad nauseum, the underlying melody being repeatedly disrupted by this much louder riff, backed up by equally as loud drums. The results of this are that you're left with one of the most desolate songs I've heard, the intervals between each repetition creating what feels like absolute silence, despite the droning notes underneath. The more conventional songwriting from previous albums gets shown on Celebrity Lifestyle, although I prefer this track to the vast majority of the ones from those previous 3 albums, the melody being considerably more engaging than the vast majority of them, and it's just all around a really good song. Mother_Father surprised me thanks to the massively different vocals that Jarboe sports here, being considerably more raw, whilst the backing vocals have an almost triumphant edge to them. This is definitely another really enjoyable song that shows a particular energy rarely witnessed in Swans' catalogue.

The album becomes considerably more mellow past this point for the most part, the tempo and volume being greatly reduced and far more melody coming in, as compared to the atonality of She Lives or the raw vocal performance on Mother_Father. Blood Promise and Mind/Body/Light/Sound are both especially notble for their quality in this field, the latter especially due to the sheer density of the instrumentation and the hypnotic repetition of the phrase "Mind Body Light Sound". Jarboe's increased presence on this albun is another reason why I find it to be so enjoyable, as many of the songs, even when not necessarily at the forefront of a particular track, will still often have some clear presence within, such as the backing vocals of I Am The Sun, or the distorted vocalisations on Warm. I'd be remiss if I neglected to mention Killing For Company, which is one of the absolute best songs on the album, being extremely mellow and honestly beautiful, despite how twisted the lyricism may be, the slow progression of the track paving the way for fragile backing vocals over some downright breathtaking, sombre instrumentation is nothing short of incredible. While less memorable, I'd be willing to say that the second half of the album is superior to the first, which was already an absolute gem, and manages to display Swans creating amazing, soft music far better than their gothic rock albums ever could. (despite personally finding The Burning World to be a genuinely great album as well).

Despite perhaps being a bit more unfocused than past albums, I find the sound and identity that Swans found on this album to be exceptional, blending the darker, more intense nature of their early work with their soft, melodious middle era work, leading to a great album overall. The energy present in songs like I Am the Sun contrasts perfectly with the softer, more subtle moments such as Warm or Killing for Company, and create an album that manages to have enough variety without ever feeling scattershot in the process, coming together to make the best Swans album since Children of God.

Best songs: She Lives, Celebrity Lifestyle, Killing for Company

Weakest songs: Where Does a Body End?

Verdict: More varied and generally interesting than the middle era of Swans, utilising the darker overtones present on albums such as Greed or Children of God to provide the listener with an experience that's equal parts beautiful and unnerving. This is possibly a good choice for starting point of Swans, as it shows a bit of their various styles while remaining relatively accessible.

 Love Of Life by SWANS album cover Studio Album, 1992
3.57 | 36 ratings

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Love Of Life
Swans Post Rock/Math rock

Review by Kempokid
Collaborator Prog Metal Team

3 stars I personally am someone who isn't too keen on the middle neofolk/gothic era of Swans, while The Burning World managed to have a nice balance between beauty and solemnity, the following 2 albums, White Light From The Mouth of Infinity and this one, Love of Life, both ring somewhat hollow for me. It's fairly clear that this album is a continuation of sorts from White Light due to general sound and especially the similar album covers (amazing looking ones I might add). The issue comes down ot hte fact that while these are definitely excellently produced albums full of atmosphere, the songwriting comes off as pretty samey, and not in a way that provides a good sense of cohesion, just in a way that ends up being really dull in many spots. This album is my preferred of the 2 for sure however, as there are a few more varied ideas and a more eerie, dark atmosphere in general, not just one gloomy song after another. The biggest positive about this album however, is the fact that it's 20 minutes shorter than White Light, making it immediately more appealing than it.

The album starts off extremely strongly after 17 seconds of what sounds like wind chimes with the title track, which is a continuation of the atmospheric, sweeping sound of the previous album, except more developed in terms of how densely layered everything is, the fast paced drumming, backed up by a plethora of smaller touches like light backing vocals from Jarboe, the repetitive nature of the vocals working exceptionally well and displaying a slightly more experimental edge. The Golden Boy... is a good song, albeit not really anything too incredible, just an enjoyable, dark sounding song. The untitled tracks in general just don't add too much, but the field recording elements in them definitely feel like a precursor to what would come on Soundtracks of The Blind. The Jarboe led songs have some more variation compared to on White Light as well, maintaining the fragile, ethereal nature of her vocals while being a lot less monotonous. A couple of other things about the album is that while it isn't much more to write home about, 2 other tracks really stand out, Her and Amnesia. Along with Her having more of the field recording feel to it, there's a really great crescendo that shows up near the end that ties it all together. Amnesia interests me a lot and is definitely one of my favourite songs on the album, the repetitive, pounding drum beat and the amazingly oppressive tone all culminating in an absolutely marvellous song, one of the best from their neofolk/gothic era.

Overall, I enjoy this album a lot more than Swans' previous album, the shorter length combined with a wider range of emotions and sounds really helped it flourish as the album I feel like White Light was trying to be. I'm not going to say that I'm particularly unhappy that they moved forward from this point though, definitely much less of a sad goodbye than when they moved on from their industrial/no wave sound, especially because of the albums that came past this point.

Best songs: Love of Life, Her, Amnesia

Weakest songs: The Other Side of the World, God Loves America

Verdict: A better album than their previous one, having more variation and shorter length, but still has a lot of tracks that don't really do much for me, ultimately it still contains a lot of the same elements as before, just touched up a bit to make it somewhat more appealing, in any case, it's good, but nothing particularly amazing.

 White Light From The Mouth Of Infinity by SWANS album cover Studio Album, 1991
3.72 | 61 ratings

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White Light From The Mouth Of Infinity
Swans Post Rock/Math rock

Review by Kempokid
Collaborator Prog Metal Team

2 stars After the neofolk release of The Burning World marking a dramatic change from the repetitive, noisy era of Swans, Michael GIra made it abundantly clear that this was not going to be a one off left turn, as White Light From The Mouth Of Infinity is straight up gothic rock. Gone is the anger and aggression bleeding through each and every industrial note, instead being replaced with morose melodies and lush musical passages. Despite this coherence and fully realised change in tone and sound, I personally don't find this album all too enjoyable, despite it essentally being a more mature take on The Burning World, a lot of it coming down to how bored I get with this by the end, especially due to its far larger length and the fact that a lot of the songs end up feeling quite samey, none particularly harrowing and dark, nor any lighter, more purely enjoyable songs, just over an hour of depressive tunes with little variation most of the time.

Despite my immediate criticisms, the first few songs on the album seem to do evereything in their power to make these claims seem unwarranted, as they're easily some of the best cuts to be found here, be it the extremely powerful, dramatic intro to Better Than You, or Power And Sacrifice containing such sweeping, lush instrumentals, really highlighting the amazing production here. This song almost sounds as if it's being carried by the wind, especially with its galloping drum beat and the vocals in the chorus, building up to create a dense wall of sound that simply sounds incredible. You Know Nothing is a more slow paced song, but already I'm being reminded of previous tracks, as this hits so many of the same marks that Better Than You did, just slower. Song For A Dead Time stops this from becoming too problematic by having Jarboe take the lead vocals, her breathy, ethereal voice further heightening the already dense atmosphere, and the slower tempo with small additions of flute and strings create a great soundscape. Love Will Save You is the last song on the album that I really like. The lyrics here are some of the only ones that interest me on the album, the dark tone contrasting amazingly with the lyrics talking about how much love can get you through hard times, while also blinding you to your problems. The song just has a certain poetic quality to it that I adore, and while I won't claim it as particularly deep or genius, I still do love this song and its repetition of "love will save you".

While Failure is generally considered a higher point on the album, I personally consider it to be borderline comical, easily the most sombre song here, but I still find many aspects of it to be ridiculous, especially how most lines end with a more and more long winded way of describing failure as a crushing force that can be hard to overcome. While this starts off as an interesting motif, it rapidly becomes quite old. After this point I personally don't find too much to be interesting, just more melancholy songs with admittedly great production that brings a strong ethereal quality to them, giving the album some very strong positives despite how it can get pretty boring.

Overall, my main problem with the album comes down to how similar many of the tracks sound to one another in tone and even melody. The length of the album doesn't help this much at all either, as it approaches the point where even an album I loved would start to feel like it should approach its end, never mind one that I've been fairly bored with for a while. I can't really fault the core sound of the album, nor the direction that Gira went down here, it's just that the execution is flawed and the album on the whole is dull, especially due to lack of variety.

Best tracks: Better Than You, Power and Sacrifice, Love Will Save You

Weakest tracks: Failure, Song For The Sun, When She Breathes

Verdict: I appear to be in the minority when expressing my opinions on this album, but try as I might, I just cannot get into it, each repeated listen taking away more and more of the appeal, rather than growing on me, as while repeated listens better help me to analyse the many layers of instrumentals in each song, I find that it ends up just sounding like the same few songs played again and again, even if they do have some merit.

 The Burning World by SWANS album cover Studio Album, 1989
3.57 | 34 ratings

BUY
The Burning World
Swans Post Rock/Math rock

Review by Kempokid
Collaborator Prog Metal Team

4 stars Well, talk about a left turn and a half, no wonder fans were disappointed when this album came out. Gone is all the noisy, angry, raw music that all the previous albums had established and developed, in its place beautiful neofolk passages, filled with light, acoustic instrumentation. While this sounds like the complete antithesis of everything Swans stands for, there is still some Swans identity to be found here in terms of just how dark everything is, each pretty moment being juxtaposed with depressive, sombre lyricism and Michael Gira's signature deep voice. I can't even say that this was really an attempt at selling out, given that the next 2 albums followed a similar, more commercial gothic rock style. This album definitely isn't as bad as many fans make it out to be either, despite the massive shift in sound.

One issue that I have with this album is the fact that quite a few of the songs do blend together at least to some extent, with many of them using similar, dark tones throughout, which I feel would become more of a problem if not for the fact that naturally, Gira is extremely well versed in effectively writing such material. Some of the best songs on the album however fall at one of the extremes of this scale, with The River that Runs with Love Won't Run Dry being much lighter, and is undoubtedly the most beautiful song on the album by a wide margin, the chorus sweeping me away effortlessly and remaining in my head for weeks at a time. On the opposite side of things, the overtly suicidal God Damn The Sun manages to be such a powerful song for how much raw emotion is put into it, dragging the listener deep into the pit of despair dug by Gira. Something else I enjoy thoroughly in this album is the exotic percussion used on tracks such as Can't Find My Way Home and Mona Lisa, Mother Earth, the latter of which is amazing, being reminiscient of the strong atmophere and pace of Dead Can Dance, albeit with less of a neoclassical tinge to it.

Jarboe's appearance on this album is quite a bit more understated here than on Children of God, although I suspect that this comes down to the fact that when she does appear, it doesn't have the stark, contrasting beauty that her songs possessed on Children of God, instead being similar to everything else on the album, just with a more fragile, ethereal voice. I don't necessarily find this a bad thing however, as she still does contribute to the overall beauty that the album possesses, although I do prefer the clear, deep male vocals overall. The only song on the album that I find to be truly weak is Saved, not for any particular reason, I just find that it lacks anything in particular to make it unique or interesting, being the most conventional song on the album by far. While this is a more conventional album overall, other points such as the progression of Jane Mary Cry One Tear or the noisier intro of See No More are what give this album a lot of its character, along with the previously mentioned powerful emotion that each song contains.

I personally find this to be an extremely underrated album, especially in the context of the rest of Swans' discography, as this is usually considered the weakest album they've ever put out. The sublime beauty and dark tone perfectly work with one another to create an album filled with memorable, impactful songs that I simply adore. While it doesn't reach the powerful ingenuity of their greatest works, I'd still say that this album so much better than what is usually given credit, and I highly recommend that you check it out if you are in the mood for something lighter sounding, yet also very dark and depressive, which is the description I think exemplifies this album.

Best tracks: The River that Runs with Love Won't Run Dry, Mona Lisa, Mother Earth, God Damn The Sun

Weakest tracks: Saved

Verdict: While this is a dramatic shift in almost everything that previous Swans sounded like, this album is definitely one that I find myself regularly returning to, being able to blend beautiful neofolk with the darkness of Swans, producing an album that while not perfect, is extremely good.

Thanks to angelmk for the artist addition. and to Quinino for the last updates

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