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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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Buy SWANS Music

The Burning WorldThe Burning World
Water 2012
Audio CD$12.97
$12.95 (used)
To Be KindTo Be Kind
Audio CD$15.60
$15.60 (used)
Children Of GodChildren Of God
Audio CD$18.98
$19.99 (used)
Filth * DeluxeFilth * Deluxe
Audio CD$22.97
$18.44 (used)
The Glowing ManThe Glowing Man
Audio CD$13.53
$12.40 (used)
Soundtracks for the BlindSoundtracks for the Blind
Audio CD$17.68
$88.12 (used)
Right Now on Ebay (logo)
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More places to buy SWANS music online Buy SWANS & Prog Rock Digital Music online:
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SWANS discography

Ordered by release date | Showing ratings (top albums) | Help to complete the discography and add albums

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

3.88 | 41 ratings
3.36 | 27 ratings
3.34 | 23 ratings
3.68 | 22 ratings
Holy Money
4.28 | 70 ratings
Children Of God
3.42 | 22 ratings
The Burning World
4.06 | 45 ratings
White Light From The Mouth Of Infinity
3.75 | 25 ratings
Love Of Life
3.52 | 41 ratings
The Great Annihilator
4.17 | 64 ratings
Soundtracks For The Blind
3.92 | 39 ratings
My Father Will Guide Me Up A Rope To The Sky
3.97 | 146 ratings
The Seer
3.94 | 176 ratings
To Be Kind
3.87 | 63 ratings
The Glowing Man

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

4.33 | 12 ratings
Public Castration is a Good Idea
4.67 | 3 ratings
Feel Good Now
4.50 | 4 ratings
Anonymous Bodies in an Empty Room
5.00 | 2 ratings
Real Love
4.05 | 3 ratings
5.00 | 1 ratings
Kill the Child: 1985/1986/1987 Live
4.21 | 10 ratings
Swans Are Dead
4.13 | 8 ratings
We Rose From Your Bed with the Sun in Our Head
4.50 | 8 ratings
Not Here / Not Now
4.00 | 3 ratings
The Gate
3.00 | 1 ratings

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

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

3.32 | 3 ratings
Body to Body, Job to Job
4.00 | 4 ratings
Various Failures 1988-1992
0.00 | 0 ratings
Forever Burned

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

3.93 | 8 ratings
2.50 | 8 ratings
Young God
3.13 | 4 ratings
A Screw
3.05 | 3 ratings
Time Is Money (Bastard)
4.00 | 7 ratings
Die Tür ist zu
5.00 | 1 ratings

SWANS Reviews

Showing last 10 reviews only
 The Seer by SWANS album cover Studio Album, 2012
3.97 | 146 ratings

The Seer
Swans Post Rock/Math rock

Review by Mellotron Storm
Prog Reviewer

4 stars Well I'm slowly getting through SWANS discography and so far I'd say "Soundtracks For The Blind" is my favourite, and I do Like "To Be Kind" better than "The Seer" for what it's worth. "The Seer" is a double album with 2 hours worth of music for our listening pleasure(haha). Yes as usual this is long, repetitive and experimental, and while I don't love it I almost always seem to come away very impressed with Gira's final product. A ton of guests helps out here which is surprising to me as there doesn't seem to be that many instruments in play but apparently I'm wrong.

Disc one starts with "Lunacy" as we get this repetitive guitar melody and keys I think as the atmosphere rolls in. Vocal expressions too before it kicks into a heavy groove. Vocals and a more stripped down sound 2 1/2 minutes in and this will continue until it turns more powerful a minute later. A calm before 4 1/2 minutes and relaxed vocals will also join in.

"Mother Of The World" has this repetitive mechanical rhythm that goes on and on. Organ joins in before 2 1/2 minutes. Some vocals a minute later and then it all stops 4 1/2 minutes in as a powerful sound kicks in with male vocals. It's slowing down at 5 1/2 minutes and then it seems to actually get brighter before 6 1/2 minutes. "The Wolf" is a short one with slow drawn out vocals that pretty much speak the words. The atmosphere before a minute is really cool.

"The Seer" is the long one at over 32 minutes. Yikes! It sounds like bag pipes amongst all that atmosphere that seems to hum and hover. It starts to wind down around 2 1/2 minutes and soon we get a beat with what sounds like banjo and atmosphere. Hints of power come and go as this plays out. Vocals arrive as it builds with some active drum work. Later it's building before 11 minutes until we get chaos a minute later. It then starts to slow down as we get repetitive outbursts of power that come and go. They stop around 22 minutes as it stays powerful and atmospheric. It then starts to calm down with some harmonica. A beat and more arrives around 28 minutes and vocals follow. It's more powerful after 30 minutes.

"The Seer Returns" has this rhythm that seems to go in circles here. It turns powerful rather quickly and we get male spoken words after 1 1/2 minutes. Soon he's singing but in a relaxed manner. It's louder later on, catchy stuff. "93 Ave. B Blues" is the most experimental track on here, very avant. We get those sounds that cry out from the start to the point of screeching. A dark atmosphere comes and goes along with vocal expressions. It turns explosive after 4 minutes until 5 minutes in. "The Daughter Brings The Water" ends disc one and it's mainly a guitar melody with Gira singing.

Disc two starts with "Song For A Warrior" and we get this relaxed sound with guitar, piano and atmosphere as reserved female vocals join in. There's a brief instrumental break as well. "Avatar" opens with a sample of something I can't recognize as bells and drums join in. Sounds like sleigh bells. The beats are getting louder along with the atmosphere after 3 minutes but then it settles back a minute later. Male vocals before 5 minutes. It kicks in hard before 8 minutes and the tempo picks up as well.

"A Piece Of The Sky" might be my favourite. The sound reminds me of a very large fire that crackles away and from the title of this song it may have been caused by lightning or something else. Vocal melodies just before 2 minutes replace the fire. Soon it's atmosphere only humming and hovering over the soundscape. Vocals after 6 1/2 minutes before it all turns quite noisy. A heavy rhythm takes over before 10 minutes and continues until before 15 minutes when it settles down with a relaxed beat and picked guitar. Male vocals after 15 1/2 minutes as the relaxed sound continues to the end.

"The Apostate" ends it in an apocalyptic manner. It almost sounds like sirens going off over and over as we get this disturbing mood. Explosive sounds after 6 minutes. Absolute insanity during this long section. The tempo picks up before 9 minutes. It seems to be settling back some 12 1/2 minutes in then a repetitive beat that's catchy kicks in a minute later. Vocals a minute after that. Grating sounds before 19 minutes then suddenly 22 minutes in we get a barrage of loud drums and yells to end it.

I just get so intrigued with how experimental the SWANS can be with all those samples thrown in too. It's innovative music but certainly not for everybody. I'm sure some think it's all trash but despite my enjoyment factor not being as high as I'd like this is a 4 star album in my world.

 Omniscience by SWANS album cover Live, 1992
4.05 | 3 ratings

Swans Post Rock/Math rock

Review by Warthur
Prog Reviewer

4 stars The most melodic and accessible phase of Swans' discography came to a close with Omniscience, and whilst White Light From the Mouth of Infinity and Love of Life have seen recent reissues it seems like Omniscience must stay out in the cold a little longer. That's a shame, because whilst I wouldn't call it essential Swans, it's an intriguing live journey into a musical realm that is suggested in part by those studio albums and the Burning World, and in part by the various Skin/World of Skin side project albums, ant yet not quite reached by any of them - a piece of the puzzle which stands by itself and has its own contribution to make.
 The Glowing Man by SWANS album cover Studio Album, 2016
3.87 | 63 ratings

The Glowing Man
Swans Post Rock/Math rock

Review by Warthur
Prog Reviewer

4 stars A solid followup to To Be Kind, and a substantial improvement on it. Swans' post-rock sound here remains strongly influenced by other artists in this realm - substantial sections of The Cloud of Unknowing in particular make me think of this incarnation of the group as Godspeed You Black Swans! - but the musical twists and turns into other styles feel better judged and the material is less padded out. At points they go to places you never expected to visit with Swans; in particular, at one point The World Looks Red/The World Looks Back shifts gears and starts sounding booty- shakingly funky, but it somehow works within the wider context of the composition.
 Filth by SWANS album cover Studio Album, 1983
3.88 | 41 ratings

Swans Post Rock/Math rock

Review by Luqueasaur

3 stars The world through The Fall's Paul Spector's eyes: 7/10

If black metal brings images of dense, foggy trees, FILTH is illustrated both by rusty, abandoned factories and by darkened alleyways of decaying metropolises. SWANS' debut's combination of No Wave's unmelodic heavy dissonance and Industrial's metallurgic hatred creates what sounds to be a shout of unscrupulous antisociality. While thoroughly despising man's filthy behavior of greed, sadism, etc., SWANS, paradoxically stimulates it. The scum of mankind and its internalized misanthropy is given a voice, namely, Gira's growled, despaired voice. Filthy behavior is viewed without morality or judgments, sometimes, it is even glorified ("USE YOUR BODY TO GET SATISFACTION! SATISFY THE DOG!") because modern society is profligate, filled with squalor and degeneracy, and depravity is just a reflex of that. Cynic misanthropy, contempt for others and selfishness MUST be the rule in this wild, wild, world. If you can't beat it, embrace it. Sounds like introspectively dense and even disgusting, doesn't it? Well, I think it is. Pretty heavy stuff.

Good symbolism with mediocre expression is worthless, though. FILTH, however, isn't mediocre. In fact, it's a good experimental mixture between two underground and misunderstood genres. The first is the post-punk No Wave: raw, atonal, dissonant, implicitly influential in SWANS' crude anger, inaccessibility, and hedonism. The second is the incipient Industrial genre, much more noticeable than the previous one. The percussion alludes to a factory with its constant metallic pounds, sawings, trituration, and so on; the atmosphere is grimy, alienated, isolated. Combine that to No Wave's virulence and you get a view of the world through the spiteful, wrathful lenses of marginalized scum.

While it may seem SWANS is to offer a homogeneous experience, surprisingly, there's variation in this wretched album. Stay Here, the greeter, is rhythmically hypnotic and addictive, even if abrasively heavy, slow, pounding. Big Strong Boss is pureblood No Wave with its atonal post-punk-ness. Blackout combines a wickedly distorted, cacophonic and random guitar, rhythmical pounding, and an angered (backed by growled) vocals, making me feel it's honestly the scarier track of the album. Power for Power features funereal vocals and an atmospheric, melodic guitar really reminiscent of black metal. Freak is pretty much grindcore. Gang is pure, gritty, industrial music. See? Variation.

Its message is far from positive, good or socially acceptable. It's brutal, scary, it paints the modern world as even more vicious than the natural, free-for-all pre-Neolithic one. But it's still a great musical experiment. It's hard to rate it in terms of progressive rock, actually. It's half punk half industrial, genres which aren't even linked to rock, so I can't call it that. I'd say this is an excellent addition to anyone who likes to explore music, not prog rock specifically. But this is ProgArchives, so...

 Filth by SWANS album cover Studio Album, 1983
3.88 | 41 ratings

Swans Post Rock/Math rock

Review by Warthur
Prog Reviewer

4 stars With Jonathan Kane and Roli Mosimann's duelling percussion creating the impression of an angry heroin-addicted trash can stomping down the street intent on mugging you, the Swans' debut album is as pure an expression of their early No Wave sound as you could expect to find. Though subsequent releases like Cop can become introverted and impenetrable, the sound of Filth hooks you instantly with its raw ugliness; far from being indirect or oblique, it comes at you straight and true and confronts you with a hideous musical vision.

Whilst heavier albums in terms of sheer downtuned riffage have emerged over the years, few releases have ever felt so misanthropic and violent. I am fairly sure nobody was bloodily beaten to death during the recording of this album, but if they were I'm not sure it would change the sound appreciably.

 The Burning World by SWANS album cover Studio Album, 1989
3.42 | 22 ratings

The Burning World
Swans Post Rock/Math rock

Review by Warthur
Prog Reviewer

4 stars Swans' The Burning World tends to get a bad rap, probably because it's a fairly straightforward and accessible- sounding album that lands between their early, abrasive post-punk releases (which had come to a culmination on Children of God) and White Light From the Mouth of Infinity, which tends to be held up as the best of Swans' goth rock period.

And yet, this intriguing mingling of gothic rock tropes and acoustic influences, which at points borders on neofolk, is really far more interesting than more dismissive critics have made it out to be. Yes, it's unusually mellow and accessible as far as Swans go, and yes, as a major label debut it was probably deliberately pitched that way, and yes, they probably hyped up the goth angle due to the success of their cover of Love Will Tear Us Apart by Joy Division, and yes, supposedly even Michael Gira dislikes this.

But despite all, this doesn't feel like a sell out to me. Perhaps that's because a genuine "sell out" tends to come across as cheap and tawdry in some respect, and that certainly isn't the case here - if anything, Swans give it their all and take the material and style seriously, and enjoy the aid of a range of intriguing guests, including Fred Frith and Material's Bill Laswell. It might not quite be Michael Gira's personal vision of what Swans should be, but it's a damn fine piece of music nonetheless.

 The Seer by SWANS album cover Studio Album, 2012
3.97 | 146 ratings

The Seer
Swans Post Rock/Math rock

Review by Roane

1 stars OK that sub-genre probably doesn't suit with my feeling in terms of music but, for my part, can we really talk about music here? I just have listened various sounds in an experimental approach. If the musicians are themselves comfortable and happy with their performance, no issue for me, I respect their work. But music is done to be shared and for this, it is more fundamental listeners to be comfortable and happy with the proposal... no melodies here, no feeling and no inspiration and, especially, where is the progressive in such a performance? In my opinion, even not for fans, only for completionists: 0.5 stars
 Swans by SWANS album cover Singles/EPs/Fan Club/Promo, 1982
3.93 | 8 ratings

Swans Post Rock/Math rock

Review by siLLy puPPy
Collaborator PSIKE & JR/F/Canterbury Teams

4 stars The experimental rock band SWANS began in New York city emerging from the short lived no wave scene that was taking a side trip off the post-punk bandwagon and in 1982 found the band releasing their very first album in the form of this eponymous EP. While SWANS have evolved their sound significantly over the decades they have never lost the basic groove that can be heard on this early offering and like most SWANS albums is the creation of the mutli-instrumentalist, singer / songwriter and band leader Michael Gira.

As with the majority of no wave creations of the era, this one is characterized by hypnotic bass grooves, abrasive atonal guitar sounds, heavy percussive drives and a thick brooding raw and filthy atmosphere with melodies being replaced by mesmerizing repetition in the galloping rhythms. This early lineup of SWANS consisted of Jonathan Kane on drums, Bob Pezzola on guitar and is the only SWANS release to feature saxophone with Daniel Galli-Duani on board as well as the only constant member Gira. Despite the inclusion of the brass, this doesn't sound jazzy in the least bit and is as abrasive and disgustingly dissonant and industrial as the other instruments.

While the EP was only ever released on 7" vinyl on its own, it has been faithfully restored and remastered and appears tacked onto the end of the remastered version of "Filth," the band's first full-length album which came out the following year. While SWANS at this point didn't quite muster up the variety of sounds and expressions that later albums would propel them through the ensuing decades, this early SWANS makes up for it in that quintessential post-punk attitude that combined with the no wave alienating aesthetics makes this an adrenaline inducing slice of early 80s underground music that i find quite addictive. Just as essential as "Filth" and a fitting sidekick tacked onto its remastered edition.

 The Great Annihilator by SWANS album cover Studio Album, 1995
3.52 | 41 ratings

The Great Annihilator
Swans Post Rock/Math rock

Review by Warthur
Prog Reviewer

3 stars After the comparatively accessible gothic rock sound that Swans adopted on White Light From the Mouth of Infinity showed signs of cracking at the seams on Love of Life, The Great Annihilator seems to have been a conscious attempt by Swans to try and find a new musical direction without necessarily being too sure about what it should be. A lot of the post-punk thorniness of their early material comes back here, though perhaps a bit slower, and at stages it seems to be fumbling its way towards the post-rock sound of Soundtracks For the Blind without quite actually arriving at it. It's an interesting transitional album but it's very much a work in progress between two peaks of their accomplishment, rather than a major pillar of their discography.
 The Glowing Man by SWANS album cover Studio Album, 2016
3.87 | 63 ratings

The Glowing Man
Swans Post Rock/Math rock

Review by Conor Fynes
Prog Reviewer

4 stars 'The Glowing Man - Swans (82/100)

I'm not completely sure why I prefer The Glowing Man over To Be Kind, to be honest. Comparisons between the two are practically inevitable; Swans have created an experience closely similar to their last record, not simply in terms of the music's uneasy atmosphere, lavish arrangement and unwieldy length, but with regards to the way it's been discussed with others as well.

Getting into the work of Swans has been an uphill battle for me in more ways than one. No compromises can be made when listening to one of their works, especially when you consider that some of the magic would be lost in breaking these two hour beasts into smaller sessions. The Glowing Man may be hailed (and rightly so!) as a gentler take by Swans' standards, but that might be the reason why it's ultimately resulted in the emotional reaction To Be Kind only ever hinted at.

As with the last album, I'm amazed that a rock album could challenge so and spark discussion like this in 2016. Where To Be Kind got that reaction across by pushing each aspect of music to its extremes -- be that in terms of length, heaviness, repetition, density or whatever else -- The Glowing Man rides gracefully on those coattails, creating music that still embraces those extremes without so much of their inherent edge. Swans' drone-rock sounds almost comforting in many sections of The Glowing Man, and even the most excessive segments here (like the ceaseless offbeat repetition in the half-hour title track) sound like they've been tightly reined in.

For some fans, I could see why this would make The Glowing Man seem like the lesser option. In some ways at least, it probably is. By this trilogy's standards, I don't find myself nearly as challenged listening to this one. Where The Seer and To Be Kind practically had to strangle appreciation out of me following the first couple of listens, The Glowing Man appears as a gentler return to familiar territory. The compositions are long, drawn out and eerily hypnotic. While it's not necessarily any more melodic, and certainly no more compact than its predecessors, the welling up of sound is consistently prettier here. If The Glowing Man is a journey, it's not trying to take you to every emotional extreme, as Swans were wont to do in the past. There's an undertone of uneasiness throughout the album, but it really does sound like the kind of meditative droning journey that could be interpreted as a greater parts reflection over action.

The inclusion of shorter tracks was a brilliant move, and one that I think really plays into The Glowing Man' role as the "gentle giant" of their 2010s trilogy. Where the longer sprawls conjure feeling in the slow build of dense textures and harmonies, shorter pieces give the band a chance to accentuate emotion with greater control. I think "Finally, Peace" does a near-perfect job of capping off the record, especially after such an exhausting climax in the title track. While it may seem like a repeat of the experience of To Be Kind at times, this album does a wonderful job of seeing off this chapter of the band's career together. The Glowing Man isn't a repeat so much as it is a reflection of the material they've put out in recent years. It's probably time for Swans to start moving their sound on again now that the trilogy is over. Although I've always held back from calling myself a true fan of theirs, I'm really excited to see where the band will go next.

Originally written for Heathen Harvest Periodical.

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

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