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SWANS

Post Rock/Math rock • United States


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Swans biography
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 Great AnnihilatorThe Great Annihilator
YOUNG GOD RECORDS 2017
Vinyl$15.26
$18.00 (used)
The Glowing ManThe Glowing Man
YOUNG GOD RECORDS 2016
Vinyl$21.51
$22.69 (used)
White Light / Love Of Life Deluxe BoxsetWhite Light / Love Of Life Deluxe Boxset
YOUNG GOD RECORDS 2016
Vinyl$47.99
Soundtracks for the BlindSoundtracks for the Blind
Soundtrack
YOUNG GOD RECORDS 2016
Audio CD$18.98
$17.65 (used)
The SeerThe Seer
Special Edition
YOUNG GOD RECORDS 2016
Audio CD$12.93
$7.83 (used)
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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 Progarchives.com to complete the discography and add albums

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

3.89 | 40 ratings
Filth
1983
3.36 | 27 ratings
Cop
1984
3.34 | 23 ratings
Greed
1986
3.68 | 21 ratings
Holy Money
1986
4.28 | 69 ratings
Children Of God
1987
3.42 | 22 ratings
The Burning World
1989
4.05 | 43 ratings
White Light From The Mouth Of Infinity
1991
3.75 | 25 ratings
Love Of Life
1992
3.53 | 40 ratings
The Great Annihilator
1995
4.17 | 59 ratings
Soundtracks For The Blind
1996
3.91 | 38 ratings
My Father Will Guide Me Up A Rope To The Sky
2010
3.96 | 141 ratings
The Seer
2012
3.93 | 174 ratings
To Be Kind
2014
3.86 | 61 ratings
The Glowing Man
2016

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

4.45 | 11 ratings
Public Castration is a Good Idea
1986
4.67 | 3 ratings
Feel Good Now
1987
4.50 | 4 ratings
Anonymous Bodies in an Empty Room
1990
5.00 | 2 ratings
Real Love
1992
4.05 | 3 ratings
Omniscience
1992
5.00 | 1 ratings
Kill the Child: 1985/1986/1987 Live
1995
4.18 | 9 ratings
Swans Are Dead
1998
4.14 | 7 ratings
We Rose From Your Bed with the Sun in Our Head
2012
4.25 | 8 ratings
Not Here / Not Now
2013
3.33 | 3 ratings
The Gate
2015

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
1991
4.00 | 4 ratings
Various Failures 1988-1992
1999
0.00 | 0 ratings
Forever Burned
2003

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

3.93 | 8 ratings
Swans
1982
2.50 | 8 ratings
Young God
1984
3.13 | 4 ratings
A Screw
1986
3.05 | 3 ratings
Time Is Money (Bastard)
1986
4.00 | 7 ratings
Die Tr ist zu
1996
5.00 | 1 ratings
Oxygen
2014

SWANS Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 Omniscience by SWANS album cover Live, 1992
4.05 | 3 ratings

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Omniscience
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
3.86 | 61 ratings

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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
3.89 | 40 ratings

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Filth
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
3.89 | 40 ratings

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Filth
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

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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
3.96 | 141 ratings

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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

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Swans
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
3.53 | 40 ratings

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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
3.86 | 61 ratings

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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.

 The Glowing Man by SWANS album cover Studio Album, 2016
3.86 | 61 ratings

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The Glowing Man
Swans Post Rock/Math rock

Review by Neu!mann
Prog Reviewer

5 stars A newcomer discovering the music of Swans through any of the band's recent albums might feel like Vasco Nuez de Balboa seeing the Pacific Ocean for the first time, confronted suddenly by an awareness of something almost unfathomably vast, immeasurably deep, and more than a little intimidating. Their latest in a series of epic two-disc releases is also possibly the best of the bunch: a potential masterpiece waiting to be acknowledged as such, although the effort may require some patience.

This is a group able to elevate Post Rock monotony to a very loud, very intense dramatic art. Few other acts have the same knack for transforming a single note - minor key, of course - into an ungentle 30-minute dirge: ebbing, flowing, slowly collapsing, even more slowly reforming...all of it overlaid by Michael Gira's droning poetry, likewise stretching every labored syllable into a dark and secret mantra. I wouldn't dare quote a sample: his lyrics read like the lucid dreams of a manic-depressive shaman, and every stanza acts like a vortex sucking the unwary visitor into a bottomless abyss.

The band behind Gira, including new KING CRIMSON drummer Bill Rieflin (listed as 'Hit Man and 7th Swan'), aren't really musicians: these are fire-and-brimstone ascetics with amplifiers and guitars...lots of guitars. Together they create an almighty racket, dense and powerful but rimmed with a mysterious fluorescent light. Rieflin's guest appearance is appropriate: the music shares a loose kinship with Robert Fripp's more esoteric soundscapes, as heard in the waves of choral voices opening "Frankie M" (two of the backing singers are credited simply with 'atmospheric voices').

But the album isn't all ambient rock. Sometimes it actually rocks, especially over Disc Two, where the music comes into sharp focus. Check out the 29-minute title track, which really lets out all the stops. After a long, heavy, hypnotic prologue the song shifts gears suddenly upward into a relentless, atypically urgent groove, recalling the stronger motorik rhythms of early CAN or classic NEU! It's an incredibly tense performance, resolved at (long) last by the surprisingly handsome melody of "Finally, Peace": an upbeat, album-ending anthem currently lodged in my head like a spike of pure radiance

The total experience is no less inscrutable or demanding than other Swans albums I've been exposed to. And yet somehow it seems more accessible, or maybe I'm just growing more accustomed to the band's monolithic style. On principle I would never award five stars to a new album until it's withstood the test of time. But the entire two-disc package is almost long enough to pass that trial in a single sitting, so why wait? Like death, like taxes, like the apotheosis of Gira's unique musical vision, some things are inevitable.

Thanks to angelmk for the artist addition. and to E&O Team for the last updates

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