Progarchives, the progressive rock ultimate discography

SWANS

Post Rock/Math rock • United States


From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website

Swans picture
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)

SWANS forum topics / tours, shows & news


SWANS forum topics Create a topic now
SWANS tours, shows & news
No topics found for : "swans"
Post an entries now

SWANS Videos (YouTube and more)


Showing only random 3 | Search and add more videos to SWANS

Buy SWANS Music


To Be KindTo Be Kind
YOUNG GOD RECORDS 2016
$26.27
$29.94 (used)
leaving meaning.leaving meaning.
Young God Records 2019
$14.14
$9.98 (used)
The SeerThe Seer
YOUNG GOD RECORDS 2012
$28.46
$29.90 (used)
The Glowing ManThe Glowing Man
YOUNG GOD RECORDS 2016
$16.98
$29.94 (used)

More places to buy SWANS music online Buy SWANS & Prog Rock Digital Music online:

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 | 53 ratings
Filth
1983
3.40 | 39 ratings
Cop
1984
3.47 | 31 ratings
Greed
1986
3.57 | 30 ratings
Holy Money
1986
4.33 | 90 ratings
Children Of God
1987
3.58 | 31 ratings
The Burning World
1989
3.72 | 59 ratings
White Light From The Mouth Of Infinity
1991
3.60 | 34 ratings
Love Of Life
1992
3.65 | 51 ratings
The Great Annihilator
1995
4.13 | 82 ratings
Soundtracks For The Blind
1996
3.89 | 47 ratings
My Father Will Guide Me Up A Rope To The Sky
2010
3.75 | 162 ratings
The Seer
2012
3.94 | 194 ratings
To Be Kind
2014
3.83 | 76 ratings
The Glowing Man
2016
3.80 | 5 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
4.50 | 2 ratings
Kill the Child: 1985/1986/1987 Live
1995
4.23 | 12 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
3.50 | 4 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)

3.90 | 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
 Soundtracks For The Blind by SWANS album cover Studio Album, 1996
4.13 | 82 ratings

BUY
Soundtracks For The Blind
Swans Post Rock/Math rock

Review by TCat
Collaborator Eclectic 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
3.65 | 51 ratings

BUY
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
3.60 | 34 ratings

BUY
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 | 59 ratings

BUY
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
3.58 | 31 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.

 Time Is Money (Bastard) by SWANS album cover Singles/EPs/Fan Club/Promo, 1986
3.00 | 6 ratings

BUY
Time Is Money (Bastard)
Swans Post Rock/Math rock

Review by TCat
Collaborator Eclectic Team

3 stars This single marks the first move away from the Swans original slow and sludgy sound and the first time that Jerboe appears on a Swans record. Everything previous to this was ultra-heavy and thick noise sludge rock. The first version of "Time is Money (Bastard)" has a more industrial dance sound to it, much lighter than their music from before. The rhythm on this is created by drums and a nail gun. Gira's vocals still have that angry sound to them nevertheless, but we are seeing a move away from that sludge metal from before and it is a first step to the excellent progressive rock that they would later adopt.

The 2nd track is called "Sealed in Skin". This one is much slower, pretty much the same slow plodding beat that they were known for on previous recordings, but this time, the wall of noise is not there. Gira's vocals are all in a low register, almost grumbling, and the music is dark and disturbing, but not sludgy like before. Even though this is more similar to their earlier music, it is also an indication that those noise rock days are done. This is also the first time piano was used in Swans music.

The last track is an alternate mix of "Time is Money (Bastard)". It is a also a longer version at just over 7 minutes. This is where Jerboe makes her debut with the Swans making the screaming noises heard throughout the track. It starts out with a quick looping sound of the nail gun before settling into the upbeat industrial rhythm, and Gira is repeating some words. It's all beat and vocal loops at the beginning, then Gira starts with his non-melodic vocals. The beat is more unrelenting and heavy this time around. Unfortunately, it is less interesting than the other two tracks since there is much else going on here than what was described.

Of course, this is a sought after item for Swans fans because of the limited availability of the tracks. I don't really see that it will be that appealing to anyone else, but it is a landmark recording for the band because it marked the move away from their extreme music from before. It has 2 great tracks and one long repetitive track. 3 stars.

 Children Of God by SWANS album cover Studio Album, 1987
4.33 | 90 ratings

BUY
Children Of God
Swans Post Rock/Math rock

Review by Kempokid
Collaborator Prog Metal Team

5 stars Children Of God marks the first large shift within the core sound of Swans, incorporating more dynamic compositions, no longer having every song consisting of a single, heavy beat and the tortured screaming and moaning of Michael Gira. While this change woud already be leaps forward than their last 4 albums, Jarboe's increased presence on the album leads to a more varied listen, with acoustic guitars and beautiful pianos permeating particular tracks. The tone has shifted as well, no longer being just harrowing and violent, now adding a lot of eeriness to the overall sound, along with being much darker in general.

New Mind opens the album by displaying the maturation of Swans' sound, by having it sonically very similar to past albums, with heavy, filthy industrial beats that continuously hammer their way into your head, but this time with a more powerful feel to it, due to the presence of keyboards in the background providing a much more grandiose feel, while still having the crushing drums as the main focus. I also love the vocal performance here, with the first time I heard Gira gradually raise the volume and intensity of the phrase "Damn you to hell" with each repetition being absolutely mind blowing to me. After the crushingly heavy opener, the album then completely shifts gears and brings forth the haunting beauty of In My Garden, which is the antithesis to New Mind in many ways, having the same sort of structure of simple repetition, but instead using acoustic guitars and pianos, creating a sense of isolation heightened by the ethereal vocals of Jarboe. This works extremely well as the followup to one of the most intense pieces of music on the album, along with creating an extreme unpredicability in the album that is maintained throughout. Our Love Lies begins to establish one of the constants on the album, the gospel tinge to the songs, most clear in the form of the backing vocals. This fairly pretty song in its own twisted way then transitions into Sex God Sex, which has a similar riff, but with the heavy drums and electric guitars coming in at full force, with a strong focus on the extremely sludgy roots of the band, complete with a vocal performance that sounds utterly exhausted, strained, and defeated, especially noticeable when Gira sounds as if he's shouting out to the heavens, not in anger, but in utter desparation.

Blood and Honey is one of the more impressive songs on the album, having a certain eeriness to it, along with sounding slightly like a precursor to the opening section of She Loves Us. Jarboe's vocals go far lower than I expected here, matching the sort of unsettling tone that Gira's voice provides. Like A Drug (Sha La La) is another incredible track, showing off the more unhinged, insane side of the band, with a heavy, rhythmic riff consisting of a single note, as abrasive brass blares in the background, complete with an abolutely wild chorus. You're Not Real, Girl is a melancholy song that while not having quite the same impact as some other songs, is nonetheless great.

Beautiful Child is by far my absolute favourite song on the album and one of my favourites by the band in general. Nothing before or after has terrified me in quite the same way as the raw aggression and emotion of this song, with my favourite vocal performance by the band. with Gira's voice being pushed to its absolute limit as Jarboe wails away in the background, with instruments being repetitive and fasted aced, along with utterly brutal. Just like with the first 2 tracks, this piece of utterly harrowing terror is followed by one of the most calm tunes in order to provide respite after the utter bombardment of the previous one. Trust Me definitely had one of the biggest impacts on me upon first listen, starting off sounding like another mellow track before descending into the deepest pits of utter darkness, with atmosphere so thick that its palpable. The final three tracks make for an incredible closer, with Real Love being the pinnacle of melancholy songwriting the album has to offer, with a certain likeness to a Nick Cave song. This segues into Blind Love, a more groovy, beat driven track that lacks most of the negative energy surrounding the album, instead being extremely minimalistic, slowly building with a guitar scratch here and there, but never quite reaching the intensity of others, making it a good way to start closing off the album, as another track the Likes of Beautiful Child at this point wouldn't be the wisest of ideas. The title track closes off the album with a drone that while sounding somewhat optimistic, also clearly carries a lot of darkness with it, and is another one of my favourites off the album.

This is what I consider to be the first masterpiece of Swans, fully realising their heavy industrial sound, adding complexity that was absent before, while still being able to maintain the oppressive atmosphere and sound of the band, along with at points, a lot of its volume. The softer passages provide a contrast from the constant intensity, allowing the moments in which the music crescendoes to become even more impactful. This would definitely be a decent starting point into Swans' discography, although this is still a far cry from something even mildly accessible.

Best songs: New Mind, Blood and Honey, Like A Drug (Sha La La), Beautiful Child, Trust Me, Real Love, Children of God

Weakest songs: none

Verdict: While this album is not accessible at all, I highly recommend that those who enjoy extremely intense music listen to this immediately, as I found myself absolutely floored at many points throughout, with particular mention going to Beautiful Child, one of the most intense songs I've ever heard.

 To Be Kind by SWANS album cover Studio Album, 2014
3.94 | 194 ratings

BUY
To Be Kind
Swans Post Rock/Math rock

Review by TCat
Collaborator Eclectic Team

4 stars In this monster of an album from 'Swans' called 'To Be Kind', the heavy, sludge sound of the past and the somewhat gothic sound of the more recent past are gone. The band has moved on to major progressive status which was proved in the albums released after their 10 year hiatus. The music has grown up in a huge way. Their music is now much more experimental, more listenable, but I wouldn't call it accessible. I would however call it smart music. Now the music focuses more on the long form and development over a mostly repetitive nature, it is more akin to a rock orchestra. The double album extends to over 2 hours across only 10 tracks, one of which goes over 34 minutes.

Beginning with 'Screen Shot', we get a real exercise in development as this track develops over a repetitive riff that is mostly made up of one chord and a song of mostly one note. And this develops in a track of over 8 minutes. The fact that it is repetitive is hardly noticeable, as the attention is directed to the development of the music. It starts simple, but builds and builds on a constant crescendo with added layers and added intensity throughout, just like Ravel's Bolero. It may sound annoying, but it really isn't. It is an amazing track.

Next comes the 12 minute track 'Just a Little Boy (for Chester Burnett)'. This is dedicated to blues legend Howlin' Wolf, and if you are familiar with his music, then you are going to understand how this track is inspired by the man. This music moves slowly, much like Swans of yesteryear, but this time, it isn't heavy and loud, but it is intense. Again, it builds itself over the passage of time, but the intensity ebbs and flows, diminishes and grows. Just like the blues of Burnett, the music is based off of a singular riff and a simple chord structure, mostly just improvised off of one chord with some variation as it comes to the last section of the track. Swans early music was based off of one chord blues rock, it was just really loud and hard to listen to. This time, it is so much more mature and that actually makes it give a bigger impact with the use of dynamics instead of being played at one very loud volume all the way through.

An interesting change up occurs on 'A Little God in My Hands' as you get a funky beat and a guitar and bass emitting some cool effects. As the verses are sung, this beat continues, but at the end of the verse, there is an explosion of sound before returning to a variation of the theme, again based around one chord. The slight variation represents the growing of the track as a brighter keyboard pattern is added before the verse comes in. This time, a drone of sorts is dropped in to the instrumental foundation and eventually a choral, sort-of-chant joins in. After singing mostly an unchanging note against the quick processional beat, it changes, and a thick orchestral style drone starts that contains what sounds like a brass and synth orchestra. Up to this point, the album is pretty amazing. The next track, however, is a study in excess that goes on too long.

Next is the huge track 'Bring the Sun/Toussaint L'Ovuerture' that pulls out all of the stops right at the beginning of this 34 minute opus. This is a wall of sound with a beat that almost makes you think your needle is in a locked track. After two minutes of this, things calm as the percussion and bass and most everything except for a drone and bits of atmospheric accompaniment drops out. As vocals start, things feel really expansive as you get a combination of middle-Eastern singing against an almost Western soundtrack, both styles imagining desert wasteland. This sudden sparseness is very trance-like. At 7 minutes, you can hear intensity start to build as the drums get more excited and other sounds start getting louder. Finally, after the 14 minute mark, when you think it can't get any more intense, you reach the climax, and it all breaks down, builds up quickly and breaks down again. Now all the drones and everything are gone, and were left with tinkling guitars and various other instrumental noises. At this point, there are what sounds like hammering and sawing noises, until deep, droning vocals start and other sounds like horses, seagulls and maybe children are heard. There are some strange instrumental effects that continue on here and a heavy sounding drone has also developed and after a few attempts, takes things over all together in another wall of noise, picking things up like a tornado. After 20 minutes, it all breaks down again to minimal sounds and a soft thumping bass. Now things turn psychedelic as sounds swirl around, and a voice starts shouting out the title to the 2nd section of the track. It's almost like you are listening to a spaced out version of 'The Doors' except, someone opened the doors and went beyond. After 30 minutes, the wall of noise returns as everything gets swirled together again and continues to the end. It's quite a journey if you make it through, but honestly, it is far too long.

The first half of the album ends on the 5 minute track 'Some Things We Do'. Vocals list off some of the things we do as people in a speaking/sing-song style, but in a somewhat monotonous way as instruments swirl around. At this point, the first three tracks are great, the forth one starts out great until around the 17 minute point, and it should have called it quite there, and the last track really doesn't go anywhere, so it ends weak.

To start off the 2nd half, 'She Loves Us' is another long one at 17 minutes. It starts with an infectious hook with a lot of various percussion. This goes on for a few minutes with only one modulation. After it resolves back to the original key, the vocals start with a that uses a middle-Eastern sounding mode. At 4 minutes, the hook and the vocals stop leaving things free floating with a modulating drone and cool effects. Instruments get added back in, including drums pounding in a non- rhythmic pattern. At 7 minutes, everything comes together as another hook pattern starts up that is soon joined by English vocals this time, that also have a drone-like chanting quality to them. Things turn rhythmic now and you get a good solid beat. But the music falls into a repetitive trance-like feel here, and its okay except when Gira starts shouting again in his Jim Morrison style. At around 15 minutes, things get chaotic as everything falls apart and you are left with layers of drone-like vocals before the instruments come in to close everything off in a dramatic fashion. I understand the study of repetition and creating textures around it, but again, I feel this could have been better if it ended at 10 minutes.

'Kirsten Supine' begins with a softer drone and minimalist feel before Gira starts to sing in his low register accompanied by soft chimes and effects. After 5 minutes, a thumping drum starts to move things forward and sustained bells and chimes continue to play. Moaning guitars start to come in building intensity until they create a modulating drone. The drums start crashing harder. Things become more unsettling as it continues. This time, at over 10 minutes, things finally stop and fade making this track the perfect length.

'Oxygen' has a great hook and beat that repeats, and some crazy vocals come in. This time the vocals don't seem as annoying as they seem more natural here. Everything builds off of this hook as instruments get added in. Soon the instruments and vocals match each other in rhythm and sound, everything stops, and starts again with brassy sounds added to the mix making things more unsettling until several instrumental hits finally close it out at 8 minutes.

'Nathalie Neal' begins with echoing vocal effects. Other traditional instruments get added in slowly swirling around in a psychedelic haze. Spoken vocals (probably field recordings) come in for a short time. At 3 minutes, a rhythmic hook comes in and things intensify quickly before singing vocals begin. The same basic pattern continues for the remainder of the 10 minute track until the last minute when things get really quiet, but this time around the track just flies by because it is so much better.

The last track is the title track 'To Be Kind'. It starts off with swirling effects, staying minimal even when the spooky, mesmerizing vocals start, almost in a lullaby, but one that is meant to not be soothing. The lyrics 'There are millions and millions of stars in your eyes' do not seem that soothing. After the mid way point after four minutes, things suddenly get loud and heavy with unrelenting pounding drums and screaming instruments that stop and start a few times.

This album is a study in repetitiveness and excessiveness. In this way, it returns to the Swans albums of old, but the music is still much different in that it has lost its sludgy, dark metal sound. There are a lot more instruments of every kind added in here now, but things can still be just as unsettling, but at least it is much, much better than those early albums. The album is also not in the same vein of progressive ingenuity as it does seem to veer more towards the post-punk sound. I find the album overall more accessible than the earliest albums, though that isn't saying much, but I enjoy the tracks that don't go over the 11 minute mark. The two behemoth tracks on here go on way too long, and end up bringing the overall score down lower than the last few albums which were ingenious. I know that you can always hit the fast forward button past those long passages, but this album just doesn't quite reach the 5 star status like "My Father Will Guide...." and "The Seer" did. Still, I appreciate what the band was trying to do here.

 Holy Money by SWANS album cover Studio Album, 1986
3.57 | 30 ratings

BUY
Holy Money
Swans Post Rock/Math rock

Review by Kempokid
Collaborator Prog Metal Team

3 stars From first listen, it becomes highly apparent that 'Greed' and 'Holy Money' were both recorded in the same sessions, as both have a very empty, distant sound to them, with much of the intensity coming from the emotions, rather than the music itself, which is very heavy, but nowhere near as nasty sounding as their first 2 albums. On top of this, what makes it even more apparent is the fact that 2 of the tracks are just remade versions of songs from 'Greed'. I personally find this album to have much less impact and also be generally of lower quality.

The opener, as is common with 'Swans'' early work, is one of the highlights of the album, making effective use of Jarboe's vocals to create a sound similar to some sort of twisted gospel piece. I particularly love how this is juxtaposed by Gira's standard, deep, moaning voice, creating excellent contrast and making the song sufficiently dark. The outro is also quite notable, with some almost tribal drumming coming through in a short burst of energy, all before petering out and transitioning into 'You Need Me'. This song is the first time we're introduced to Jarboe's vocals in a way where they're actually used as vocals, rather than as an instrument. The song acts somewhat as a precursor to the quieter songs from 'Children Of God' but is overall not quite as good as those, lacking some of the haunting beauty that made songs like 'In Your Garden' so good. 'Fool (#2)' is the first big problem with the album, being an inferior version of 'Greed's' version by adding percussion and a higher prominence of guitars. What made the original so great to me was the unique, eerie atmosphere caused by the lack of usual instruments and it being almost entirely piano driven, which is taken away here and ends up being supremely mediocre. 'A Screw (Holy Money)' stands up much better, being honestly quite a groovy sounding track with some really cool vocal chanting, giving it a fairly unique sound, being much less brutal in any particular way and being somewhat more palatable than usual. 'Another You' is another song that I'm not a fan of, as I do find it to be overlong and not particularly interesting, being another song that's really just mediocre all around. 'Money Is Flesh (#2)' has very little differences from the original,and still sounds just as great as it did on 'Greed', although I can't really say I like it being here, since it's essentially just reusing a track. 'Coward' is definitely one of the best tracks here, with excellent mixing on the vocals, with the unsettling repetition of the phrase "I'm worthless" echoing intensely while various yells are in the background, as a minimalistic beat drives the song.

This is a good album on the whole, despite the couple of issues I have with it, as the overall sound is still dripping with emotion and the depressive angst of 'Greed', combined with an excellently distant, dark, extremely heavy sound. However, the issues the album has definitely do drag it down to some extent, and I find this album in general to be less interesting in its experimentation compared to the aforementioned 'Greed', which ultimately overshadows it.

Best Songs: A Hanging, Coward

Worst Songs: Fool (#2), Money Is Flesh (#2), Another You

Verdict: If you liked Greed, then you're almost certain to like this, as they are extremely similar in both tone and sound. I do personally prefer Greed, but this is nonetheless a fairly good album all around.

 Greed by SWANS album cover Studio Album, 1986
3.47 | 31 ratings

BUY
Greed
Swans Post Rock/Math rock

Review by Kempokid
Collaborator Prog Metal Team

4 stars After 2 LPs of pure aural assault, 'Swans' take a bit of a left turn with their 3rd album, 'Greed'. The sound is more involved and layered than before, no longer just having the goal of repeatedly battering the listener over the head with simple, abrasive beats and showing pure anger through each screamed note and hard hits against the drums. Rather than being simply angry and aggressive, this album becomes downright depressing, with Gira's vocals being much more desperate and defeated, and the songs droning without the same punch as could be found on 'Cop'. Despite this, it's made up for by the eerie atmosphere that each song contains, making effective use of short moments of silence, providing a powerful feeling of isolation.

'Fool' is a very clear, direct way of expressing the change in sound that the band goes through here, having no percussion, with nothing but slow echoey piano chords with the occasional moment of guitar. This is complemented by the bleak lyrics and monotone singing of Michael Gira. 'Anything For You' displays the use of silence in the album, with the beat not being a constant wall of sound, but being quite empty sounding, with clear gaps throughout where there's nothing but vocals, sometimes not even that much. 'Nobody' and 'Greed' both share many similarities, both use Jarboe's vocals less as actual vocals, but instead editing and looping them in order for them to simply become another instrument. This goes to the point that in 'Nobody', they genuinely sound similar to a harmonica, to the point where that's what I thought they were for the first 5 listens of this album. Out of these two, I definitely prefer 'Greed' having the vocals have a near ethereal quality to them that contrasts perfectly with the dissonant riffs, harsh beat, and extremely unpleasant tone that the song has. 'Stupid Child' is a slightly quieter song with quite memorable, almost hypnotic drumming, being much more in the industrial vein compared to most songs on the album. 'Heaven' shows one of the first instances of 'Swans'' incredible buildups and climaxes to their songs, starting off similarly to most of the songs here, before building up, having Gira sound more and more desperate as it progresses, with this desperation turning into anger, until the song ends up sounding like the mutterings of a madman, truly an incredible moment. The closing track is by far the most violent and definitely one of my favourites on the album, having a beat that is reminiscent of 'Filth' in terms of the way it feels as if you're getting attacked with each smash of the drum-kit. I love the addition of the synthesizers, as it really gives this song an interesting edge to it, further increasing the empty feeling this album creates by replacing an instrument played by a human (the guitar is mostly absent from this song) with something artificial.

The atmosphere present on this album marks a definite step forward in 'Swans', being quite experimental with their overall sound while also not deviating from it in an extreme way, still keeping a general sense of bleakness and heaviness to everything, with their industrial sound still strong, especially towards the end of the album. However, the songs do have a degree of variation in them, not all sticking to a single tone and style, instead giving some identity to each song, whether it's through crescendos, lack of percussion, or even synthesizers, providing a more varied listen. While I still personally prefer the raw aggression of their debut album, I definitely prefer this to 'Cop'. This is also probably a slightly easier entry point into the band, although nowhere is really a great one, both due to how consistently inaccessible their music is, and because of how rapidly their sound changes anyway.

Best Songs: Fool, Greed, Money Is Flesh

Weakest Songs: None

Verdict: A slightly more experimental Swans album that still has its roots in their industrial sound. Atmospheric and uncomfortable to listen to, but a must for those who really like extremely heavy industrial music or those who like dense atmosphere and tone, as this album will appeal quite a bit.

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

Copyright Prog Archives, All rights reserved. | Legal Notice | Privacy Policy | Advertise | RSS + syndications

Other sites in the MAC network: JazzMusicArchives.com — jazz music reviews and archives | MetalMusicArchives.com — metal music reviews and archives