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SWANS

Post Rock/Math rock • United States


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

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

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

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Buy SWANS Music


The SeerThe Seer
Special Edition
YOUNG GOD RECORDS 2016
$13.13
$7.34 (used)
To Be KindTo Be Kind
YOUNG GOD RECORDS 2016
$16.97
$7.93 (used)
Swans: Die Tur Ist Vinyl 2LP (Record Store Day)Swans: Die Tur Ist Vinyl 2LP (Record Store Day)
Young God
$30.00
Children Of GodChildren Of God
Reissued · Remastered
YOUNG GOD RECORDS 2016
$18.98
$19.99 (used)
DIE TUR IST ZU RSDDIE TUR IST ZU RSD
YOUNG GODS
$32.62
Body To Body Job To JobBody To Body Job To Job
Sky / Young God 1991
$105.34
$7.85 (used)
My Father Will Guide Me Up A Rope To The SkyMy Father Will Guide Me Up A Rope To The Sky
YOUNG GOD RECORDS 2016
$8.13
$5.75 (used)
The Great AnnihilatorThe Great Annihilator
Reissued · Remastered
YOUNG GOD RECORDS 2016
$11.43
$5.60 (used)
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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)

3.87 | 42 ratings
Filth
1983
3.48 | 29 ratings
Cop
1984
3.34 | 23 ratings
Greed
1986
3.68 | 22 ratings
Holy Money
1986
4.27 | 71 ratings
Children Of God
1987
3.43 | 23 ratings
The Burning World
1989
4.08 | 46 ratings
White Light From The Mouth Of Infinity
1991
3.75 | 25 ratings
Love Of Life
1992
3.52 | 41 ratings
The Great Annihilator
1995
4.16 | 65 ratings
Soundtracks For The Blind
1996
3.92 | 39 ratings
My Father Will Guide Me Up A Rope To The Sky
2010
3.72 | 151 ratings
The Seer
2012
3.93 | 178 ratings
To Be Kind
2014
3.84 | 65 ratings
The Glowing Man
2016

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

4.33 | 12 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
4.21 | 10 ratings
Swans Are Dead
1998
4.13 | 8 ratings
We Rose From Your Bed with the Sun in Our Head
2012
4.50 | 8 ratings
Not Here / Not Now
2013
4.00 | 3 ratings
The Gate
2015
3.00 | 1 ratings
Deliquescence
2017

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

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

3.00 | 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
2.95 | 9 ratings
Young God
1984
3.13 | 4 ratings
A Screw
1986
3.05 | 3 ratings
Time Is Money (Bastard)
1986
4.04 | 8 ratings
Die Tür ist zu
1996
5.00 | 1 ratings
Oxygen
2014

SWANS Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 The Seer by SWANS album cover Studio Album, 2012
3.72 | 151 ratings

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The Seer
Swans Post Rock/Math rock

Review by ProgShine
Collaborator Errors & Omissions Team

1 stars In my opinion music can go wherever it wants and can have the form that the musicians choose. There are no rules. However, there are rules for me!

There are many, many listeners who follow certain publications/sites and take pride in being 'different', and they end up in an alternative world, along with several other listeners. At the end of the day all we have is a legion of alternative listeners who hear and worship the same things, not so alternative in the end...

Well, why this text 'nothing to do with anything' at the beginning of this review? Because to me Swans has always been in this category: music for people that is alternative, but it is not. Who wants to make strange and different music just for the simple fact of wanting to be different. Period.

That's what The Seer showed me.

I tried to listen to the record without preconceptions, maybe there was a good record to be discovered (finally) by me. No. Deception.

Songs that are long simply 'because yes', not because there is a purpose. Songs that come out of nowhere and get nowhere (The Seer, the song, being the perfect example of my statement). And at the end of the record we get this question in our minds: what's the purpose of this record, whyit exists?

The discography of the band is all full of hype and the alternative ones love to adore the band. Oh, and they are influence to many other modern and equally cool new bands that also fills us with the same emptiness of The Seer.

I wonder if The Seer was recorded without the pretension, without all the cool vibe around it, without the intention of being 'cool'. I imagine it would have been a good record, because there are several good moments that are simply destroyed by the pretension.

 Young God by SWANS album cover Singles/EPs/Fan Club/Promo, 1984
2.95 | 9 ratings

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Young God
Swans Post Rock/Math rock

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

4 stars SWANS emerged in the short-lived New York City no wave noise rock scene with their debut album "Filth" and earlier eponymous EP but in 1984 they not only released their second album "Cop" but also an extended play (EP) that didn't really have a title at the time. It consisted of only four tracks and has been referred to "Raping A Slave" and "I Crawled" (both album tracks) but is officially referred as YOUNG GOD which is the title of the longest track, therefore it has pretty much gone down in history under that title. The fourth unfortunate track that it hasn't been named after is "This Is Mine." Once again SWANS dishes out a strange concoction of punk infused energy, metal tones and timbres all parading in a drone drenched stripped-down minimalism and avant-garde outrage.

Following in the bleakness and brutal nature of the "Cop" album, YOUNG GOD takes the stylistic approach to even more extreme measures offering a glimpse into the mind of the serial killer Ed Gein. The EP takes the no wave, no frills droning percussive march into even more bombastic territories as it even utilizes a chain against a metal table offering a bleaker industrial feel than "Cop" ever dared explore. Likewise, the tempos are even slower and it genuinely sounds as if the sounds that emerge evoke the darkest, most abstract and utterly violent musical offerings possible with an abrasive surreal minimalistic barbarity unlike anything ever conceived.

YOUNG GOD contains only a mere four tracks that don't even add up to the half hour mark but in their wake leaves a barrage of emotionally bereft hypnotic parades of industrial bleakness and surreal surrender of everything familiar in musical trends of the day. Melodies are replaced by jagged torturous textures of jarring guitar distortion, arhythmic percussive drives that churn along like heart palpitations and the bleakest sewer rat perspective of sado-masochistic sonic torture sessions that incorporate downtuned dread with utter hopelessness.

While the overall effect is equivalent to "Cop," YOUNG GODS is even more surreal and hypnotic as the guitar parts are more uniform whereas the Michael Gira's vocals are much more emphatic and take on a more diverse repertoire of tortured prowess. The main effect of YOUNG GOD is one of disbelief as the grimy filth of the guitar and bass distortion churn along with the atypically timed rhythmic flow of the percussion. This one has been cited as a major influence to bands like Nirvana, Neurosis and Godflesh. The Swiss band The Young Gods even named themselves after it. This is about as subversively sinister as music can get before it totally becomes irregular formless noise.

This is the last bout with sheer musical bleakness for SWANS. After YOUNG GODS they would incorporate Jarboe into the band and her influence would forever change the band's course into more diverse arenas. While the EP was never officially released beyond the initial vinyl pressings, the four tracks that appeared on it can easily be found on modern compilations of the early works. YOUNG GODS takes the unique musical lexicon that SWANS crafted in their earlier years and fleshes out only the bleakest possibilities. So intense is this stuff that more than four tracks of it and it may have caused death. Include this on the "scariest tracks of all time" list.

 Cop by SWANS album cover Studio Album, 1984
3.48 | 29 ratings

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Cop
Swans Post Rock/Math rock

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

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

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

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

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

 The Seer by SWANS album cover Studio Album, 2012
3.72 | 151 ratings

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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

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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
3.84 | 65 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
3.87 | 42 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
3.87 | 42 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
3.43 | 23 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
3.72 | 151 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
Thanks to angelmk for the artist addition. and to Quinino for the last updates

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