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Swans - Children Of God CD (album) cover

CHILDREN OF GOD

Swans

 

Post Rock/Math rock

4.28 | 100 ratings

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Prog Sothoth
5 stars The 'prog' versus 'progressive' label has never hit home to me more than this release. Children Of God, to me, is not only one of the best albums I've ever heard, but also one of the most important in regards to my own development as a fan of rock music itself. Decades later, there's been no shortage of bands incorporating styles akin to certain tracks off this album and even developing them further, but back in 1987 this release was such a unique beast for its time, equal parts beautiful and monstrous...unlike anything I was used to.

The most obvious development of the band at this point was the increase in Jarboe's presence vocally, as well as the haunting ballads interspersed throughout the album. Heavy industrial sounding monolith "New Mind" is followed by the ethereal yet eventually eerie piece "In My Garden", proclaiming this album to be an experience in which how the next track will sound would be anyone's guess. I was hooked by this point during my inception by this time.

There are two different versions of "Our Love Lies" that I know of, in which the original heavy bluesy Caroline Records version that I own on cassette is superior to the more folksy version found on re-releases. Hopefully, subsequent re-releases will retrieve the original version to its rightful place within this album.

About the instrumentation...it's perfect in establishing a mood in an almost trance-like way, not as something to scrutinize technically. That isn't important here, but the compositions themselves are worthy of praise for their unsettling nature. From the haunting creepiness of the Jarboe sung "Blood And Honey" to the ferocious pulpit bombast of "Beautiful Child" to the tranquil beauty of "Blackmail", there's such variety of sounds and ideas going on while maintaining an almost singular theme that its almost hard to believe that the band were able to pull this off without coming across like a band in transition. They weren't. SWANS were on fire at this point. Just about everything mattered, with only "Like A Drug" being a bit off-putting to me, but not enough to lesson the overall power of this release and all of its sublime qualities.

In 1987 my musical interests had shifted so far away from the prog rock I was into during the early 80's to crossover thrash metal to such an extent that I was due for something different, and Children Of God was my catalyst. Not only did I embrace this album, I drifted into non-metal music that retained a gloomy aura and subsequently even branched out into delicate music in general as well as other forms of rock that I had ditched for a few years. Floyd became relevant again, and while I never stopped listening to metal...in fact I delved deeper to the more extreme side of things (in which early SWANS stuff arguably could be seen as an influence), my interest in progressive and experimental styles of music went ballistic in the late 80's and continues to this day.

Outside of my own personal growth, the merits of this album may be a little off-putting for some, but the creative aspects involved in this recording shouldn't be denied. Gira based his boisterous vocals on Southern preachers and the effects these fire and brimstone preaching types held over their congregation, and he pulls it off with aplomb, matched by Jarboe's unnerving vibrato.

Equal parts venomous and tranquil, Children Of God remains my favorite album of there's, and while each tune carries a sort of pin-pointed impact, as a whole this album captures a lot of emotions and atmosphere that very few have equaled in my own experience while growing up in the 80's, and it resonates strongly still whenever I feel the urge for the primal currents of power, fear, glory and destitution that surge throughout this opus. Whether it's essential or not is your decision, but to me it's a masterpiece regardless of whatever terminology of "progressive" one chooses to utilize.

Prog Sothoth | 5/5 |

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