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Swans - The Great Annihilator CD (album) cover




Post Rock/Math rock

3.67 | 75 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
3 stars The Great Annihilator could be seen as something of a return to their darker beginnings, or on the other hand as a predecessor of their later development in "Seer" and "To Be Kind" (the next release "Soundtrack for the Blind" is quite different, though). Although there are three calmer songs on it, it's vast majority is dark, heavy, archaic, guitar oriented, and driven by monotonous rhythms, and as such it is among the most consistent Swans records. It also represents a turn after a number of more melodic records with folky elements, of which there are hardly any here. Obvious influences are darker new wave music such as Killing Joke, Joy Division and Dead can Dance, and on the other hand I feel reminded of early Krautrock; the beginning could have been in Amon Duul II's Phallus Dei but for the more 90s standard production here, and some of the more hypnotic parts make me associate early Can (this will become much stronger on Seer).

The monstrous wall of sound sometimes comes quite close to Seer, but Swans are just slightly less wild and crazy and more disciplined here. I like how the drums keep a good balance between a machine-like steadyness and well-dosed hints at urgency and overdrive, showing where this could go without really going there already (again, Seer is two steps further). Gira's voice is rather monotonous here, which gives the thing a stronger goth feel than other of their records. Also they didn't yet have the nerve to play out their orgies to 15+ minutes. Quite a number of songs are faded out and some faded in, making me believe that they may actually have been part of longer sessions, but they didn't yet consider it a good idea to put them on a record in full length.

The Great Annihilator is dark and atmospheric and I'd think it was an important step for the band foreshadowing what they'd be able to do in the 2010s. It's a good record for those who like this kind of atmosphere. On the other hand, it has a somewhat incomplete feel to it with a number of ideas tried out that would only be elaborated later, and is perhaps with all its obvious influences not as original and autonomous than many other Swans-releases. I like it but for my taste it's somehow eclipsed by Seer and To Be Kind, which I got to know earlier and which are far more radical and unique. Had I known this already in the 1990s, who knows, I may have given it more stars.

Lewian | 3/5 |


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