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Swans - Children Of God CD (album) cover




Post Rock/Math rock

4.28 | 100 ratings

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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.

Kempokid | 5/5 |


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