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Swans White Light From The Mouth Of Infinity album cover
3.73 | 79 ratings | 3 reviews | 29% 5 stars

Excellent addition to any
prog rock music collection

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Studio Album, released in 1991

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. Better Than You (5:51)
2. Power And Sacrifice (5:37)
3. You Know Nothing (5:46)
4. Song For Dead Time (5:24)
5. Will We Survive (6:51)
6. Love Will Save You (6:06)
7. Failure (6:20)
8. Song For The Sun (5:03)
9. Miracle Of Love (6:43)
10. When She Breathes (5:03)
11. Why Are We Alive? (5:29)
12. The Most Unfortunate Lie (5:02)

Total time 69:15

Line-up / Musicians

- Michael Gira / vocals, acoustic guitar, keyboards, "sounds", samples, arranger & producer
- (Jane) Jarboe / vocals & backing vocals, keyboards, choral and orchestral arrangements
- Christoph Hahn / acoustic & electric guitars
- Clinton Steele / acoustic & electric guitars
- Norman Westberg / electric guitar
- Jenny Wade / bass
- Vincent Signorelli / percussion

- Nicky Skopelitis / acoustic & electric guitars, baglama, bouzouki, banjo
- Steve Burgh / mandolin, 12-string guitar
- Hahn Rowe / violin
- Anton Fier / drums, drum programming

Releases information

Artwork: Deryk Thomas

CD Young God Records ‎- YG-003-2 (1991, US)

Thanks to The Truth for the addition
and to Quinino for the last updates
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SWANS White Light From The Mouth Of Infinity ratings distribution

(79 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(29%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(50%)
Good, but non-essential (18%)
Collectors/fans only (1%)
Poor. Only for completionists (1%)

SWANS White Light From The Mouth Of Infinity reviews

Showing all collaborators reviews and last reviews preview | Show all reviews/ratings

Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by Warthur
4 stars On this release Swans go full, 100%, "tracks from this album were recommended as background music in a Vampire: the Masquerade book" goth, to the point where Michael Gira's vocal delivery adopts that particular stentorian tone reminiscent of goth vocalists trying really hard to imitate Andrew Eldritch.

This would be seen as a risible and mercifully brief phase in their existence between their shockingly raw early post- punk material that preceded this and their exceptional post-rock material that came after, were it not for one thing: they're amazingly good at this stuff. Perhaps Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds could have stood toe to toe with Swans in the post-punk/goth stakes at this point in time, but precious few others could.

Review by TCat
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
4 stars By this album, the Swans have made the complete shift from that dark, heavy and muddy sludge rock to a more gothic prog rock. I add the word prog in there because the music is a step above the typical goth rock, it is well produced, but with some elements of surprise added in. They have not yet arrived to being a full on Post Rock band yet, but you can hear that the transition is coming.

As far as Goth Rock goes, I am not a huge fan of it except for some occasional songs. I do love this album however, because it is so well done, so atmospheric, and it still has plenty of variety throughout it's tracks. Michael Gira's vocals are more melodic now and he has actually become a decent singer utilizing dynamics. Jerboe has also become a bigger contributor to the music. She balances out Gira's deep and occasionally rough vocals, and you can hear her sing more background when she is not doing the occasional lead vocals. She is also in charge of orchestral and choral arrangements and contributing keyboards.

The percussion is powerful on this album, and is not at all pushed to that background as is the case with many goth-rock bands. Dynamics are used better than ever before. And each track has it's own personality. There is darkness, but there is also light. There is heaviness, but there is also softness. There is also a lot of supporting musicians on this album, which helps immensely with the overall sound on each track. Yes, things have changed in a big way for this amazing band.

The album starts out with 'Better than You' and 'Power and Sacrifice'. Both of these are quite upbeat with Gira singing lead and Jerboe evening things out in the background. They are both songs that are heavy in percussion and tone, yet not heavy in a hard rock kind of way, but more of a scary, dark, almost vampiric way. Next, 'You Know Nothing' is quite a bit more quieter, with a nice use of dynamics through the track. This is where things are more emotional and rise above the typical Goth sound. After this, Jerboe takes the lead with her beautiful breathy vocals on the surprisingly beautiful and lush 'Song for a Dead Time'. On this song, I can really hear the balance she gives to the overall sound.

'Will We Survive' has a prog introduction that gives us a foreshadowing of what the future of Swans will be when the go into full progressive mode in a few years. This is a nice dramatic and majestic song, with the instrumentals driving the song forward. At the last part of the song, brightness comes in to the almost Celtic march feel in the form of chimes. This is a nice surprise since previous Swans albums tended to be quite dark all the way through, even during the early transition stage. 'Love Will Save You' on the other hand, sounds more like music from a spaghetti western. You can close your eyes and almost picture The Man With No Name (Clint Eastwood) riding into town to this music, and his character now has a name'.love? Not really the name I expected, but you can believe it during this song.

'Failure' is a weaker track that loses it's believability as Gira uses spoken word in place of a melody for the most part, and it's almost embarrassingly funny. You would think he would have the voice for this style, but it doesn't work for him on this track. It's more pathetic than it is atmospheric especially with the sparseness of the instrumentation on the track. 'Song for the Sun' has a sort of 50-60s vibe, but more in the 'Leader of the Pack' style than the 'California Girls' style. Even with the break in the middle where things slow down for a while, this song drags on a little too long, even if it's only 5 minutes long.

There is a return to form and fineness on the lush and orchestral 'Miracle of Love'. Halfway through, the peacefulness of the track suddenly changes to a very progressive and exciting instrumental. This one gives you a good indication as to where the Swans' music is going on later albums. Excellent track. If there were more tracks like this on this album, it would have easily been a 5 star album. Jerboe takes the lead vocals on the cinematic 'When She Breaths', and once again her vocals are soft and breathy, but this time with more range.

'Why Are We Alive' has a long instrumental introduction and then tries to be atmospheric and pensive, but misses the mark. 'The Most Unfortunate Lie' utilizes a 6/4 meter to end the album. Again, Gira tries spoken word, but succeeds this time because it is mixed with melody later on. This time it is more effective and is a great way to end an emotional album.

For the most part, this album has a lot of successes, but there are some weak tracks too that tend to bring it down. Fortunately, the strengths far outweigh the weaknesses, making this an excellent album. If you don't mind Gira's deep vocals, you will love the musicianship and songwriting overall. But his vocals fit with the style of music quite well, and they are easy to adjust to because of that. Plus you have Jerboe providing softer vocals that even everything out. This album truly feels like the light at the end of a dark tunnel, and it is amazing to hear the transition of the band.

Review by Kempokid
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.

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