Review Summary: Beauty and the Beast
There are bands, and then there are bands
. The former need nothing more than a handful of instruments and some catchy tunes. What lies beneath the fleshy exterior isn’t important. The latter, however, have at their disposal something more than simple song writing talent and musical ability. An extra ingredient is needed, some dark and mystical force that moves unseen in the pitch black labyrinths of sound.
Swans have that and then some.
Children of God
explodes with the shattering New Mind
, and does not let up once during its seventy minute running time. Even during the softest moments, a magical intensity still prevails – the signature Swans vibe that is present in every moment of their music. Pounding drums and droning guitars are still Gira’s domain, and he stalks through them with anger in his voice and fear in his heart. His voice erupts like a volcano spewing passion that instantaneously turns to poison; the unbridled screams that tear apart the stunning Beautiful Child
are some of the most terrifying sounds ever to emanate from a humanity that could never come to terms with its own existence.
Orbiting like so many electrons around the unstable nucleus that is Gira are the honey sweet syllables that cascade from Jarboe’s tongue. Echoing with a quiet beauty, they resonate loudly from somnolent streams, caressed agonizingly by the weeping willows of piano that bow down in mourning from the overgrown banks. Dying away at a bend in the river, they ultimately cascade in fury over waterfalls of sound as Gira returns to the microphone.
Whilst adjectives such as terrifying and the haunting adequately sum up this album, ‘bizarre’ also springs to mind. The dissonant cacophony of trumpets that rips through Like a Drug
violently collides with the nonsensical sounds that spring from Jarboe’s throat during the chorus; devastatingly unique to say the least. Meanwhile, the title track sounds like a fanatical church ceremony gone off the rails, and it sums up the album perfectly; the fervour running through this music is genuine, crushing and absolutely astonishing.
Swans were undoubtedly one of the most singular and astounding bands ever to arise from the dark recesses of sound, and Children of God
was the first great mountain of sound they conquered. Whilst the following decade would see them evolve and mutate beyond belief, this remains their first flawless and perhaps most perfectly emotive work.