Review Summary: Even after 30 years, Swans are still at their creative peak.
When a group decides to return from a rather lengthy hiatus like Swans did and release a new album, there are a few possible things that can happen: 1) the album is absolutely astounding and surpasses all expectations and is comparable to the band's best work or 2) the new album, while not necessarily bad, is disappointing or 3) the album comes out horribly and falls flat on its face. In the case of Swans, the second option seems best fitting. While My Father...
was by no means a bad album, (in fact it was still quite good) it seemed a bit stale in comparison to the mammoth release that preceded it 14 years before, Soundtracks for the Blind
. In addition, My Father
was rather short in comparison to more recent Swans albums, clocking in at a mere 44 minutes. When the announcement came that a 2 hour, 11 track double album entitled The Seer
was in the works, it left fans wondering where Swans would go now.
Suffice it to say that any disappointment that My Father
may have left, The Seer
has more than made up for. From the opening seconds of "Lunacy" all the way through to the pounding drums that close out the last minute of "The Apostate" the album is jam packed with every bit of influence Swans have ever shown on previous albums. Everything from the softer, more acoustic sections shown on later albums to the abrasive (while there are certainly far fewer of these moments) droning that was most prevalent on Filth
"Mother of the World" is one of the better tracks on the album, showcasing the band's ability to spend several minutes on the same drum patterns and melodies almost ad nauseum before exploding into a crescendo, only to fade away into a softer section that focuses on Gira's trademark vocals. The gargantuan title track, reaching an expansive 32 minutes, is riddled with drone elements, particularly towards the middle of the song. "The Seer" also contains the most haunting of Gira's vocals, as he repeats the mantra "I see it all" over and over and over in a monotonous tone, never once changing pitch. But perhaps the best is saved for last. Album closer "The Apostate" is the most heavy and abrasive song here. Like many other tracks before it, it takes a while to get where it's going, very steadily gaining in volume until it launches into a cacophony of clanging drums and ominous noises for several minutes. From there it seamlessly glides into a far less noisy section with a catchy bass riff and succulent drum patterns and after a while, Gira begins shouting overtop of it all. Just as the song seems as though it's fading out, thunderous drums finish out the remaining minute of the song.
There are however, a few very minute flaws with The Seer
. As one could expect with tracks that extend to 20+ minutes, there are times when the longer songs drag. They don't drag in the sense that it gets dull and monotonous, but more in the sense that some of the fat could have been trimmed and the album would have benefited as a whole. The other problem is the inclusion of "Song for a Warrior." This song is by no means bad, in fact, on its own, it's quite a soothing listen. Therein lies the problem. As is the case with a lot of Swans' music, The Seer
has a certain dark and haunting vibe to it, and "Song for a Warrior" is somewhat of a questionable inclusion. It takes away from the flow that the tracks before it establish, and somewhat hinders the consistency of the album.
is, in essence and in Gira's own words, "the culmination of every Swans album." The Seer
is Swans at their very best and may just well be their best album yet. Everything Swans have done thus far show up somewhere to some degree throughout the 11 track behemoth. Despite a few small blemishes, Swans have proven that they are still at the top of their game. At this point, it seems unlikely that anything else in 2012 could surpass The Seer
as being the best album of the year.