Review Summary: We Are Him is still decidedly Michael Gira, but without a lot of the abrasiveness that typically comes with him.
Anybody that's ever listened to Swans knows that there's something deeply and seriously wrong with Michael Gira. That's okay, because he creates some of the most unique, challenging, and sometimes just downright uncomfortable music around (see Swans' Filth
for examples.) After 15 years, 10 albums, and a lot of evolution in sound and direction, Michael Gira disbanded Swans in 1997. Shortly thereafter, he began a new musical project by the name of Angels of Light. Angels of Light marked a drastic shift in sound from Michael Gira.
We Are Him
is the final album by Angels of Light before Gira's revival of Swans. If you're familiar with Swans' work, listening to this may be quite the surprise. A lot of the harsh and abrasive qualities usually present in Gira's compositions are absent here, and instead a more tame and traditional sounding approach is taken. In fact, most of the songs here kind of give off an art rock-y vibe. "Black River Song" goes through the entire duration based mainly around one riff and drum pattern (some of you probably know that this is something Gira likes to do a lot) and focuses on Gira's and some accompanying female vocals in a slow but steady buildup. "Promise of Water" follows with a soft acoustic opening. After about 30 seconds Gira's vocals come in, and a soft pounding drum joins in as well. Here, Gira's vocals are haunting and almost chant-like, and his lyrics chilling: "When you open your mouth, you're too stupid to scream/Your eyes are the holes when you suck in your name./They're stealing the air and there's blood on the wheels," a lyrical selection that will definitely sound familiar to fans of his previous work. The song steadily builds in noise as more instruments gradually join the swell, until towards the end when everything but that sole pounding drum cuts out, and Gira and some female voices that joined the fray chant "And just how it was is just how it will be."
"My Brother's Man" follows a similar vibe to "Black River Song" in its structure, where the riff and drum rhythm serve as backing to Gira's vocals as he croons that "[He] is the god of this fu
cking land." The title track has an almost southern country vibe to it, and "Goodbye Mary Lou" is a quick paced take on that southern country sound that first presents itself on "We Are Him." "Sometimes I dream I'm Hurting You" is the longest track on the album, opting for a soft and extended intro complete with piano. Throughout the first four minutes, Gira repeatedly sings "We pray for your love, we pray for your love/We pray for your sons, we pray for your sons." The song goes quiet for the briefest of moments until it almost explodes into a crescendo backed by a southern riff and builds in speed and noise until the track's conclusion.
We Are Him
would be the last album Angels of Light would release before the revival of Swans. If you listen closely, you will probably notice some ideas that presented themselves on Swans' newer albums, even if the ideas are a bit more twisted and abrasive in Swans' rendition of them. The album is a much more user friendly and accessible version of Michael Gira's genius and madness, but it's still a decidedly Michael Gira slab of music. If you've been a fan of Swans' folkier and more acoustic tunes, there's a great chance you'll find something to enjoy here, and if you're looking for something with a Swans feel sans a lot of the abrasiveness, well, you'll probably like this too. In the end, it's at least worth a listen if nothing else.