Review Summary: The crossroads of good and evil.
It’s difficult to pigeon hole something as massive as religion into simply calling it objectively good or bad. That’s why it truly acts as the crossroads of good or evil. It's up to the person to decide what they want to use it for. Horrid things happen to people while practicing such an influential part of our society. People of all ages get violated both physically and mentally, and ultimately end up losing themselves in more ways than one. Sometimes many dear friends around you are replaced by sheer faith in an entity that may or may not be there. From other ways of life being shunned to placing a taboo on sex, poisonous beliefs can come from it. Therefore, religion does more harm than good in some cases. Juxtapose this claim with Children of God
, the result is absolutely frightening. From Gira’s robotic vocals to the overall creepy atmosphere, everything just reeks of mind control and hypnosis. Swans successfully make everything sound like an ominous cult with the aid of brooding guitar work and numerous other atmospheric devices. For these reasons, Children of God
is a masterful work of art.
Aided by gentle yet oddly chilling guitar picking, Jarboe quietly and hypnotically sings about how we’ll never die or go old in “In my Garden.” The creepy piano melodies really help drive this point home and proves to be a true 180 for Swans stylistically. Instead of conveying this provocative point of view by means of bombastic noise, they chose a more serene route which is admirable. Opposing this is opener “New Mind,” which gradually crescendos in its troubled atmosphere and fantastic robotic vocals from Gira. Gradually growing angrier with each note, he successfully succeeds in someone shoving ideas down someone’s throats. The band does this so well with various vessels of sound and diversity on this album.
A prime example of this diversity is “Blood and Honey,” Swans utilize the middle eastern type of instrumentation and ominous female vocals. It’s about as bizarre as it is unsettling and profound. It’s also a testament to how this album isn’t meant to have any ounce of positivity to it, proving how provocative it’s themes are. The title track also excels at conveying this urgent sense of diversity and sincerity in its message as Jarboe’s gang vocals mindlessly chant “We are children of God.” With the help of engaging keyboards and pummeling drums, it acts as a perfect send off to this album. The album delivers its message in many ways, but the main way is how large scale the vocals and guitars sound. It makes the music sound so timeless and memorable. It’s a wonder how this came out in the late 80s due to its edgy themes and massive scope.
In “Our Love Lies,” Gira’s baritone vocals sound absolutely mighty and alarming in the mix. As the tambourine and catchy atmospheric riffs play on, Gira’s incredibly colossal vocals echo through everything, proving how a robotic baritone can convey a message with the same amount of power as harsh vocals. What’s also impressive happens to be how shocking his vocal crescendos can sound. He preaches about a poor child’s impurities in “Beautiful Child” and Michael’s troubled vocals sound genuinely pained. He quickly grows angrier by the second as his voice swells to passionate wails. It also helps heighten the mood when the lyrics talk about killing the child. Instrumentally, the guitars aggressively rise and the drums grow louder with intensity.
The album has its fair share of beautiful pieces of music as well. “Blackmail” and “Trust Me” reside in this spectrum. Aside from the noisy wall of guitars and compelling drumming, the lush acoustic guitars truly soar with breathtaking sincerity in the beginning of “Trust Me.” It’s one of the most engaging tracks on the record and “Blackmail” proves no exception. Jarboe sounds amazing in this one and she carries the track on her shoulders. Her voice gracefully echoes through the lush textures. Therefore, the song acts as a small bastion to breathe for a bit. “Real Love” is another engrossing piece of music, with Gira’s compelling lyrics paving the way. The repetitious guitars also impress with the help of Jarboe’s vocalizing in the distance and occasional harmonica playing.
Overall, Children of God
exists as a one of a kind album with an incredible message. Instead of going about their claims with ferocious noise, Swans decided to craft a seminal work of art that acts as a strong influence on their later material. The guitar riffs hit hard, the charismatic vocals drone on powerfully and the drums pack a wallop. Their diverse choosing of instruments also includes the scarce yet effective use of acoustic guitars, strings and piano melodies. Rest assured, each song here has its own personality and flair. Most importantly, Children of God
reminds us to never lose ourselves and be completely corrupted by religion’s power. Swans accomplished this goal tastefully and with grace.