Swans – “The Seer Returns”
The Seer is the stuff nightmares are made of. From the witch-like incantations of “Lunacy” through the jarring discordance of “The Apostate”, it’s basically all dimensions of hell sprawled across an immersive two hour experience. The 32 minute title track would have been an easy selection for one of the decade’s best songs, but when I think about the moments on this album that make me return, it has more to do with the digestible cuts: “Lunacy”, “The Wolf”, “Song for a Warrior”, et al. “The Seer Returns” also benefits from rare accessibility on an album that is otherwise abrasive – however, it sacrifices nothing in terms of the pure evil that it’s able to conjure.
Thumping along to an addictingly villainous beat, Gira spews some ugly imagery that seems like nonsense upon initial inspection but actually makes a whole lot of sense if you pay it a careful listen. Some of the lyrics are more cryptic (“Behind the veil of silver scars / There is a special inverted star”…”There’s a jagged deep crack in the crust of the earth, spreading from north to south / Put your light in my mouth”) while others are just grotesque (“I’m down here naked, there’s a hole in my chest / Both my arms are broken, pointing east and west”), but one of my favorite passages is both: “Ahh, the mountains are crumbling / Ahh, the canyons are thundering / All the people are fucking / They’re just a pile of writhing, selfish bliss.” It seems to be about humankind’s refusal to acknowledge the deteriorating conditions of the world around us, preferring to give in to selfish and comforting pleasures while turning a blind eye to our inconvenient truths; wallowing in ignorance.
“The Seer Returns” is especially impactful within the context of the album due to its placement. Following the aforementioned 32 minute title track that festers in a drone-like atmosphere, this song bursts forth with sinister confidence. It’s the track I always remember when I think back to an album that’s length and atmosphere make it almost unapproachable, especially on a daily basis. Of course it helps that it’s also easily one of the best songs, perhaps contributing more than any other to that alluring sense of evil that seeps out of The Seer‘s nasty, festering pores. Nope – this isn’t a song that you want to fall asleep to. But it is one of the most striking and disturbingly unique tracks released in the last ten years.