Wednesday, 14 January 2015

Swans "Children Of God" (1987)

Swans are an American band from New York who were formed in 1982 by Michael Gira. Whenever I have heard this band mentioned, its always been in the highest of regards. Their early album covers gave me a Hardcore vibe, but after hearing them referred to as "Experimental Rock" I decided it was time to checkout this mysterious group that kept grabbing my attention. I picked out "Children Of God" for its intriguing album cover any vivid symbolism. I found myself entirely blown away on the first listen, I was overwhelmed but what I had just listened to, and struggled to make sense of it. "Experimental Rock" really threw me off the scent. There isn't an experiment at work here, but an absolute melodramatic theater of deity fear and wonder. What little "Rock" elements their are crop up in the occasional use of lightly distorted guitars, but the main concept here is the themes guided by Gira's deep, stagnant vocals that soar with a dark divinity. Theres a variety of accompaniments to the musical, but the most noticeable would be a Industrial style brought in though pounding drums and low, distorted guitars.

After a very powerful and moving first listen, I found myself struggling to make ends of what this record was all about. It feels obvious now, but it has taken me a long time to get my head around. "Children Of God" is a biblical, loathsome and tyrannical theatrical piece that turns an assumed concept that "God is love" and turns it on its head. God is hate, malice and spite, looking upon his creations with judgment and despise. "The sex in your soul will damn you to hell", repeated over and over, stuck deep in my mind. These are the words of a psychopathic being that creates us with instincts and desires it will judge and condemn us for with an eternal fury. Its a trip, through a bleak, despairing wash of inferiority and damnation. It feels like the songs take many forms and perspectives, of which I found "Blackmail" the most intriguing, with Jarobe on vocals, her soft, apparitional performance has a subtle illusion to it, queued by sorrowful pianos. The theme is of love, compassion and want, but the title and the subtleties give it a harrowing and malicious undertone I found to be a stroke of genius. Jarobe & Gira narrate this record exquisitely and guide us through unforgiving messianic scriptures that are truly enthralling.

Instrumentally these songs are very accommodating and theatrical, creating atmospheres to intensify Gira's preaches through pounding drums, droning guitars and eerie choirs. The album plays through on a ying yang approach, with each "heavy" track being followed by light, airy acoustic numbers, its surprisingly organic and seamless, the songs drift through intensities while maintaining the same God-fearing rapture. Production wise, it doesn't cross my mind until I write this now. The album sounds fantastic, capturing everything, leaving no room to second guess. Stunning album, a real journey, and one I initially felt was "too long". The harrowing experience isn't for every mood, and its length is testament to the quality of such a brilliant piece of music.

Favorite Tracks: New Mind, Sex God Sex, You're Not Real Girl, Blackmail, Children Of God
Rating: 8/10