Swans - The Great Annihilator 2xLP
Label: Young God
The exhausting discography of Swans arguably can be broken into four distinct facets of their uncompromising, brutalist avant-rock practices. The first fruits from Cop and Filth are rightly described as "a deeply repulsive form of audio pornography" with the aggressively barked vocals from Michael Gira who directs a muscular thud of tactical assaults, neither punk nor metal, but an abject creature of its own making. Children Of God and the World Of Skin side project marked an early middle period for Swans in the late '80s, shedding some of their purposeful ugliness in favor of expansive dirges that matched a more complex mythological content, with a sublime and thoroughly ashen beauty. During the '90s, Swans brought a baroque density to their constant crescendos of noise, riff and drone through a series of albums that included The Great Annihilator from 1995. Just two years after the release of this album, Swans dissolved through the end of a relationship between the Gira and Swans' Jarboe. Well over a decade later, Gira re-energized Swans in the brilliant late-period chapter to the band with a monstrous line-up that included the original guitarist Norman Westberg but without Jarboe.
As each of these periods is marked by a singular triumphant album, The Great Annihilator stands at the pinnacle of the third period for the Swans. The militant goose step rhythms remain as punishing as ever, but have been subjected to the all-encompassing swarm of buzz-saw guitar, bass and keyboard drones. Yet amidst these dense orchestrations, the interlocking vocals of Gira (with his commanding baritone) and Jarboe (with her lilting theatricality) adeptly counter the jagged fury of the multiple guitar arsenals. For the 2017 reissue, The Great Annihilator has been entirely remastered from recently discovered unmastered session mixes. Michael Gira describes the discovery as "a revelation of great sonic effect." How true!