In a recent New York Times interview, Swans lead singer Michael Gira described the failings of hardcore music: "It was just a way for people to belong. And that's the last thing I think people should do."
It's that sort of attitude that embodies the Swans' pathos. The constant driving, occasionally pummeling, force of their songs can be abusive to some, but there is a beauty to their abuse. For those willing to suffer a little, they return the sublime. The band had been disbanded for over ten years until this most recent album, My Father Will Guide Me Up A Rope To The Sky, having gone through multiple iterations of brutal industrial to dark folk in the years before. The new album returns as a summation of all those variations gone by. It fluctuates from the machine-like pounding rhythms of Eden Prison to experimental piano discordance, ringing church bells, and quiet, child-like melodies. Gira's lyrics range from bleak optimism to a potent, religious symbolism where all characters are gods and everything is drenched in meaning.
In a sense, the sound of the Swans represents a brutish classical music. It's not the loud arrogance and directionless rebellion of punk but a focused, emotional composition.
On iTunes: The Swans / "Eden Prison"