Swans | The Great Annihilator | ReviewThe Swans are a band more notorious than they are famous. The Swans are a band more notorious than they are famous. Not for such tragic acts as throwing TVs out of hotel windows or punching members of the press but for their sheer musical brutality. Legend has it that such was the abrasiveness and volume of one gig at Edinburgh's Venue that at the end of the set, only three people remained in the building and two of those were bar staff.
Their music has always been dark and searing, lacking in any compromise whatsoever. Much of it in the past has been so chaotic and impenetrable as to render it virtually unlistenable, only the magnificent Burning World showing any form of conventionality at all. The Great Annililator falls somewhere between those extremes. While as dark, forbidding and melancholic as ever, it has an emotional power that is quite awe inspiring. Each song rides the crest of a wave of utter despair, cacophonic and intense, a blitzkrieg of raw bedlam. That is not to say that Annihilator is lacking in melodyÂ—tracks like "Mind/Body/Light/Sound" (typical Swans title!) and "Blood Promise" would lay any such allegations to rest. It is layered with industrial, clanging, driving rhythm, Gira's droning, yet sonorous vocal and Jarboe's dark angelic backing. As always, the Swans are in a world of their own creation, one of melodrama and despair, lightyears from the mainstream of indie rock. Take Jarboe's "My Buried Child," which festers like an infected wound, gangrenous in its obscenity yet touchingly human. It has its lighter moments as in the almost optimistic "Saved" of a few years agoÂ—"Warm" is a swelling, glowing cocoonlike instrumental and "Killing for Company" slow, melodious and addictive, an anthem for the end of a millennia. The vast penultimate title track has echoes of Joy Division's "Love Will Tear Us Apart" which the Swans covered themselves in '88.
For Annihilator, Gira and Jarboe have drawn on the threads of their previous work to weave a dense and entrancing web that catches you like an insect, trapped and helpless in a creation of intense natural beauty.
These 16 ballads of existential self-destruction are quite uniquely powerful and moving; their bitterness directed at no one but themselves. They continue to examine the same themesÂ—the nature of infinity, the inescapability of addiction, the basic worthlessness of the human soul, love as an unattainable ideal and as a cause of destruction.
All of which is convincing enough to prove that The Great Annihilator is the Swans at their very, very finest.