Pitchfork Top 50 Albums of 2012
Perhaps it’s just a coincidence that the phrases "swan song" and "Swans song" signify the exact same thing: that the end is nigh. But on his second album since resuscitating his long-dormant band of pig-fuck pioneers in 2010, Michael Gira orchestrates nothing less than a funeral procession for the end of humanity.
The Seer is ugly, grueling, and punishing in a way that only Swans can be: the seismic shovel-loads of industrial-strength sludge and merciless percussive clatter heaped upon the 23-minute closer "The Apostate" and the 32-minute title track centerpiece rain down on you like the Biblical plague. But in the propulsive, heavy-Meddle bass throb of "Avatar" and blacksmith-molded psychedelia of "A Piece of the Sky," The Seer also evinces a magisterial grandeur and hypnotic allure, elevating Swans’ seedy, sewer-scraping depravity into an extravagant, cinematically scaled noise that effectively transforms the band into Bad Seeds You Black Emperor.
There are more pleasurable things you could do in the amount of time it takes to listen to the entirety of The Seer: enjoy a coastal drive from Los Angeles to San Diego; watch five DVRed episodes of "Modern Family" in a row; go for a massage and shvitz. But making it through to the other side is very much its own reward. By the time you’re subjected to the public-stoning skronk of the closing "93 Ave. B Blues," you’ll feel physically and emotionally exhausted-- but that sense of debasement is inversely related to just how relieved you’ll feel that you’re still breathing. --Stuart Berman