Swans | The Great Annihilator | Review

CMJ | Cheryl Botchick

Liltingly ethereal and at the same time gloomy and sorrowful.

Though the Swans have been on a three-year hiatus, 1995 marks the thirteenth year of their existence, an eternity in terms of alternative bands, most of which quickly fall victim to one trend or another. Perhaps it was the fact that when they emerged in a world of New Wave and jangly guitar groups in the early '80s. Their bludgeoning rock of nearly unprecedented volume was already too alien to be part of the rise and fall of any hip sound. Through 11 albums, numerous singles and EPs and more than a few side projects and solo albums, the Swans have modified their work just enough to stay one step ahead of fans and curiosity-seekers alike. The Great Annihilator is a near 70-minute epic collection of the Swans' more recent work, and with moments that are liltingly ethereal and at the same time gloomy and sorrowful, and beats that are as sinister as they are dancey, it stands as the flipside to the Swans' dark coin. M. Gira's haunting lyrics are as dire as ever when delivered by his foreboding and decadent voice. "She Lives!" tells a perverse tale: "Now I just want to thank you, for going insane / Every second that you suffer, is a loss that I gain." The Great Annihilator is best listened to as a whole, as Gira himself suggests, to fully grasp its scope, but particularly haunting are the aforementioned "She Lives!" and its ominous beat, "My Buried Child." "Where Does a Body End?" and "Mother/Father."