The DA Glowing Man Review

U92 on the review: Swans' "The Glowing Man"
by Nick Koban-Hogue

Swans, in their current form, are finished. 

Four studio albums in total constitute the second chapter of the post-rock group’s career, and these albums have all been critically acclaimed. Thankfully, “The Glowing Man” lives up to the high standard set by the previous three, and the band's career as a whole. 

Fortunately, frontman Michael Gira said Swans will continue in another form with a higher focus on collaborations.

In its original form, Swans was raw. 

The group's simplistic and powerful playing style highlighted the aggression delivered by Gira, and cemented  it in the “No-Wave” scene of New York City in the mid ‘80s. After a hiatus ended in 2010, the band's musical tone shifted from one of unending rage with no hope for the future to one of lofty hatred, repressed in a monastic showing of patience and self-control. 

Swans did what most of us hope to do as we age: Took its virile energy and refined it into something more.

This transition came with the 2010 release of “My Father Will Guide Me Up a Rope to the Sky.” This release redefined how the group's unrelenting anger sounded. Lush soundscapes with minimal frivolities paired with a haunting vocal delivery worked to create the desolate tension that became a staple of its later sound. 

Bolstered by critical acclaim, it stretched these ideas out to their utmost limits. Each successive release painted a darker and grimmer image of how the band members see the world. The group's final album in this form, however, takes the style in a slightly different direction.

“The Glowing Man” may well be Swans’ most humanizing record to date. 

Throughout most of its career, the band's focus has been on conjuring up otherworldly tones. This record sees them ditching their usual stance as harbingers for the end of days, instead forcing the listener to make these conclusions based on Gira’s narration. 

The consistency of the instrumentation on this record serves to pull the group's music back down to earth, in contrast with the incredibly surreal sounds of the previous three releases. The effect of this change makes “The Glowing Man” feel like less of a journey through the ethereal, and more of a story told by a man who just returned.

Despite the new tone, Swans does not compromise its aggression in the least. 

The palate of sounds may not be quite as demanding on the ear as earlier work, but the overall effect is the same. The clearer, less abrasive instrumentation gives Gira’s stories room to breathe and take up the entirety of the listener’s attention. 

The effect of all these changes produces what will go down as one of the best albums of the last decade.