Swans - The Great Annihilator
Swans are often impossible to categorize which makes their discography similarly difficult to confine to a genre or style. The words “heavy” or “brutal” are easily applied but their influences vary to such a degree that predicting their next move is futile. That tendency to shape shift is most likely what has been able to sustain their 30+ year career through various line-ups and their ever changing sonic palate. Although this could be considered a gross over simplification of a band as prolific as Swans, there are essentially three eras. You have their initial stage, what has been described as “a deeply repulsive form of audio pornography”, and their middle period where more straightforward song crafting began to emerge. With their third period, we saw their reformation as a symphonic monolith that somehow encapsulates the aforementioned eras but with a refined sense of purpose and enthusiasm rarely seen in a band well into their third decade.
The Great Annihilator sits in a strange place amidst their discography. Technically it is their second to last release before their dissolution, but could be seen as the last Swans album since Soundtracks For The Blindserves as more of an epilogue to the rest of their discography with its leanings towards sound-collages rather than songs. Initially released in 1995, it has since been considered one of their most accessible albums in a very non accessible career. Its reissue has come to be thanks to Swans commander and chief Michael Gira discovering the original master tapes. He wanted to give the album another chance as he had been long unsatisfied with the mastering of the album, and good news; the results are truly fantastic. The brutality that Swans had trademarked by this time was not laid to rest but rather wrangled into something more disciplined. There is a sense of restraint that is oddly satisfying from a band that had spent most of their career going above and beyond most limits of sound and intensity. This reissue also includes the Michael Gira solo effort, Drainland, that was recorded immediately following The Great Annihilator. Drainland offers further insight as to where Swans songs begin and also leans towards the cut-and-paste approach that was to come with Soundtracks For The Blind, as well as M. Gira's post Swans project, Angels Of Light. Drainland serves as a great companion to The Great Annihilator as it makes an impact through levity that Swans had achieved with force.
Whether you are already well acquainted with The Great Annihilator or if it falls into the unknown era of the Swans, there is something new to be discovered inside this 2017 reissue. (Adam)
Check out a track here.