Imagine slowly being crushed to death in the cogs of a relentless, overwhelming machine where the noise of your own tortured demise mingles with the grind of the gears into the oily blackness until darkness and annihilation overcome you. Such is the music of The Swans. Released for the first time on compact disc, this two disc set contains music from their most brutal and violent era, encompassing the albums Cop, Young God, Greed, and Holy Money into two and a half hours of minimalistic, slow, grinding rhythms and loveless lyrics that could only have been written by a psychopath at the bottom of a wet, lifeless, black pit. Just one example from the song "Job": "Cut off the arms/Cut off the legs/Get rid of the body/Pus, poison, sh*t/Get rid of the body". While such gothic anarchy is not my usual brew (in fact, a full listen to both CDs left me depressed and with a ball of angst in the pit of my being), the production is well done and the music has many interesting facets. These mid-eighties excretions were easily the precursor to the music of Nine Inch Nails and The Melvins. I asked "once-a-punk" friend Troy Johnson to listen to these discs as well (which resulted in equal depression and tummy ache) and he found similarities in Ministry and the later music of Black Flag. He also found the slow, drudging death march style similar to defunct Fort Wayne band Culture War. This music is dark, hateful and impossibly intense. Your kids will love it... it makes Nirvana look as upbeat as Hanson.
This review first appeared in WhatzUp, April 1999.