Aug 23, 2012 Web Exclusive
Having (temporarily?) retired his Angels of Light band alias and its bleak balladeer mode, Michael Gira is now two albums deep into the bleaker misanthropy of his seminal Swans project. Those of you familiar with "bands" like King Crimson and Godflesh—bands with one ringleader and only the vaguest sense of sonic continuity—can appreciate that Swans is an attitude and should not expect to be pummeled by metallic post-punk herein. Instead, modern Swans borrows the kind of elegiac pocket orchestra melancholy that Angels developed into such a keen grammar, now deployed for the arcane yet humanistic sacred text of his original moniker.
And it works. The Seer feels like a Swans record, albeit one you'd feel (marginally) more comfortable playing for your grandparents. The fascinating thing about this record is the way Gira and his massive band of young ringers weave in elements from throughout his substantial musical journey without feeling like they're throwing in the kitchen sink. Particularly on tracks such as the side-long "The Apostate" which transitions from keening harmonized drones into a truly aggressive yet somehow folky riff maelstrom, one gets the sense that Gira has learned a thing or two about tempering his anguish with beauty.
With a firmly established legend behind him, The Seer doesn't serve to endear him to new fans but rather to deepen his already compelling narrative. Unlike other peers who've lost their way in the murky psycho-spiritual swamp of weird rock-either softening their approach or totally imploding—Gira's journey has been nothing if not sincere and compulsory, benefitting from the kind of refined evolution that few aside from luminaries like Scott Walker and Neil Young have managed. (www.younggodrecords.com)
Author rating: 7.5/10
Average reader rating: 9/10