"No Words/No Thoughts," the first track on the first Swans album in 14 years, begins with the pealing of church bells but soon moves into four minutes of guitar and bass bludgeoning that will rattle your bones. Then, singer-songwriter and bandleader Michael Gira's voice rises from the noise to intone minimalist lyrics about the sin of living a life without meaning, while the band lays back just a little before launching through the rest of the song like a runaway train blasting through a dark cabaret.
This now-legendary avant-garde rock band is known for trading in rumbling sonic assaults as frequently as it trades in delicate folk-formal melodies—often employing these dramatic contrasts in the same song. But Swans' trademark low-end noise can be so literally visceral that it can shake a person's innards and cause cascading emotional reactions in the bodies of the listeners.
Such is the case on several of these cuts, the most powerful being "You Fucking People Make Me Sick" (featuring vocals by Devendra Banhart and Gira's daughter) and "Eden Prison," the claustrophobic lurch of which might remind some listeners of Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds. These songs demonstrate Gira's obsession with the sacred and the profane; Christian imagery abounds, as do illustrations of desire and degradation. He navigates it all with one of the lowest and most resonant voices in pop or rock music, finding a moral center in the pollution of human chaos.
This album was worth the wait.