Swans - Filth (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick


Filth (1983)

Young God

There are many bands that try to make brutally heavy music; a handful of those bands actually succeed, and then even less of those bands reach the terrifying level of intense brutality that New York's Swans delivered throughout the first half of their musical career (before they veered off into a softer, although no less interesting direction until their demise in the mid-`90s). Thier first full-length album entitled Filth is an exhausting exercise in the art of noise terrorism and completely crushing brutality, and I absolutely adore it.

The music -- it consists of almost "industrial" (not the genre) sounding instrumentation similar to that of Einsturzende Neubauten, though less experimental and very straightforward. Heavy, crushing blasts of noise hit over and over and over again with vocalist Michael Gira going totally manic. The whole thing is really very simple, yet at the same time completely original and remarkably potent. My personal favorite track "Stay Here" is a perfect example of this: a brutal, metallic beat being played over and over again behind yelled and occasionally growled vocals. Lyrically the album is very dark, heavy and bleak, just like the music sounds, although there is definitely a sense of irony and satire in a few of the lyrics.

I should probably state now that this is definitely not for everyone -- this is extremely loud, brutal and uncompromising music not made with any "audience" or "scene" in mind. I get the feeling that this is what the world must sound like inside Gira's head -- and what a violent, terrifying and wonderful world that must be. It's hard to compare it to anything else...maybe a slight comparison to early Einsturzende Neubauten, and I know that the Wolf Eyes were in some way influenced by the Swans. However the Swans are far more structured. musically speaking. But you get the idea -- just that crushing, iron-hitting cement sound that pretty much makes everything else look soft by comparison.

Henry Rollins once said "It doesn't get any heavier than the Swans. That's pretty ultimate stuff" and I'd have to agree. My favorite tracks include "Stay Here," "Blackout," "Power for Power," "Big Strong Boss." If you think you can handle it then by all means pick it up, along with the albums Greed + Holy Money and Cop / Young God.

[Ed.'s Note: The cover shown is for the Filth reissue with bonus tracks as the original is proving hard to find.]