Almost two years since their stellar and critics favorite To Be Kind was released, Swans’ The Glowing Man has the band changing up the pacing a bit; this is a far less challenging 120 minutes and frankly more inviting than they’ve written in quite some time. The opening 13 minutes of “Cloud of Forgetting” isn’t nearly as frenetic in with frontman Michael Gira’s biblical lyricism juxtaposed by piano keys and an always industrial edge at its apex nine minutes into the cries of ‘Take us! Take us! Take us! Save us! Save us! Save us!’ It isn’t the same sinister austere as one could come to expect after the likes of The Seer and To Be Kind.
Take in account of its schizophrenic tone of congeniality that The Glowing Man rubs along its haphazard key strikes, percussion splashes (shown upon “Cloud of Unknowing”) or the likes of its post-rock ambition that seems well placed effortlessly here and there. It’s difficult to sense a construct behind the curtain, as much of Swans’ musical prowess lies in that very foundation. The Glowing Man is definitely challenging in different ways than you’d expect. More so in its tolerance for overtly setting of the grand eventual upbringing of every track like upon “The World Is Red / The World Is Black,” instead its spotty heaviness is actually refreshingly not Swans. Though one will instantly recognize the same patterns that the band enjoys circling: repetitive guitar structures, along string and percussive intensity that eventually buries beneath Gira’s overbearing vocals. But for all that can be said for The Glowing Man it’s 120 minutes of unnerving back and forth of this certainty. Many of those expecting another Swans epic may be a bit puzzled by its lengthy course it takes, but regardless it all most definitely has the aura the band has been lauded for accruing over the years of confronting the norm of what is expected in music.
The group’s fourteenth release in their long career still holds as another good effort since their reformation. Less uninviting in it instrumentation with more space around the edges this time around, The Glowing Man once again mixes classical with religious affinity as seen in their previous work, but its lack of strikingly sharper moments do not take hold because of the dedication to put forth in its runtime. Special moments are awash in the grand scheme of it all, but songs “The World Is Black / The World Is Red,”“Frankie M,” and “The Glowing Man” are all daringly powerful in the sense that is reaches a scale that you come to expect from Swans. Hardly a true gripe, but the cusp of something always seems near on this album and it never quite lifts off to astronomical proportions in its entirety. It still has its livid instances with growing susceptibility toward the unhinged that makes all the memorable Swans moments upon The Glowing Man to hold some sustainability in the end.