Punishing and brutal; sweeping and cinematic, are just several adjectives that would not be out of place to describe Swans’ 12th proper studio album, The Seer. And at nearly two hours in length, the allusions to film are not that misleading. While some may be instantly put off by the investment required to become fully immersed in this album, listeners who display patience will be rewarded by an epically nuanced barrage of angry, white noise; sounds that may not serve as a nice soundtrack to a dinner party, but can instead help ease the frustration of a shitty day at work or help push you through the mundane redundancy of a mid-week workout.
However, a short-term commitment to the music is probably not what Michael Gira and Co. had in mind. The soundscapes and furious roar is best experienced by listening all the way through. Here, the details emerge: the breathless panting that kicks off “Mother of the World” makes sense after running the gauntlet of album opener, “Lunacy”. The Iggy Pop swagger of “The Seer Returns” grooves a little harder after the up-down frenetic burn of the 32-minute (yep, that’s right) prequel “The Seer”. And when Karen O. makes an appearance singing lead vocals on “Song For a Warrior”, one will better appreciate this freshly minted spot of beauty on an otherwise dark and foreboding string of songs.
So, one may not have 120 minutes to devote the uninterrupted attention that The Seer aims to seek. Give a listen to what you can anyway. It’s a powerful testament to the idea that music can still channel the primal rages and desires found inside all of us and a reassuring promise that its appearance doesn’t have to fit nicely into pleasant packaging. It’s okay to get your rage on every now and then.