The Seer

is impressive on every level, from its brain-caving heaviness and unnerving intensity to the sonic grandeur and vast scale of this 11-song double album.

The title track is the longest at 32, mostly fraught and torrid minutes, with the opening four minutes a chiming squall of what sounds like bagpipes, but is most likely a dulcimer.

But it's not hostile music, simply dark, challenging and beautiful. Swans create what can only be described as industrial folk music, with elements of experimental metal, art rock, eerie ambient, and post-rock atmospherics.


Michael Gira, the leader and one constant of the band since they formed in New York in 1982, dissolved the band in 1997. In 2010 he reactivated Swans, and comeback album, My Father Will Guide Me Up a Rope to the Sky, was brutal and beautiful. The Seer is even better because of its heightened sophistication and ambition.

Yeah Yeah Yeahs' frontwoman Karen O guests on the delicate and ghostly lap-steel driven Song For a Warrior, A Piece of the Sky is a surprisingly uplifting, almost pop-like tune, and The Apostate recalls the band's churning and gurning ear-splitting 80s period with its pummelling percussion and frenzied discord.

It's both uncompromising and enchanting listening, and it's incredible how something so forbidding and often disturbing can be intriguing and thrilling.

Stars: 5/5
Verdict: Sounding better and more imposing than ever.