[Young God; 2012]
This is what I originally intended to be the entire album review for the Swan’s latest opus The Seer. And really, this is all that needs to be said. These two words capture the overwhelming swells of sound, the enormity of the two-hour double album, and the response that anyone is apt to have to the songs on the album, whether it be “Holy fuck! This is the most amazing thing I’ve ever heard!” or “Holy fuck! What is this noise!?” With tracks that range from one minute to 32-minutes, The Seer is certainly a polarizing affair, showing the band unabashedly pursuing their ultimate vision, 30 years in the making.
It is an album of big noise, colossal environments, and heavy themes. It is violent while still being delicate. It is demoralizing while still being uplifting. It is unforgiving while still being compassionate. It is barbaric while constantly evolving. It is John Lennon’s scream therapy spread out over two straight hours of complete and utter euphoric confusion. It will make your head and heart tremble with sensory overload just as much as the wall of sound will make your window panes commence to vibrating uncontrollably. It is an auditory Smaug, filled with mirth, greed, and a vengeful spirit. It is a BEAST.
The album opens with “Lunacy,” a fitting title and song for what the listener is about to embark on. With Low’s Alan Sparhawk and Mimi Parker as Gira’s disenchanted choir, the song speaks of a spiritual dis-awakening, a soul cleansing of anti-baptismal proportions. By the end of the track, the trio sings “Your childhood is over,” but fortunately for you, there are almost two hours of this sort of auditory catharsis left to consume like the glutton for pain that you are.
As much fun as the first three tracks are, the true heart of the album is the title track, “The Seer.” Running for 32-minutes, the band could have simply released this song and the world would have been at peace. The journey that is “The Seer” begins with an eerie calm that builds toward the threatening horizon, teetering on the verge of eruption at any moment. It’s a slow build, one that doesn’t follow suit with anything you’ve ever heard. To expect what is coming next on this album would be foolish, yet you can’t help but fear what lurks around the next guitar riff, what is buried just beneath the surface of Gira’s whispering voice, mumbling “I see it all, I see it all, I see it all.”
Then, of course, at the 11:40-minute mark, it arrives. God damn, does it arrive. No words can capture the swell of feelings, lunacy, liveliness, and liberation that comes out your speakers relentlessly in waves of climatic bliss. HOLY FUCK. HOLY. FUCK. Forget about walking into the white light and meeting Gabriel at the gates – this is what it feels like to die. This is what it feels like to let your soul free from its cocoon. This is heaven and hell and purgatory all wrapped into one overwhelming moment. The best part? There are 20 more minutes of this song left to go (not to mention the hour and a half of other songs left ton the album). The track lowers to a simmer for several minutes as Gira’s harmonica bellows through the valley for salvation, only to be eventually led back into the storm.
But as much as these explosions of chaos take aim at your core, the album also has its moments of pure heart. “The Daughter Brings the Water” plays as a soft, acoustic interlude, with Gira’s voice taking on a calming, prophetical combination of Lou Reed and Leonard Cohen. This song is followed by another slow burner in “Song for a Warrior,” one of the sweetest moments on the album with Karen O taking the vocal responsibilities, the voice of the daughter, trying to wash away the turmoil. If it weren’t for all the overpowering, epic productions on the The Seer, “Song For a Warrior” could be the best track on the album, in all its sentimental, countrified glory.
“Song For a Warrior”:
This dichotomy is the key to what the album is all about – the dark and the light, the yin and the yang, the good, the bad, and the most often, ugly – the duality of man on full display. It is the conflict that arises when inner conflict and external conflict face off and by the end of the final 23-minute track “The Apostate,” the winner is clearly you, the listener.