Review : SWANS – “My Father Will Guide Me Up a Rope to the Sky”

SwansMy Father Will Guide Me Up a Rope to the Sky
Release Date: 2010Sept14 (US)
Label: Young God Records
Rating: 4.5/5

This album cannot help but attract a sense of infinitude—from the artwork itself to the fact that My Father Will Guide Me Up a Rope to the Sky is the one-billionth submission to the Gracenote database. Founder Michael Gira gave flight to Swans once again, after a fourteen year hiatus and five albums with his other project, Angels of Light, not to mention producing many bands on his own Young God Records. From a Metal perspective, they crossed my path via Neurosis projects with Jarboe, whom I followed back to her origins.

She does not appear here. As Gira has strongly stated: “THIS IS NOT A REUNION.” (his caps). He has assembled members from various incarnations of Swans, including original guitarist Norman Westburg, and longtime collaborators Christoph Hahn & Phil Puleo, who both worked on most Angels of Light releases, and occasionally with Swans. Guest musicians include Grasshopper of Mercury Rev, Devendra Banhart, and Bill Rieflin, who—among other things—worked with Ministry during their first strong creative period between 1988’s The Land of Rape and Honey and 1996’s Filth Pig.

“No Word/No Thoughts begins with crushing cascades of monotonous dissonance that take nine minutes to fully unfold; it demands your surrender. “Reeling the Liars In” calms things down sonically, although we still hear creepy lines like “we are removing their face and collecting their skin”—even with light in sight, they are still surrounded by darkness. “Jim” brings heavy back, but circumvents the approach within a deceptively sinister swing. “My Birth” is the most direct of the first half, with a tireless forward drive spiked by near-duplicitous proclamations like “I’ll swallow your sorrows and inhale your fears/I’ll steal your tomorrows and I’ll inject your tears”, which are actually lyrical leftovers from 1997.

“Inside Madeline” was next to grab me, as it is all about arcing. The main vocals don’t kick in until the last 1/3 of the song, with the initial 4+ minutes as a delicate building process, using give-and-take movements that crescendo to reflection with an elastic bass and fluttering guitars. “Eden Prison” has the most infectious opening here, which ventures into seriously wild areas in its midsection before returning to the original riffs.

“Little Mouth” feels similar to “My Birth” in its brooding atmospheres. With mysterious beginnings, it slips into a folky western tale of tribulation, before the band relinquishes full control to Gira, who finishes a cappella with goosebump-inducing lines like “May I find my way to the reason to come home/May I find my way to the foot of your throne/May I find your arms around my neck/And may I find your little mouth inside of this bed”.

Swans are graceful, vicious, reverent and majestic creatures—the band has vehemently stayed true to their namesake.

FCC: 5 (just cuz of the title)
Try: 1, 3, 4, 6, 7

01. No Words/No Thoughts
02. Reeling the Liars In
03. Jim
04. My Birth
05. You Fucking People Make Me Sick
06. Inside Madeline
07. Eden Prison
08. Little Mouth

Note: Some versions have studio outtakes mixed into one bonus track, “Look at Me Go”.

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