Before the review begins, let me acknowledge that while I am somewhat versed in what one might call entry-level post-rock, I am not particularly familiar with Swans; The Seer is, in fact, the first Swans album to grace my ears.
The opener ‘Lunacy’ is a chanting anthem, and while no other tracks are as explicitly mantric, it’s a rhythm which continues throughout the album. Frontman Michael Gira’s delivery is varied: he is a pained poet in ‘The Wolf’, quirky and onomatopoeic in the closing moments of 32-minute epic ‘The Seer’, and a curious mix of David Bowie and Kurt Vile in ‘The Daughter Brings the Water’.
On ‘Song for a Warrior’, the opener to the album’s second part, Karen O of Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ vocals are a welcome change. She sets an excellent tone for part two, the beginning of which is the strongest part of the album. Shortly, however, the errors of part one are returned to and the momentum is lost.
It’s an album which requires patience to listen to, and at two hours long it’s certainly a wonder to behold. The drawn-out instrumental periods sometimes do little to be considered worthwhile, culminating anti- climactically (‘The Seer’) or being sustained with no obvious purpose (‘93 Ave. B Blues’). While these periods don’t feel as though they are borne of self-indulgence, it’s a thin line.
The problems with The Seer, I feel, are more personal—I simply didn’t enjoy listening to it all that much. In the context of Swans’ prior catalogue, The Seer may be a crowning masterpiece, though as a first time listener I’m not fit to judge this. To the uninitiated it’s a sound album, but it’s an album which doesn’t inspire one to listen to more Swans.