Death Metal Underground

Swans – Cop

by Aaron Lynn
June 5, 2014 –

swans-cop

Much can be said with very little, as is the case with the early era of the experimental titans known as Swans. Their discography ranges from the intensely violent to the melancholically beautiful and their sophomore effort Cop stands out as the perfection of the style present on their debut Filth which acted as the foundation of what was to come.

Influencing the likes of Godflesh, Cop launches forth with a cerebral wall of sound crushing everything in its wake like a colossal bulldozer laying waste to a city. The most consistently pummeling album in the Swans catalog — unlike later efforts (namely Soundtracks for the Blind) — attempts to engage its listeners in a gradual and destructive descent into the darkest recesses of the earth rather than projecting a more horror-inspired soundscape. The brooding ambiance conveys a sense of downward direction towards something unknown, like rappelling down a previously unexplored cave.

Though arguably not quite a metal release, it possesses heaviness both aesthetically and internally as well as the ability to create an all-encompassing atmosphere of destruction and dark curiosity. I recommend this album to any metal fan looking to explore the influential and often undiscovered Swans.

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17 comments

    1. Gigglypuff

      Well, their very first EP was post-punk in the Joy Division fashion, and they came from the New York no wave scene, basically a label given to a bunch of performance art hipkids who wrote weird music for the sake of it. I guess what I’m saying is they were ALWAYS “hipster rock.” But they’re GOOD “hipster rock” with a strong conceptual core that’s very unlike their lefty fashionista peers. If anus can get down with punk rock then it’s about time Swans was given a fair shake.

      1. Nito

        I see what you’re saying with the no wave scene connection. Later Swans is some kind of boring and depressive pop music though.

  • shoko asahara

    No one would have paid them much more attention had they continued in this earlier style (which is great, Greed + Holy Money included). The later albums can take a while to digest, and seeing them live clearly helps to round out the Swans experience.

  • Hohenberg

    Try “The Consumer” by Gira. A visceral read.
    Also, I would really like to read what the staff at DMU thinks about the works of Raymond Pettibon.

  • Doug Vance

    Few artists have tackled this style and succeeded, and it’s always one or maybe two albums at the most. One example rarely mentioned is Scorn’s “Vae Solis.” Y’all have a good one.

    1. Nito

      That album is awesome. It would be cool to see it reviewed here. To entice people who haven’t heard it, it has the line up to Napalm Death’s Scum (A side).

      1. Doug Vance

        It’s a little more “songy” than Swans but definitely a dark ass record. Maybe a cross between Swans, Prong and Skinny Puppy (percussion)? Maybe not.

  • veien

    I can’t remember where I heard it or read it, but Napalm Death actually reference SWANS as a band that they considered to play ‘grindcore’ from the time before their time. Though really genres and scenes are secondary to ‘spirit’ – something often found in the most unlikely of places.

    1. Hohenberg

      It was in one of their interviews, I remember it too. They said that they tried to have at least one “Swans style” song in each release they did.

      1. Nito

        Napalm Death’s set at the Roadburn festival was nothing but dirgy Swans styled songs. A few off the top of my head: The Curse, Evolved As One, Harmony Corruption (the song), Contemptuous, Cold Forgiveness, Self Betrayal…

        Anyway, I hope Aaron Lynn follows this up with a write-up on Soundtracks for the Blind.

    2. Phalangite

      Doesn’t this go against the popular notion that grindcore is just extremely fast and sloppy punk-based music and more in line with what this site has been saying that it’s, above all, a way of composition?

      1. Nito

        No one knows their own genres these days. Nasum, Rotten Sound, and Pig Destroyer are all “grindcore”, but in actuality…

        Nasum is hardcore/screamo when not blasting early 90s Napalm Death. Rotten Sound is hc/punk with tough guy parts when not random chromatic notes. Pig Destroyer is mathcore/nu-moo/metalcore with random chromatic fast parts. All cleanly produced, tightly played, etc. Either way, fuck these bands.

  • deadite

    Good album. “Filth” is pretty great too. Once these guys teamed up with Jarboe shit got dubious though.