Swans: ‘The Great Annihilator’ (Deluxe Edition) Review: underrated 1995 album gets deluxe remastered double-vinyl reissue.
To say NYC noise rock legends SWANS have had a unique career trajectory is an understatement. Whereas most bands that formed in the 80s subsist by playing their back catalogue on the nostalgia circuit, Swans have become more popular than ever.
As a result many of Swan’s recent fan base aren’t well acquainted with their earlier discography. This makes it as a good a time as any to expose them to The Great Annihilator, their morbidly compelling 1995 release that saw frontman/mastermind Michael Gira reinvigorate the band’s sound by allowing for more nuance and fragility into their brutal and unforgiving compositions.
Gira has never been particularly satisfied about The Great Annihilator sound mix however, but thanks to former drummer Bill Rieflin’s discovery of the album’s original DAT recordings, the band are releasing The Great Annihilator (Remastered Edition) (due May 5th on Young God Records in MP3, double vinyl and double cd formats).
The album reissue sounds richer and more evocative than ever before–showcasing all the unique intricacies that make it such a transitional release.
The new mix (remastered by engineer Doug Henderson) allows for layers of previously muddy sonic detail to emerge, which is clear from the churning, exotic album opener In, replete with eerie children’s vocals and oceanic guitar drone.
She Lives! is another revelation, a Gothic ballad about a deteriorating mental state made all the more cinematic and funereal by the cleaner, multilayered mix.
I Am The Sun sounds even more ominous and harrowing than the original recording (no mean feat), an industrial slammer featuring dual percussion from Rieflin and Ted Parsons that ignites the synapses. Celebrity Lifestyle is another prominent example of the rich remastering, with scything, dissonant guitars colliding with Gira’s vocals in dynamic fashion.
Mother/Father is another highlight, featuring ex-member Jarboe at her wailing finest.
Annihilator is supplemented with a reissue of Drainland, Gira’s solo album released that same year. It’s an interesting pairing: Drainland has a more skeletal sound, starker in light and shade, from the elegiac ballad Where Does Your Body Begin to the machinated I See Them All Lined Up. The most revelatory track is Blind, a soothing album closer with a pastoral quality akin to Mercury Rev.
While both reissues are devoid of bonus material (save a concert performance of I Am the Sun), The Great Annihilator and Drainland reissues are a stirring reminder of a pivotal yet oft overlooked moment in Swan’s evolution. The fact that both have never sounded better makes this reissue a must for the uninitiated.
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