By Seth Cudney
August 26th, 2017
VANCOUVER – In Greek mythology, Charon is the ferryman who ushers the souls of the dead into Hades across the River Styx. On Saturday night at Venue, Swans frontman Michael Gira conducted the band like that foreboding harbinger of doom. He orchestrated the schizophrenic madness with his eyes and the waving of his hands. Stomping wildly between the drummer and the lap slide player, Gira guided his band and the sizeable audience across that mythical river. He delivered us firmly into the franticly paranoid depths of Hades.
Swans unleashed their songs upon the crowd with the aim to crush us beneath their unforgiving heaviness. The unrelenting sounds of the guitars punished the ears as the sheer volume of the band attempted to squeeze our eardrums into painful submission. Perhaps that is the penance we pay to the ferryman in order to bathe in Swans’ aphotic aura. The band transformed Venue into their dark cathedral that night with their imposing visual and sonic presence as the songs grew to intimidatingly mammoth proportions.
Michael Gira might also be akin to a mad train conductor. The songs chugged on increasing in tempo and volume at Gira’s direction. He lunged toward the drums to demand a cymbal swell and the song would explode in intensity, like throwing coal into the engine. He spread his hands and flailed his arms at the players to urge them toward chaos- and like any respectable crazed conductor, sometimes the train came dangerously close to teetering off the tracks. A sharp “No!” hurled at the drummer by Gira reigned it all back in when the song tried to free itself from his hold.
With staggering song lengths in the realm of 10 to 30 minutes, it’s no wonder that some in the crowd exchanged overwhelmed grimaces, perhaps questioning their ability to withstand the brutal onslaught of a near two hour performance. The primal, deconstructed sounds of Swans forcefully grips you and drags you deeper and deeper toward a climax that sometimes never arrives.
Swans created an experience on Saturday night that is definitely not for the faint of heart. At points it might feel like a challenge to hang in there, but that’s part of the fun and when it’s over and you claw your way back from the underworld you might be glad you did.Swans, Venue