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Swans never died 

Prepare for the sonic assault. When Swans are on the stage, intensity is the modus operandi and music as revelation is, well, pretty much guaranteed.

Swans have risen from the dead. They birthed in N.Y.C. in 1982 during the heady years of Avant rock and No Wave. Around 1997 Swans front man Michael Gira announced, "The Swans are dead," ending a remarkable run for a band that began as sound deconstructionists.

The combo built their compositions slowly, with layered, massive guitar chunks, gut pounding bass, deep vocal chants and drumming akin to concrete blocks dropping from skyscrapers. The intensity evolved over the years into multi-hued, beautiful, downright haunting music, tempered with subtleties of the voice, acoustic guitar, and keyboards.

After killing the Swans, Gira took his guitar, voice and writing to different alleys. Between 1998 and 2009 he fronted the Angels of Light, a band that released six recordings and toured extensively. Apparently it was during one of Angels of Light's performances on their last tour that Gira had an epiphany. The heaviness of a song reawakened the demons. And he decided to reconvene the Swans.

"Coming back to Swans it's been a really liberating experience, because it's like I cut off a part of myself a long time ago," says the 57-year-old Gira in a recent phone interview. "Because it was destroying me I suppose. Now that I've gone through those 13 years and re-embraced it, it's like finding an old friend, or finding my demon brother and finding myself again. It provided a lot of personal freedom and artistic liberation. It's great to be music like this again, the loud music, and the kind of chunks of sound. So coming back to the Swans it just felt right again, it's what I was put on Earth to do, so I'm pursuing it again."

He went back into the studio with new and old members of Swans and Angels of Light and the result was last year's recording My Father Will Guide Me Up A Rope To The Sky. A tour ensued.

The opening track from that record, "No Words / No Thoughts" begins with church bells-like chimes, and then turns dark and towering as the guitars announce the arrival of the Swans.

Buddhist horns and bells add an exotic feel to another track while "Inside Madeline" builds layers till the amps are ready to implode. The blood-curdling "Eden Prison" simply unhinges the listener. A jazzy cymbal and an acoustic guitar, accompanied by a humming chorus, opens the gospel-like "Reeling the Liars In."

This is the essence of the band. It's eerily beautiful, building tension with repetition, slowly chipping away the defenses of the listeners and hypnotizing them into submission. That's the music. What of the words?

"Every once in a while, God will bless me with a song or a phrase just coming out of nowhere. You know just driving or doing something that's not musically related," Gira describes the writing process. "Usually it's an arduous process. I sit there with a guitar, strumming till the words just pop out. I've done so many songs, that you become self-conscious about not repeating things." But it's not all about Gira, as he clarified, "I lead the band, but the band contributes immensely."

The good news for explorers of music, seekers of sound expansion is that the masters are most definitely back. And Gira is stoked. There's already a double-live album in the works and the band is working on a new album, which he says is "very long. I don't know how we're going to release it. It's about two-and-a-half hours long, one song is 30 minutes long. It's a sonic experience; it's not like just grabbing something from iTunes."

The current incarnation of Swans, though, is missing Gira's collaborator from the original Swans, the female balance to the howl of his low-timbre, the ghostly Jarboe. They parted ways years ago and Gira is moving forward.

When asked if there will be any visual things going on stage at the show, Gira erupted in a hearty laugh, "Well I hang myself when I play live."

Swans are, indeed, back.

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