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Swans 

Feel Good Now (Atavistic)

This is the sound of drowning in your own lung secretions. This is the long stare into tired eyes as you marvel at still being alive, despite the self-inflicted damage. This is the horrific splendor of Swans during the dying days of the '80s, when the group's members were killing themselves to create something beautiful.

Feel Good Now is not an artistic depiction of darkness; it is darkness and absolute numbness, brought on by an unending flurry of crushing blows. Michael Gira's voice rivals Ian Curtis's for lifeless surrender to despair. The music is a massive, bludgeoning wave that flattens everything in its path. Powered by Ted Parsons's majestic, pummeling drums and Algis Kizys's sepulchral bass, Swans crash and roll through a world of almost subsonic tones.

And yet, despite its palpable nihilism, Feel Good Now is beautiful, because Gira lives. "Listen to me cry! Listen to me!" he screams into the silence at the end of the album. That need to have someone hear him, that need to be acknowledged by someone, anyone -- that is the sound of life. Feel Good Now might not be a heartwarming triumph of the human spirit, but it's an undeniably powerful document of life edging out death by a slim, precious margin.

More by Paul Friswold

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