The Glowing Man

by Swans

Released June 17, 2016 via Young God Records / Mute Records

Reviewed June 17, 2021

Top tracks (based on community voting)
The Glowing Man (63%), Cloud of Unknowing (54%), Cloud of Forgetting (51%)

Creating a world similar to its two sister albums, The Glowing Man participates in a more meditative experience that shows another side to Swans’ sound. Coming off a maximalist masterpiece like To Be Kind, Michael Gira and co. come together to challenge the listener in the way of patience via self-reflection, as opposed to patience for how much your ears can endure. The group channels spiritual-like rituals with their trademark use of repetition to drag you deeper into their world—this time with a much more atmospheric approach—that builds soundscapes of beautiful noise only for them to be overtaken. Again, it’s two hours in length, taking every moment to try and subvert the listener while also hypnotizing them. There is much restraint present, but when the sonic implosions occur, it’s a truly unique experience. The final farewell from this incarnation of Swans is a gorgeously haunting piece of post-rock that both challenges and delights me with every listen. – Jared (10/10)

Following The Seer’s (2012) manic religiosity and To Be Kind’s (2014) critically acclaimed, calculated post-rock, this is the final third of a momentous six-hour trilogy from Swans after their return from the void at the beginning of the decade. The Glowing Man summarises the trilogy with refined themes and motifs, such as squandered innocence and higher powers via adroit poetry and unnerving drone. Multi-phased behemoths plod by like cumulonimbi, occasionally striking with storms, occasionally sparse enough to allow the sun to pass through, and forever captivating. Gira’s drawn-out, fuggy-flavoured incantations underpin the desolate prairies of “Cloud of Forgetting,” which is dwarfed in length and gravity of atmosphere by its counterpart of unknowing. The shortest tracks are much more accessible and capture much of the record’s grandiosity. If you need a taster, as The Glowing Man is not for the faint of heart; this isn’t because it is aggressive or frightening, just intimidatingly bulky and decadent. While before you could appreciate individual intricacies hidden around the dark corners of Swans' grinding noise, you have to allow yourself to be enveloped by the totality of The Glowing Man, much like you would experience a grimy and epic motion picture. Submit yourself to its white heat and immerse in its gentle chaos. – Cam (8.8/10)

Otherworldly experiences are hard to come by. Only a few musicians have mastered the ability of creating sonic worlds unto themselves. Miles Davis, King Crimson, Pink Floyd, and a select few others belong on that list. One of those select few is Swans. The group, led by Michael Gira, creates a larger-than-life and grandiose beyond-belief experience on The Glowing Man. It breathes brooding soundscapes and overbearing dread into the present moment. At two hours in length, this album is a commitment. But like anything worth the eventual payback, it must be undertaken. Michael Gira and his maniacal mantras lead the way, though they're few and far between. Tribal and spiritual in a sense, he seems transfixed by the ethos of “less is more.” Swans have the capacity to bring the house down at any given moment, but a feeling of crushing restraint persists over The Glowing Man. Functioning like the end credits of an epic film trilogy, or the final farewell to a specific place and time, The Glowing Man is a world unto itself closing the door from spectators and passersby. A fitting end to the trilogy. – Peter (8.5/10)


Jared: 10/10 | Cam: 8.8/10 | Peter: 8.5/10 | Dominick: 8/10