[TORTURE PORN FOR THE SOUL] Rumor has it that, back in its No Wave heyday, Swans would play so loud it’d cause audiences to vomit. That’s probably an urban myth, but it might as well be true. The band was always an uneasy listen, punishing with grinding tempos, torturous volume and the self-flagellating howls of mastermind Michael Gira. You didn’t go “see” Swans—you survived them. But beginning in 2010, when Gira revived the group after a decade of dormancy, the band’s intense physicality, once meant merely to brutalize, has taken on increasingly spiritual dimensions. Each of the three albums it’s released since returning to life is bigger and more dense than the one before, with this year’s To Be Kind topping out at over two hours. Attempting to describe Swans in strict genre terms would do a disservice. Instead, imagine the band as a rolling void, something like the Nothing from The NeverEnding Story, swallowing everything in its path—sex and love, hate and death, God and nothingness—then expelling all of it back out into the universe in the form of shuddering percussion and monstrous, repeated chords that seem to sprawl toward infinity. It’s transcendental meditation by way of punk, the blues and the Big Bang. Swans remains frightening in its severity, and the music is still so overpowering that the notion of crowds losing control of their bodily functions doesn’t seem far-fetched. Gird your bowels tight enough to make it to the end, though, and the experience opens up into an almost religious kind of ecstasy.
SEE IT: Roseland Theater, 8 NW 6th Ave., 971-230-0033. 9 pm Saturday, Sept. 6. $20 general admission, $30 reserved balcony seating. 21+.