- Archive Panic: Finding what song came from where in what version can be maddening to the dedicated fan.
- Awesome Music: Lots of it.
- Some highlights: Their most ambitious (and, probably, best) studio material can be found on Soundtracks for the Blind, The Seer, and To Be Kind. Amongst their live material, Swans Are Dead is two hours and twenty-three minutes and all of it is amazing. The Great Annihilator, White Light from the Mouth of Infinity, and Children of God are particularly noteworthy works as well.
- Catharsis Factor: Pick a song, and four times out of five there's a driving chord you can empty all your frustration through.
- Creepy Awesome: Too many songs to choose from, but the entirety of the albums The Seer, To Be Kind, and especially Soundtracks for the Blind stand out.
- Crosses the Line Twice: The ballistic hardcore punk tribute "Freak" on Filth definitely qualifies, as do the monologue on "I Was a Prisoner in Your Skull" and the boisterously gruesome lyrics to "Reeling The Liars In."
- Ear Worm: "Celebrity Lifestyle" is particularly noteworthy in this respect.
- Epic Riff: "Raping a Slave" and "The Sound," in completely different ways. "A Little God in My Hands" has an infectiously good riff. Arguably the whole point of the band, as songs are constructed around singular, minimalist tones that subtly change and are designed to be hypnotic without getting tiresome.
- Face of the Band: Both Jarboe and Gira.
- He Really Can Sing In Audible Octaves: Gira on Children Of God and especially Love Will Tear Us Apart.
- Love It or Hate It: Their music could either be the greatest thing you'll ever hear or the most unlistenable.
- Memetic Mutation: Michael Gira's cowboy hat.
- The monologue in "I Was A Prisoner In Your Skull".
- "YOUR NAME IS FUCK!" note
- "FLEX YOUR MUSCLES!"note
- "I see it all I see it all I see it all I see it all..."note
- Most Wonderful Sound: Michael Gira's singing can really be this when he can pull it off.
- Some melodies within their work as fit, such as the crescendo of "Helpless Child" and the adorable child laughter in "In" from The Great Annihilator.
- Nausea Fuel: "Your Game" on Body to Body, Job to Job.
- The lyrics are Gira reciting a short story he wrote, later to be published in his book The Consumer, filled with other equally disgusting and disturbing stories.
- Nightmare Fuel: Have their own page.
- No Hit Wonder: Were this for many years, despite moderate acclaim and a cult following. After their 2010 reunion, this was finally overcome when To Be Kind hit #37 on the Billboard 200 in 2014. Now, with three hugely acclaimed albums and even a hit one, they seem to have hit more Mainstream Obscurity status.
- Signature Song: "Cop", "I Crawled", "Children of God", and "Blind" all held this distinction, but as of 2014, "A Little God in my Hands" has a slight edge in this race thanks to being the first and most promoted song off of To Be Kind. "The Sound", "Lunacy", and "The Seer" are also contenders for the title.
- Sweet Dreams Fuel: Yes, believe it or not. Swans' music will pummel you senseless with harsh, droning chords and flat singing about all sorts of human cruelty, but when all is said and done there's a constant message of endurance and clinging to life. It's brutal, but only so all the imperfections and cynicism can be smashed to bits, leaving agony and the love to heal it.
- Paranoia Fuel: "Not Alone" from Swans Are Dead, most of Soundtracks for the Blind, the interludes from Love of Life, "Look at Me Go"..."She Lives!" just might be the worst.
- Tear Jerker: Often, the most famous being "God Damn the Sun."
No, I was never young,
- The final chorus to "Blind:"
and nothing has transpired,
and when I look in the mirror,
I feel dead,
I feel cold,
I am blind.
- There's also "Helpless Child," which can drive pretty much anyone to suicidal ideations. The triumphant, roaring ending crescendo of the song can either make it even more depressing or uplifting, depending on your point of view.
- "The Sound," which begins with a downcast vocal section by Michael Gira before transitioning into a breathtakingly beautiful crescendo also stands out, and is one of the more famous tearjerkers in the band's discography.
- "Song for a Warrior," a Surprisingly Gentle Song that provides a much needed reprieve in the middle of all the darkness of The Seer. "A Piece of the Sky" also qualifies.
- "When Will I Return?" is already an emotionally intense song, but then you discover the story behind it. It's sung by Michael Gira's wife Jennifer, who was sexually assaulted in a parking lot prior to their marriage. The lyrics are based on that experience, and the song was written to help her cope with the trauma of the event.
- "Failure" is a nauseatingly depressing song. Even disregarding the unabashed hopelessness of the lyrics, Gira just sounds so defeated, like he has truly given up on everything as the lyrics imply.
- Tough Act to Follow: Soundtracks for the Blind was regarded as their greatest album for years, helped as it was the band's last official release before they went on hiatus. For some this is still the case, but The Seer and To Be Kind are starting to edge it out.
- Win Back the Crowd: After more than a decade's absence, many critics were wondering if Swans had it in them to make a comeback. While My Father Will Guide Me Up A Rope to the Sky was received well enough, there were better albums one could listen to. Gira seems to regard The Seer as a return to form, and sizeable portions of both rock critics and the fanbase seem to agree. The fact that it got 9.0 and Best New Music on Pitchfork has probably helped expose the band to a lot of new listeners. To Be Kind is thought of as an Even Better Sequel, or at least just as good as The Seer and Soundtracks for the Blind.