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Nightmare Fuel / Swans

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Perhaps "shooting the shaggy dog" isn't such a bad idea after all...
It would be easier to list out all of the songs by Swans that don't qualify as horrifying (likely because there are none). Here, we're attempting to do more or less the opposite:

  • Children of God, which sounds something like the usual Drone of Dread delivered in Madness Mantra form, add Gira's recent inspiration from Evangelical preachers, and Jarboe's contrastingly melodic singing, and you get something akin to an apocalyptic tale of Religious Horror delivered through the narration of a preacher gone mad. "Beautiful Child" can really stand out, from its intro of gunshots, a frenetic drum section turning into a slow march, and a thrumming bass coupled with the deep singing and Jarboe's best approximation of an ironic choir. It swells and grows as the lyrics become more fragmented, regardless if the titular child existed and was sacrificed, or is symbolic of losing your soul, it's terrifying either way.
  • Soundtracks for the Blind can only be described as damaging. Songs like the 15 minute "Helpless Child" can drive you to paranoid hallucinations.
    • "Her Mouth is Filled with Honey" combines incomprehensible layered vocals with a tape of Jarboe's father discussing seeing his daughter, unbeknownst to him, having her first LSD trip.
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    • "Volcano," a slightly fractured dance tune from the perspective of a psychopath stalking and then cannibalizing a rock star.
    • The climax of "Animus," in which Michael Gira's wordless vocals are overwhelmed by a torrent of droning viola and pounding percussion, sounding not unlike a whiteout. In light of Gira's last actual words, this is terrifying.
    • "The Beautiful Days" contrasts a little girl's song with difficult to place synth noises and a woman describing working as a phone sex operator.
    • "Hypogirl" is a terrifying freak folk number, opening with a genuinely repulsive-sounding scream by Jarboe before she begins to share some distinctly unsettling words with the listener. It's a blessing that it's only just under three minutes in length.
    • "I Was a Prisoner in Your Skull" consists of, at first, a massive dissonant orchestral swell, which subsides into electronic noises, random frantic drumming and finally slide whistles, over which a very bizarre monologue appears. "Testing, one, two, three..."
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    • "I Love You This Much," a weird concatenation of hallucinatory samples and musical fragments including a pitch shifted series of excerpts from a choral piece by Gyorgy Ligeti. Yes, the 2001: A Space Odyssey guy.
  • "Blind Love" from Children of God. Big, slow, thumping drums then a deep, cracked voice stirs, moans and begins to share some distinctly disturbing thoughts. Then huge clashing chords section off the verses. It sounds like the Frankenstein's Monster formed a band.
  • If you're feeling bold, check out their reworking of "I Crawled" on their live album Swans Are Dead. The original version was already creepy enough, but the gradual buildup and Jarboe's tortured vocal performance (goes from seductive woman, to weeping little girl, to raging demon all in about ten minutes) is seriously chilling.
  • Anything on Greed or Holy Money.
    • Live, even more so. Go out and listen to the version of "Another You" from Public Castration is a Good Idea and try to sleep. Or better yet, "Coward." Or "A Hanging." Public Castration is considered one of the most brutal, intense records in Swans' discography, which is really saying something. Even though it's a live album, it sounds even more horiffic and ugly than the band's prior releases. Much of the album consists of Gira moaning ominously over primitive, atonal percussion, to the point where it feels less like a concert and more like a ritualistic sacrifice. It makes the stories about people throwing up and passing out at early Swans shows that much more believable.
  • Michael Gira's side project The Angels of Light had some doozies too, ranging from slow-burners like "New City in the Future," to the satanic street parade backing "Rose of Los Angeles," to the Swans-like mechanical stomp of "Black River Song."
  • The Filth album, which makes you feel like you're being slammed with a shovel while on meth. The cover is terrifying too.
    • To clarify, the cover in question pictures a set of grinning (or grimacing) teeth in a set of black gums. The image pretty much sums up what the album sounds like.
  • From The Seer we have "93 Ave. B Blues" which is terrifying right off the bat.
    • Can we just say everything off The Seer is nightmare fuel incarnate? Tracks such as "Lunacy," "Mother of the World," and the title track seem to incorporate everything of pure horror.
    • The title track itself has to be one of their most evil songs yet. It is 32 goddamn minutes of Drone of Dread and Madness Mantra that makes you feel like the earth is about to open up beneath you and swallow you whole.
    • The next song, "The Seer Returns," contains some apocalyptic Spoken Word in Music done in a voice that redefines Evil Sounds Deep.
    • And then there's the closing track, "Apostate," which can only be described as a 23 minute descent into hell.
    • The album cover, as seen above, isn't any better. Just... look at it. What is that even supposed to be? Is it a dog? Something akin to a hellhound? Is it the supposed "seer?" Why does it have a human-like set of teeth? What is the expression on his face supposed to indicate? And it doesn't help that you can see the thing's exposed anus on the back of the album.
  • "Oxygen" seems to have been written for the express purpose of going absolutely out of its way to make the listener incredibly, exceedingly uncomfortable.
  • "Just a Little Boy (For Chester Burnett)'"s overall production creates a very unsettling atmosphere with Gira's present but still distant voice and the white noise that surrounds the background. It gets even worse when the insane laughter shows up with the music sounding scattershot.
  • "Cloud of Unknowing" is one of Swans' most overwhelming songs, beginning with an eerie drone that turns into pounding percussion and dripping synths. It gives way to a buildup which leads to a choir and Michael singing loudly as though they were inside a giant cathedral, with Michael eventually shouting wordlessly over an oppressively loud crescendo. The eerie, bass-driven outro, with Michael's zombie moaning about monsters and Jesus doesn't help matters either.
  • Jarboe has some freaky stuff on her albums as well.
    • Her debut Thirteen Masks is far from her scariest but it's still filled with creepy stuff; "Shotgun Road Redemption", a very haunting, ghostly track that sounds like a dark fairground, "Freedom", "I Got A Gun" (which uses percussive sounds that evoke gunshots and chants of 'I won't stop until I get what I want'), "Listen"'s eerie, sad music box sounds, the jazzy, chilly "Wooden Idols", the odd and folksy "Oblivion Seekers", and the 8-minute bonus track "Surrender", which uses inhuman growls and deeply unsettling hut-in-abandoned-swamp atmosphere. "We Are The Prophecy" is quite ominous too.
    • "Bebe Marie", including the lyric "Baby can't live", supported by soft, eerie vibraphone.
    • Sacrificial Cake is nightmarish all the way through. It's filled with both her haunting, prettier singing and her demented monstrous growls, both very disturbingly done. Every song counts, but here's some highlights.
      • The freakish "Yum Yab", in which Jarboe yell-sing "NOW BLOW YOUR BRAINS OUT" at the end.
      • "Troll Lullaby", mostly backed by very disturbing looping, distorted music.
      • Even "Cache Toi", which seems to be a short French (?) poem.
      • The brief "Tragic Seed", which features some creepy distortion on the vocals.
      • "Not Logical". It begins with some gorgeous but haunting music, then changes into layers of Jarboe's voice over an eerie drone, the singing voice repeating 'open your mind' and another speaking things like 'sensational' and 'not logical'.
      • "Spiral Staircase". It's more melodic and pretty this time, and conjures a distant, floaty feeling, very evocative of it the song's name.
      • "The Body Lover", which mostly consists of disturbing spoken word and another creepy droning sound.
      • "Lavender Girl"
      • SURGICAL SAVIOUR. It has all kinds of deranged talk of surgery it seems, and even has some voices that say 'now move on to me', seeming to mean 'move on to their surgery'.
      • Without a doubt, the extremely long closer "Troll" is the scariest song on an already disturbing album. It's filled with horrifically distorted/manipulated voices from Jarboe, seeming to be from an exceptionally creepy troll's POV, including the line 'I WILL EAT YOU'. It just goes on and on like this for nearly nine minutes.
    • The entirety of Mahakali down to the album cover.
    • "Transmogrification." Don't listen to it in the dark.
    • "Bornless." Jarboe sings in some odd little girl voice and it is freaky.


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