7. Greed (1986)
And then Jarboe happened. Joining shortly after Cop, the addition of a powerful female presence marked an immediate and powerful shift, and an altogether new dichotomy for Swans -- Gira's desperate brutality found a counterpoint in Jarboe's classically trained voice. With her came a slow softening of sound, as faint melody and outside instruments crept into the fold. Here she mainly contributes wailing backing vocals, but the path of Swans to come was clear. Greed and Holy Money are essentially twin albums, both being recorded in the same sessions and released within the same year. Most folks will have never heard them in their original form -- the reissue unceremoniously mixes tracks from both albums at random (as well as concurrent singles), and that's all you could get for over 20 years. It's easy to view the whole period as a collective work since it all sounds so immediately different from what came before. Gone is the squalor of Filth and Cop, replaced with a more refined horror -- easier to stomach, but no less terrible. Pounding, echoing percussion, grand piano, occasional synthesizers, and the odd programmed drumbeat push the songs closer to industrial than ever before -- and yes, for the first time these things actually sounded like songs. After the unfiltered Filth of the early years, the sudden sophistication was an immediate shock.