6. Holy Money (1986)
As mentioned above, Holy Money is the back half of the sessions that produced Greed, though each album has its own character. For the first time we get a taste of the gothic-gospel (goth-pel?) vibe that would infect the next album, Children Of God, on a much deeper level -- Jarboe summons the choir while Gira intones a dead-eyed sermon -- and it's weird, stirring stuff. Jarboe's presence here is much more pronounced -- her breathy vocal on "You Need Me" over an unaccompanied piano is as gorgeous as the lyrics are stark, and "Blackmail" goes even further. The heavy tracks are worse than ever: "Coward" is probably the most stripped and unflinching in the entire catalog. But as much as Swans thrive on beating us into submission, it's the juxtaposition with softer songs that does the real damage. A sudden shift from pummel to pleading leaves you nauseated, and fascinated, and hopelessly lost. These tricks would coalesce into something infinitely deeper on the next record, but these transitional albums are brilliant in their own right.