It’s amazing to think that We Are Him is the sixth Angels Of Light LP (including the split release with Akron/Family) since Michael Gira called time on Swans. Up to now, the albums have been much lighter sounding than even the relatively mellow late-period Swans, with acoustic, almost folky influences to the fore. They’ve been enjoyable records, but have lacked the grandeur and power of Swans at their peak. Gira’s melodies tend to be fairly basic and repetitive, and don’t work so well in a pastoral setting.
Having said that, We Are Him is arguably the most Swans-like Angels Of Light release to date. There are echoes of Children Of God in the brutal, pounding beats of “Black River Song” and the frantic squall of “Sometimes I Dream I’m Hurting You”. But there are also songs that come from a completely different place altogether. “Sunflower’s Here To Stay” is almost cheesy pop, whilst “The Visitor” is a bit of an alt-country plod in the manner of the Willard Grant Conspiracy. Pick of the litter is the closing epic “Star Chaser”, a powerful, grinding and intense six minutes.
As ever, candy, flowers and skipping through summer meadows don’t feature too prominently in the lyrics. The album is dedicated to “Joseph, who is in every song”, but Joseph is just a conduit as Gira explains in this interview. The key to this is in the first few line’s of “Joseph’s Song”: “He writes these words on your skin / you turn your head from him. / There’s always things that can’t be said / but Joseph holds the key to them. / He lays these songs on your tongue / but it’s time to pay for what you’ve done.” The inner-self that Joseph represents crops up all over the album, like a second personality “he lives in me but he wants you too” (“Sometimes I Dream I’m Hurting You”), “yeah we’re one, but now two, now we live in you” (“We Are him”) and “He runs through me here now and he runs through your children too” (“Black River Song”) are just three examples.
We Are Him is the most consistent Angels Of Light album to date. The early albums saw Gira consciously drawing a line in the sand between the band and his earlier endeavours. Musically, he seems more at ease with his legacy, and is happy to echo his earlier work without turning into Swans mark two. The cover art also returns to the slightly creepy, anthropomorphic, saucer-eyed animals that first appeared in the form of the malevolent rabbits twins on White Light From The Mouth Of Inifinity. The cutesy illustrations on the front and back give in to ones of an altogether darker hue inside.