Whilst the birds that gave the band its name are majestic creatures with a foul temperament that hide their disagreeable nature behind a facade of graceful beauty, what you see with Michael Gira’s veteran avant-rock collective Swans is what you get, and what you get is almost invariably rotten, from the surface right through to the core. To Be Kind, Swans‘ thirteenth album – and third since Gira resurrected the group after a thirteen year hiatus in 2010 – was a child-eating, motherfucking beast of a record, a two hour long triple-LP that included four ten minute-plus songs and one that ran past the half-hour mark, but the imposing length felt almost incidental in comparison to the overpowering aura of sheer malevolence that emanated from the record’s grooves; huge, brutal and ugly as hell, To Be Kind was a monster in the most literal sense of the word, its dissonant drones, pummelling drums and thunderous crescendos casually sweeping aside any notion that the band might be content to lighten up and enjoy the spoils of a thirty-plus year career. If this record were a person, it would be the cantankerous old man in the run-down house across the street that your parents warned you not to talk to because nobody really seems to know whether he’s a grieving widower or a sex offender. If it were a drink it would be bourbon laced with drain cleaner with the contents of an ash-tray at the bottom of the glass; if it were an animal it would be a starving, pissed off wolf. This was music that you don’t mess with, three decades’ worth of clanging post-punk, industrial noise and cracked Americana – and half a lifetime spent railing against God, authority, love, life, death and the whole wretched human race – condensed into six sides of vinyl; a weary, blood-caked bruiser of a rock record on an almost operatic scale. A defiant middle finger to mediocrity, and a ferocious “fuck you” to everything and everyone, To Be Kind was a must-hear for anyone who has ever gazed up at the night sky and found beauty not in the shining lights of the moon and stars but in the inky black stretches of infinite nothing.