Kicking off with "New Mind" -- which, while having the same general pace of most earlier Swans songs, also sounds distinctly different with its clearer, inventive arrangement, call-and-response vocals, and Gira's declamatory but not screamed lead vocal -- Children of God finds the band making their own particular great leap forward. The simmering changes that were apparent in the albums just before this one's release fully come to the fore, as Swans take the courage to explore both their huge-sounding, bombastic side and gentle, if often still disturbing, delicacy (due credit especially to Westberg, Kizys, and Parsons, possibly the best musical lineup Swans ever had until the final years). The results are fascinating, ranging from the spare piano melting into ambient feedback of "In My Garden" and the twisted gospel blues of "Our Love Lies" to the acoustic guitar and organ on "You're Not Real, Girl" and the raging pounder "Beautiful Child." Equally importantly, if not more so, Jarboe now assumes a full role with Gira as co-leader of the band; while all lyrics are still Gira's, the two share lead vocal duties (though aside from the title track, no duets) throughout the album. The weary, evocative croon which Gira developed into his major vocal trademark here emerges to full effect (though he can still roar with the best of them at points) while Jarboe's cool, rich tones are simply astounding, as evidenced on an even more compelling version of "Blackmail," originally from the A Screw EP. Though Children is dedicated without any apparent irony to Jesus Christ, Gira's words remain as irreverent, challenging, and obsessed with overarching issues of religion, power, sex, love, and control as before, but with an ever-increasing depth and beauty to match the lusher musical textures. With flute, oboe, and strings adding further texturing to the often quite lovely songs created by the band, Children remains perhaps the key album of Swans' career -- the clear signpost towards their ever-more ambitious albums in the future.
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AllMusic Review by Ned Raggett