The Burning World pays tribute to the author Paul Bowles in the song title Let It Come Down and the mention of "sheltering sky" in the lyrics of Saved. The album is a classic by default; the artists were of the opinion that producer Bill Laswell didn't understand what they wished to achieve, hence their problematic view of The Burning World.
Still it is a work of great beauty. As far as accessibility goes, this is the one Swans work that can be enjoyed by a wide variety of people with different musical tastes - from the Leonard Cohen, Johnny Cash and Joy Division fan to those who love atmospheric rock or eastern-influenced world music sounds.
Swans gave up the ghost in the late 90s with an awesome legacy in their own albums and side-projects like World of Skin. An acquired taste, the band has on various albums explored extreme emotions and subversive sounds. This gentle, tuneful album also has its moments of intensity like the devastating God Damn The Sun where Michael Gira out-Cohens Leonard on a tale of despair with a seductivly twirling tune.
Another breathtaking track is their interpretation of Steve Winwood's Can't Find My Way Home, hypnotically and spookily sung by Jarboe over the eerie instrumentation, as is I Remember Who You Are which turns Jarboe's expressive voice into a medium of tenderness, empathy and reassurance. The tuneful track Saved with its spiritual undertone is another highlight.
Swans' early 1980s work explored harsh sounds via the industrial/extreme heavy metal route, Children of God (1987) blended softness & severity, Love Of Life & White Light from the Mouth of Infinity (both 1991) & Great Annihilator (1995) provided powerful guitar rock and Soundtracks For The Blind (1996) investigated the drone & atmospheric electronic avenues.
For defining the style of this 1989 album the term über-folk seems apt. Judged on the quality of the melodies, the vocals & the sound, The Burning World is an enduring classic. Fans of Leonard Cohen, John Cale, Richard Thompson, Peter Murphy, Velvet Underground, Nico, Nick Drake, Nick Cave and similar artists will do themselves a huge favor by acquiring this shimmering masterpiece. Michael Gira has been pursuing a similar sonic path with his post-Swans project Angels of Light.