Music Review: The Cut of the Warrior

by Jarboe
reviewed by John Malkin
The Cut of the Warrior album cover

The Cut of the Warrior is an album about slicing through the ego and opening to compassion. These incantations by vocalist/multi-instrumentalist Jarboe are simultaneously exquisite and intense, mysterious and enlightened. Buddhist practices of Chöd and Tonglen are called forth on songs like “Feast” and “Karuna.” 

“I’ve been studying Buddhism for many years,” Jarboe told S&H. “I realized that emotions are a chemical state that comes and goes. Rather than being afraid of them, you can embrace them, so you’re not a slave to your emotions. I let go of writing songs about heartbreak and romance because I wasn’t interested in that anymore.”

Jarboe, who lives near Atlanta, is well known as a longtime singer with extreme rock band Swans and has collaborated with Neurosis, Blixa Bargeld (from Einstürzende Neubauten), and others. Jarboe is also serious about being an independent artist in the digital age: “I’m a firm believer in taking back the rights to your work,” she told S&H. “I started the Swans website in 1996 and I was one of the first to have global distribution from a website.”

Jarboe Credit Marilyn Chen
Photo by Marilyn Chen

On solo projects like The Cut of the Warrior Jarboe handles most aspects of her albums. “I do hand-painted cases, the words, the music, playing, recording, and mixing.” Three of the seven songs on this new album were mixed by guest producers, including Kris Force.

“The warrior is illustrated on the [album] cover, in a literal way with cuts on her body. In the state of Chöd, she is repeatedly trying to get rid of the ego,” explains Jarboe. “It’s important that it be understood as a metaphor and a beautiful symbol. The cuts on her body are not sensationalistic. Pain is not punishment, pleasure is not reward. Nothing is here to stay.” —JM

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