Having launched their assaultive career in 1982, the Swans are something of an institution in the world of dark, confrontational rock. But while such progeny as Nine Inch Nails and less bleak colleagues as Sonic Youth flirt with the masses, the New Yorkers remain on the cult fringe, a taken-for-granted and--to judge by their show at the Roxy on Thursday--undervalued presence.
Without flamboyance or posturing, the group simply laid out its music with integrity and gripping intensity. Leader Michael Gira (whose roots are in the late-'70s L.A. punk scene, where he published the infamous No magazine), sang in a deep, detached deadpan that suggested improbable links with Johnny Cash (no stranger to music of dread himself). His partner Jarboe offered female counterpoint on her solo turns.