Antony and the Johnsons are set to release their fourth studio album Swanlights this month, demonstrating a triumphant display of instrumentals, larger-than-life imagery of love, loss and sorrow and the usual high dosage of orchestral bravado. Fans can pick up a limited edition copy of a 144 page book of the visual art and writing of frontman, vocalist and pianist Antony Hegarty, available in retail stores this October.

The group's sound has always felt operatic; if it weren't for Hegarty's angsty folk lyrics, listeners could easily envision the dramatic opening of a curtain during the tremulous first notes of most Antony and the Johnsons' tracks. Past the opening bars however, the band habitually forays into a canvas of orchestral noise-pop-turned-punk, with the company of violins, 'cello, horns, versatile drums and the always present piano.

Their first releases came to life with the help of Lou Reed, who took note, incorporated the band into a project of his, and made a guest appearance on the late nineties released EP The Lake. Other noteworthy endeavors include the band's melodramatic adaptation of Beyonce's 'Crazy in Love', in which the pop tune is nearly unrecognizable with its slowed pace, full-throated vibrato and flute melody. The track demonstrates that even when using another artist's work, Antony and the Johnsons does not recycle so much as it produces a metamorphosis.

Hegarty himself transforms through song; soft spoken, round faced, with a hallo of unruly black hair, the artist turns into something else entirely when delivering his full-throated melodies on stage. His angles sharpens, his voice shrills and dips, and the air seems to stand still.

Swanlights presents eleven tracks of still more slowed introspection. The opening song 'Everything is New' sets the pace for an album that sounds at once triumphant and disturbing as it gives way at times to frantic noise in between major chord melodies. 'Ghost' bids an exorcism of Hegarty's inner demons and showcases the band's penchant for Broadway-worthy harmonies, due perhaps to his professed influence by Boy George. Unlike the slurred lyrics of 'Everything is New', Hegarty here uses an aggressive over-annunciation to bid his darkest thoughts banished. 'I'm In Love' is a rollicking, melancholic tune; 'And all my dreams they all came true/the day I lay my head on you' rhymes Hegarty in heady melodic bliss, 'Going to kiss you like a humming bird'. 'Violetta' is a 37-second-long instrumental interlude between songs. The title track features over six minutes of synthesized vocal layers, minor keys and horns. In the ballad-like 'The Spirit Was Gone' Hegarty dwells on what is presumably the process of death and dying, with the conclusion being 'It's hard to understand.' 'Thank You for Your Love' channels a little soul, incorporating warm emotion with an upbeat horn section. Bjork's collaboration on 'Fletta' sounds more like Bjork's original work than Hagerty's, with his voice reduced to a disappointing, watered-down shadow.

Hegarty plays with words and sounds; sometimes it is the melody that carries a song, rather than the often distorted and cryptic lyrics. While the album stumbles at times into old vices that threaten to make the band obsolete in the past three releases, this album's redeeming qualities outweigh its heavier notes. The media of sound, lyrics and visuals are fluid in the hands of Antony and the Johnsons; while the songs of Swanlights are unmistakably cut from the same cloth, nearly each one shines.