Khaos is the new album by the Swiss band Icare. It’s set for release on October 30th by Division Records. It sounds like a musical diary, a recording of a band’s progress from a starting point four years ago to the extravagant destination they’ve now reached. Which is not to say their starting point was in any way mundane — far from it. It was as breathtaking as the place where time took them, albeit in a different way.
It turns out that the idea of a journey that comes to mind in listening to the album isn’t too far from the truth. When Icare joined together in 2016, in La Chaux-de-Fonds, their vision was to create an extremely virulent form of grindcore, which incorporated elements of black and death metal. They recorded an album in that year named Khaos. But things began to change. Those changes were manifested in a 2018 album named Charogne, which the band performed live as a single 45-minute song.
This year they returned to those early steps in Khaos, and transformed the album in the studio, among other things giving the music a greater connection to black metal. But it would be wrong to sum up the album as solely “blackened grindcore” — it goes to many other places as well, which you can discover for yourselves through our premiere of a full album stream today.
You’ll get hints of where the album goes just by perusing the track list. The song lengths steadily increase, from the opener’s 35-second duration to the 20-minute behemoth that comes at the end. And along with the building durations, the songs also steadily reveal more and more stylistic ingredients and compositional ambitions.
The first three tracks — “Khaos” (0:35), “Cauchemar” (1:09), and “Emmuré” (1:36) — are overpowering assaults of extravagant destructiveness. They embody thunderous, hyper-speed drumming, pile-driving bass mutilations, gale-force riffing, roaring vocal belligerence, and throat-shredding screams. The band occasionally segment these scathing, shocking barrages of sound with start-stop discharges of power and shrieks of feedback.
The fourth track “Naissance, Décadence” (2:29) is also violent enough to suck the air from your lungs and splinter your spine, but a recognizable arpeggio launches the song and becomes a fixture through all the hammering and howling madness, and the track further includes a pair of squirming, demented solos that spiral high, like the blaze of out-of-control rockets. And so, you begin to see the change occurring.
The changes become even more apparent in “Déliquescence, Déchéance” (4:37). A chiming lead briefly creates an eerie atmosphere, but then the band begin another slaughtering rampage, while also infiltrating grim, buzzing chords that channel desperation and pain in the midst of the by-now-expected weaponized destruction. That chiming lead reappears, and Icare also allow dismal chords to reverberate and linger. A flickering solo enhances the feeling of despair, and a soaring yet shattering finale, propelled by blast-beat mania, creates apocalyptic visions.
The changes become even more pronounced in the following songs. The band continue to demonstrate their talent for erupting in breathtaking episodes of savage destruction, but a lot of other things happen as well — and the longer the songs, the more things happen. Blaring arpeggios ring out with bell-like clarity over gravel-chewing bass frenetics in “Reviviscence, Sentence” (5:48), a song that also slows and becomes more morbid, as well as conveying a lunacy born of desperation, while “L’Eschatologie Cosmique Du Jardin D’Éden” (8:08) is a classic slow-build, a gradual accretion of sounds that begins with a synth-led opening that creates an atmosphere of celestial splendor, eventually flares into nova-like brilliance, switches into a dose of jackhammering, head-moving brutishness, and follows that with a mesmerizing lead that slithers its way through an increasingly bombastic storm that really gets a listener’s heart pounding.
The final two songs are the really big ones. Even before you get to that 20-minute closing track, “Nuit De Glace Au-Dessus Du Sépulcre Noir” clocks in at 14:31. Listening to the first quartet of songs on this album, you probably wouldn’t guess that this one would begin with an alluring yet haunting piano melody. The trackl becomes a journey unto itself, in which the listener is subjected to explosions of crazed dissonance and piston-pumping drums and the intensity of a vocalist who seems to be tearing his throat apart with straight razors. There’s a vortex-like quality to the savage, bone-splintering rhythms and the writhing and screaming guitar noise — creating a level of intensity that’s almost too much to endure — yet wild, swirling leads rise up in displays of frightening grandeur, cresting and then ringing out in manifestations of beseeching beauty and wailing, haunting, heart-broken loss.
And finally, “Le Dernier Souverain Du Royaume Déchu” is as epic as its extravagant length. Slow, crystalline notes provide a spellbinding start, and Icare again begin to layer the textures and build the volume of the song. Its intensity ebbs and flows, incorporating both glittering melodies and hurricane-strength power, saxophone-like soloing and vocals that straddle an uneven line between singing and screaming. The energy reaches breathtaking fever pitches of riot and revelation, and collapses into pools of tears, crying out in misery.
As you’ve surely gathered by now, there’s no easy summing-up of Khaos. Nor is the album an “easy” experience. It’s relentlessly challenging, and continually harrowing, both in the obliterating intensity of its violence and in the soul-crushing nature of its emotional resonance. There are definitely moments of genuine beauty to be found within, but a hell of a lot of darkness surrounds them.
The album makes a powerhouse impression, and is definitely worth the time to make the trip along with Icare from start to finish.
As noted, the album will be released by Division Records on October 30. The label recommends it for fans of Full of Hell, Wake, Deathspell Omega, Blut aus Nord, and Ulcerate (let that list sink in….).