Oct 272020


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….).





  1. Loving the site and spot on with the underground metal but what is with the image? I can’t listen to the music with a pic like that…

    • I don’t have any insights into that choice of cover, other than this passage from the promotional material:

      “Inspired by Lovecraft’s universe, the album’s story mixes dystopia and science fiction to create a fantasized mythology that is both stellar and murky. The work on the visual has just added a hard and realistic dimension to the concept of the album, exposing at the same time societal taboos.”

      • Oh shit, I was so looking forward to this CD! I read and listened to a preview song a couple of months or so ago, maybe it was on NCS, it was fab.
        This social taboo stuff is really hard. Metal has to push boundaries, otherwise why does it exist? (well, it’s also a load of fun and to have a great time, there is a place for party metal…) What happens when pushing boundaries means focusing on a social taboo that’s a taboo because it causes so much real harm? When the taboo is representative of a major power imbalance (men’s violence against women). In fact I wish it was a social taboo to be violent against women, but it’s not, it’s still accepted, it’s still a leading cause of death for women across the world.
        For me expressing the social taboo is about creating a space for the hate, rage, anger, desperation, hopelessness, love, beauty, tenderness, fear, anguish, grief, worry, wonder, amazement… these feelings of being alive in this fucked-up world, these feelings of waking up to suffering but also to the preciousness of being alive… all these feelings we aren’t meant to feel and acknowledge… but the social taboo isn’t about actually using violence and adding to the harm. For me that’s not pushing a boundary.
        An image like this, for me, is about reinforcing walls, it’s about limiting freedom, it’s about adding to the world of harm. I wish it was ‘only’ fantasy, but it’s the reality of so many women, if not physically entrapped, entrapped by the fear of what he will do if she attempts to leave him, entrapped by what he will do if she tries to push back against his control to get a bit of space for her life.
        Metal can’t be safe. I just wish it could be un-safe in different ways to this.
        Not having a go at the band or NCS, this stuff is really hard, and by your review Islander I reckon the band would have gone through a lot of personal hard work and sacrifice to put out a CD like this. Maybe I will listen to the release, and then I’ll be in a position to message the band in a really supportive way and suggest maybe a different album cover next time.
        I must keep posts much more brief than this, will promise to do so, otherwise I’ll unfairly hog the space.

        • Don’t worry at all about the length of your comment. I’m glad you felt like opening up in this way. It’s a subject I would be interested in hearing the band talk about in the context of why they chose this cover art. There could be many explanations, including an intent to call out and condemn what’s suggested by the image. I just don’t know.

  2. Great review. Soul crushing, darkness, beauty: just what i love. The cover is shit and offensive to boot: torture porn is not what I love and mocks the depth of the power of the sound. I’d prefer all covers were just black over this- let the sound and the word of mouth speak for itself…

  3. Heya Islander. I’m just a lurker but want to echo these guys. It’s 2020 and a fantasy of brutalising a helpless kidnapped woman doesn’t gel with metal or anything else undergound anymore. It just adds another drop to the oceans of everything already fucked in this world. And it’s embarrassing in a pathetic sort of way. Guns and Roses did this cover back in 87 on Appetite (before they replaced it with the TM) so beat Icare to that ‘edgy’ punch 33 years ago.

    Your writing is awesome, this album might be incredible, but I thought I’d spend the time I would have spent reading your review letting you know why I’m not reading it instead. My standard protest of not buying an album representing metal this way has not been real effective so just letting you know in case it helps you guys decide whether it matters to you.

  4. I have to say Im quite positively surprised at the level of discussion on and disgust with that cover. But also surprised as Im wondering why THIS cover promted said reactions.

    I dislike it, too, and cannot see how it’d ever challenge a taboo. For years I’ve been sporadically posting about how metal and women seem to reinforce rather than question and break certain tropes—that are in such desperate need of doing away with. Violence towards women and their objectification are deeply, deeply entrenched in metal, even in the more ‘happy’ versions of it.

    I once got shit from a band for commenting on yet another cover of a werewolf raping a woman, saying that I didnt know them and that the woman perhaps had secuded that werewolf…(if I recall correctly)…I don’t quite know how to respond to such blind spots. Implicated subjects, everywhere….

    Metal’s main trope has always been ‘power’ sought by men and as we continue to live in a patriarchy this won’t change, either.

    Anyway, I couldnt have said more than Rodney already has.

    • Great to read your post. I was a metal-head in the mid-80’s, but even though I was no saint when it came to understanding patriarchy (back then I was pretty defensive when girlfriends and female friends were trying to tell me about this stuff), I was sick of all the macho in metal, I didn’t fit with it at all.
      Then one day, I remember it so distinctly, I heard “Digital Bitch” by Black Sabbath, and that was it, it was the last straw, I couldn’t stay with metal anymore, and I spent 13 years completely away from metal. 13 years missing Carcass and disEMBOWLMENT and Neurosis and… (well, at least I missed Cold Lake, that was a positive). Only came back to metal because I accidentally heard some black metal in 2000, it was the first time I heard anything like it (I missed the whole second wave, didn’t even know it existed), and then I got re-hooked. I’ve been struggling with the embedded patriarchy in metal ever since (now that I am a bit more aware of this stuff).
      Really great to read your post, irrespective of how you identify with gender (even if you aren’t male) it’s great to read this (I’m gender non-binary, but have been male for most of my life, and still benefit from all the privilege that comes from having been male and still being seen as male).
      I’m encouraged by things like Devourment’s stance against misogynist lyrics, by some insights into sexism by some male metal musicians (e.g. I read something by Tom Gabriel Fisher that was heartening about his awareness of the sexism experienced by the female base player in Triptykon), by the underground popularity of bands like UK’s Svalbard that focus in part on the pain of women’s suffering due to violence.
      But the sexism and hyper-masculinity and male power is so, so deeply embedded, in so many ways, you are so right… we can only keep trying. It’s for the benefit of metal too, for the benefit of metal communities, extreme metal has to evolve to stay free.

      • I think one of the key things to take away from this is that you can still love metal, I suppose, despite its less palatable characteristics because, as part of the audience, you can have your own agency in discarding some bands and picking up others—although I must admit this is more easily said than done, especially in relation to extremer iterations of metal, such as black metal, which is so important to me.

        Realistically speaking, I cannot always succeeed in finding out what the people who create my favourite music believe in themselves, and when I cannot, it feels odd to have to repeat the adagium to myself that one does not necessarily have to read the artist into her/his work in case this or that band does turns out to be a bunch of bigots, except when bands explicitly want me to see what bigots they are. There is, admittedly, a grey area, but it has its limits.

        So I take heart in the fact, as you also indicated, that it seems that the more I look, the more bands I see that do actively step away from misogyny–and national socialism, too, btw–and this is exactly what I love about metal as well: in essense, everybody is welcome. Still, that does not mean the annoying and tiresome posturing of hypermasulinity will be gone, soon. (I id as male, but am no macho, at all, but people engage me as if I am, which I am not complaining about, as it never gets me into trouble, if you see what I mean, when I turn out to be something else.)

        I also wanted to mention, perhaps as a form of perspective (but not mitigation), that metal, unfortunately, is not alone in having issues. All genres have misogyny, racism, lgbtqqipk-phobia (an obvious statement), not in the least because (another obvious one) there’s a-holes everywhere. A lesson, by the way, that people’s responses to covid have made painfully obvious, once more.

        Anymore, another two cents!

  5. I really see what you mean here, we need to be easy on ourselves as we can’t always do the research immediately when a new release comes out. I’ve loved some black metal bands for years only to later find out about their NSBM-leaning or right-wing nationalist politics. Bands that I just can’t listen to anymore. I read this article on USBM last night which I found really helpful about these complexities https://www.decibelmagazine.com/2020/10/28/read-an-exclusive-book-excerpt-from-usbm-a-revolution-of-identity-in-american-black-metal/
    BTW, it’s been an amazing year for black metal in my view. ‘The best’ I can remember in terms of the number of releases that I’ve loved.

  6. So apparently the cover art is an endless source of discussion! I’m glad that metalheads are sensitive to the subject of woman abuse.

    As a friend of the band, brother of the singer/writer and of the woman pictured in the cover, i can assure you that Icare has no connections whatsoever with the NSBM scene, or any racist, sexist, hate-spreading movement.

    The cover art is crude, violent, but so is the world we grew up in. The woman, dressed in white, represents every ounce of purity, kindness, and selflessness wich the unbreathable, crushing world, as shown by the hand, has crushed.

    That’s what the world wants from us people, kill or be killed, and this is what’s pictured.

  7. Interesting to read the comments. I have to agree with Rodney, the cover art is pretty off. Good to see these conversations happening here. Being into punk too, there is a lot that artists can learn about how music can be perceived as abrasive, and aggressive, but still work against misogyny, homophobia, transphobia etc…

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