(Andy Synn digs deep into the foul carcass of the new album by Switzerland’s Icare)
What would you say if I told you that one of the best Black Metal albums of the year so far – or, at least, one of the strongest contenders for that particular accolade – was a forty-three-and-a-half minute, single-track record from a Swiss grind band, based on the poem “Une Charogne” by Charles Baudelaire?
Would you call me a liar? A fraud? Would you think I was insane?
Well, in the grand scheme of things you might not be wrong, but – trust me – I’m telling you the truth this time.
Of course, referring to Icare as “just” a Grindcore band barely scratches the surface of their sound – they had, in essence, already transcended such a simplistic descriptor by the end of their first album, whose unique structure and flow showcased the group’s ongoing sonic evolution practically in real-time – but the general point still stands… sometimes the best things come from unexpected places, and in unexpected forms.
Combining frenzied, grinding intensity and filthy, sludge-soaked weight with a bleeding, beating heart of pure blackened belligerence, Charogne is the sort of album that seems to fly by in the blink of an eye – I was honestly shocked when I discovered that almost forty-five minutes had passed after my first listen.
And yet, despite the unflinching, unforgiving, and practically unrelenting rage which drives almost every second of the record, Charogne still manages to contain multitudes, the band treating the album’s single song as a unified, unbroken journey through peaks and valleys of visceral, volatile Black Metal and simmering, suppurating Sludge, interspersed here and there with moments of moody, post-metallic atmosphere and desolate, doom-laden ambience.
The closest and most obvious comparison I can think of to make when it comes to this album is to Rorcal‘s masterful Muladona from 2019 – which itself was easily one of the best albums, Black Metal or otherwise of that particular year.
But whereas Muladona was broken up into distinct (albeit, heavily interlinked) chapters, Charogne offers no such compromise to the listener. This really is an all-or-nothing album – once you press play you’re in for the long haul, whether you like it or not.
This, of course, makes for a slightly more demanding listen than your average Black Metal record, as you can’t expect to just drop in at any random point and get the full experience. This is an album meant to be listened to in its entirety, in one unbroken session, and it’s only by doing so that you’ll be able to fully appreciate everything it has to offer.
Don’t let that put you off though – as I said earlier, these forty-three (and a half) minutes honestly feel like half that when you’re fully immersed and engaged in this album, and your only real concern should be whether or not you have time to spin it again, immediately, once it’s finished playing!
What a ride! I’ve bookmarked Rorcal since I’m unfamiliar, but this also felt a lot like Inter Arma’s The Cavern. ~45 mins of compelling, engaging punishment, both cathartic journeys.