When Swiss Grindcore/Post-Black Metal outfit Icare formed, they only ever intended to be a studio project. Their debut offering, Khaos, released in 2020, was delivered purely as an “intimate musical experience” that would never be performed live.
Icare – Charogne (Hummus Records)
Release Date: 6 May 2022
Words: Jools Green
However, times and intentions change, and as a result, their second album Charogne was created, this time, with the idea of being a complete and immersive live experience, so this work has been ambitiously crafted as one single track spanning forty-three minutes duration.
I’ve come across some impressively long tracks over the years, but I think this is the longest ever to date.
The second impactful point is the inspiration behind Charogne, which grabbed my attention. Often, I discover new works by writers and poets as the result of a music review, but this time Icare has created a piece about a work by a poet that I am already familiar with and drawn to, making this album all the more intriguing and appealing for me.
The whole album is a tribute to the nineteenth-century French poet, essayist and art critic Charles Baudelaire’s poem Une Charogne (a carrion or a carcass.)
Known for his skill with rhyme and rhythm, Baudelaire’s work makes a perfect subject for a musical composition, particularly within the broad field of Extreme Metal. Although his works contain an exoticism inherited from the Romantics, they are based on observations of real life, often in the rawest and most brutal context, particularly this piece found in his most famous collection of works, Les Fleurs du Mal (The Flowers of Evil).
Icare explain that “It’s actually some sort of musical adaptation of it. The composition process has been largely inspired by Baudelaire’s text, conferring the music to his contrasted character by alternating tumultuous and contemplative parts.”
End to end, Charogne is a hugely immersive listen. I was surprised by how quickly the forty-three minutes passed on the first playthrough. I was literally lost in time because I was so drawn to this work.
Unnerving and bleak to open, the track has an engaging ebb and flow throughout, building in pummelling waves, layered over with intense riffing and easing back to a blackened plod, delivered in constant waves of intensity and relative calm. The vocals manifest as torturous screams and shouts, set to the back of the sound, drawing you in further.
The whole thing comes together in an intense frenzy of riffs and tortuous vocals at the close, one final time. Still, regardless of the pace throughout, it commands your attention with its almost hypnotic quality.
If you are unfamiliar with the poem, here’s a brief summary. It concerns a couple who, whilst walking on a warm summer’s day, come across a putrid carcass of a dead woman. To cut a long story short, the man comments to his “love” that one day she will be like this corpse, not meant in malice but in a darkly endearing, matter of fact manner.
A stark reminder that we are helpless participants in this circle of existence, but Baudelaire’s description is beautifully poetic, in the bleakest, darkest possible manner.
Charogne is brutally romantic, just like the poem, and Icare have captured its essence perfectly. Give it a listen. You can’t fail to be moved and transported.
If you are unfamiliar with it, go read the poem too. It is available as an English translation as well as in the original French. These two works help to bring meaning to each other in a very complementary manner.
There is a free album download, from the release date, at www.hummus-records.com, where the album can be bought on vinyl LP and CD, plus and apparel.