A few months ago, I had the pleasure of reviewing Montreal Black Metal project Spectral Wound’s newest album Terra Nulls. A release that while rooted in the classic, second wave of Black Metal, has its own flavor and atmosphere injected throughout its duration. As much as I praised the release, honestly, I felt like it was going to be some time before I heard anything else emerge from their frost-encrusted, ritual chambers. Much to my surprise, about a month later, along came this little release by Circle of Salt entitled Suffer The Cold, a one man project fronted by Spectral Wound guitarist Mike Kirkenbrannsår under the alias Maikan. My biggest fear, one that I think anyone would have, is that this was just going to sound like a continuation of Spectral Wound’s newest record. However, Maikan has constructed a completely different identity and sound by himself. With influences ranging from early Darkthrone and Enslaved, combined with a heavy doses of the almost ethereal, primal sound that Wolves in The Throne crafted on Two Hunters, Suffer The Cold reveals a much more nuanced and deeper side to Kirkenbrannsår’s artistic skills and vision.
The album itself consists of two, very long and dense tracks. This is music meant to be absorbed in it’s entirety, from start to finish. If you’re one that is looking for an immediate, breath-stealing punch to the gut, you’re gonna have to work for it on this one. This is Black Metal played in the truest form, without any pretenses or frilly, lacy edges to appeal to the masses. Suffer The Cold was made for those in the underground that revel in staying out of the sun’s light. For those that feast on the cold, hungry darkness that is our insufferable existence. Perhaps the most striking aspect of this album is the feelings that it exudes throughout its two lengthy tracks. You truly feel that you’re entering into some kind of exploration of the unknown as the album starts off, and, even more importantly, once the album closes out, you feel that you’ve concluded your journey. It would be one thing to make a sickening, blasphemous attempt at Black Metal. Kirkenbrannsår, however, has crafted such a well-thought-out declaration for himself as a musician. Even the more Converge, Jane Doe-era sized moments found in the second song speak volumes as to just how far this artist is willing to delve in order to produce something substantial.
Because of the length of both tracks, it’s easy to get lost within Suffer the Cold, almost as if each one was a in pitch-black forest. Much like the windswept dunes of a desert, each song subtly shifts over the course of its play through. Never getting stagnant, but keeping the core of the sound rooted and at the center of what Kirkenbrannsår is striving to attain. A sense of another world that bleeds into our own permeates through the album’s duration. The tone of the album alone isn’t what makes this album so good. It’s the promise of potential. Suffer the Cold is a text book example off how to pull off a one man project. But what it really reeks of is the thought of future releases and endeavors. From the savage battering of frost-infused Black Metal to the album’s more noisy elements, Kirkenbrannsår shows the ability and insight to tap into something very personal within himself, his music and us, the audience. This isn’t a release based upon traditional, Black Metal or refined with utter hate for humanity, but the subtle, various shades that embody that negative feeling of apathy. Suffer the Cold is carefully plotted out and and constructed, a fact that is absolutely apparent when listening to these two gargantuan sized tracks.
Over the course of the last year, I’ve made some derogatory statements about the current state of Black Metal, while also contradicting myself by putting the newest crop of North American Black Metal bands on a pedestal. It’s a weird thing really, having such a love-hate relationship with a style of music. I can listen it to non-stop, getting lost within its different cultural tones and ideas, all while mocking just how far this once terrifying genre has fallen – the theatrics and imagery that have become almost comical to an extent. Circle of Salt exude what Black Metal is truly about. Atmosphere. And as I’m finishing up this review, it’s dawning on me that perhaps I should look away from the U.S.B.M. scene and direct my gaze to the north – Montreal to be exact. This release, on top of everything else that has been coming out of this famed city, has blown my mind as of late. Perhaps it’s time we all start considering this Canadian hub to be the next bastion of truly genre-redefining Black Metal. Because if Circle of Salt, among others, is the standard by which they fly, well, shit. We’re all in for one hell of a ride.