“Suffer the Cold” is the re-release of a 2015 work by a solo black metal artist from Québec, Canada, who operates under the name of Circle of Salt. This release interested me particularly because historically Canada has such a reputation for inspirationally cold and harsh black metal bands, among them Operation Winter Mist and from the French-Canadian side Frozen Shadows, Forteresse and Neige et Noirceur.

My friends in Edmonton, Alberta, which admittedly is across country from Québec, tell me that the temperature is -12C at the moment. Appropriately the first of the monster tracks on this album is “Suffer the Cold” as per the album title. An ominous drumbeat signals this one in. The build-up is expansive as the equivalent of a metal blizzard covers the scene, which is morose and gloomy. Finally the tortured voice emerges to scream distantly amid the blazing and pompous sound. The dismal riff hangs in the air, long enough and perhaps too long to make its point before the scene of wintry devastation and chaos is enhanced by one of venom and rage. The atmosphere is that of a harsh and brutal attack. The attraction is in the venomous menace and crushing power. This now borders on the apocalyptic before encroaching into the territory of drawn-out, morbid, lingering death. I’m not sure that it needed 19 minutes to convey these scenes, but “Suffer the Cold” makes its point and is effective.

As I listened to “Beneath the Frozen Moon of Imbolc”, the second of two monster tracks on this album, I could picture myself only in harsh and wintry frozen wastelands. After a fiery and angry start Circle of Salt develops the chilling atmosphere and eliminates our defences with all the totality of uncompromising harshness. This is impressive enough and is more authentic for its natural quality but as the cold winds blow, the atmosphere almost crystallises into something utterly mystical. The final eleven minutes are beyond epic, as Circle of Salt plumbs unprecedented magical depths without compromising on the dark cold harshness. I’d say the image is of a hall of icicles but this is a wasteland, which the artist manages to turn into something superbly majestic and hugely atmospheric.

Well Québec, you did us proud again. I preferred “Beneath the Frozen Moon of Imbolc” as it worked its way into and under my skin, but there’s no doubt that “Suffer the Cold” as a whole is a highly atmospheric work from the frozen wastelands and beyond.

(8.5/10 Andrew Doherty)