2022, Reviews

#SerpentAscending 🇫🇮 Hyperborean Folklore

Band: Serpent Ascending
Title: Hyperborean Folklore
Release date: 17 June 2022
Label: I, Voidhanger Records
Country: Finland
Format reviewed: high-quality digital recording

Well, we are back in Finland, having a listen to the works of multi-talented Jarno Nurmi, who is the singular force behind Serpent Ascending. In this album some of the sound notes to listen for will be death metal, progressive rock and heavy metal components to name some. Theme of the album is a rediscovery of fennoscandian myths and ancient writings.

Serpent Ascending got started in 2008 with a demo in 2009, and a compilation recording called “The Enigma Unsettled” in 2011. “Ananku” was released in 2016, the first full-length album featuring Nurmi’s unique take on blackened death metal. I had a listen to this first album, and I must say, even though death metal is not my first love, I appreciated what I heard, and enjoyed the combination of the two strongly featured sounds together. I noted that Nurmi has his own spin on death metal, which on the “Ananku” album, is a stand out (for me) and worth a listen.

“Hyperborean Folklore” is more about the exploration of esoteric considerations, with melancholy and psychedelic approaches. The psychedelic and often hypnotic characterizations come through loud and clear in this four-track album. Nurmi wanted to have more time to build layers into the tracks, have more of the story telling present in the length of each track bringing more of an epic metal sound to this his latest album.

The first track, “Growth of the Soil”, lyrics are an excerpt from a book written by Knut Hamsun, a Norwegian writer who first published these works in 1917. A sampling of the lyrics are: “The long, long road over the moors and up into the forest, the man comes, walking toward the north. A strong, coarse fellow, with a red iron beard..” Nurmi speaks the beginning opening verses, and the music takes on a progressive rock inspiration. Definitely hearing the psychedelic in the use of keyboards, and the drum style is slower and rhythmic. After 10 minutes and 27 seconds, the expansive layering has begun.

“Hyperborean Folklore”, the Kalevala written in 1849, features here in the lyrics. Poems XV11 and IX, of which I will quote one of them: “To the caverns of the white-bear, To the deep abysm of serpents, To the vales, and swamps, and fenlands, To the ever-silent waters..” What inspiration has Nurmi taken from this? Well, threading more of the psychedelic in this track, and a base rhythm hitting like a beacon to follow home. Keeps repeating this pattern and the hypnotic mood is strong in this.

“Stallus Hideout”, lyrics written by Nurmi for this one. A sampling of them are: “Where the endless forest nears, you still have time though night lurks in the shades, barren but full of life, the old ones whisper around the fire…” We got heavy metal style of riffing to begin things, with lead guitar weaving in and out in a melancholic, sometimes foreboding tone. These guitars almost have a doom edge in styling, it’s quite an integration of those differing styles and I like how it works together. More of the psychedelic enters into the soundscape, featuring against the rhythm set earlier.

“Skadi’s Longing for the Mountains”, the fourth track. Lyrics are taken from the “Gylfaginning in Prose Edda.

Sample of them are: “Loath were the hills to me, I was not long in them, nights only nine to me, the wailing of wolves seemed ill, after the song of swans”. This definitely carries a doom inspiration, bleak and bare sounding. A slowing to one guitar featuring the melancholic threading of sound against the bass. Damn, now the death metal starts in, with guttural vocals and guitars becoming rapid paced. A sadness bleeds in with a wall of sound and that edge of despair. The track takes a turn to progressive rock to bring more up tempo. Last minute 30, the guitar bursts in, to give more of the melancholic melodies.

This is a definite switch up from the last blackened death album, this one is more of exploration and tangents. Going in and developing the layers to show the psychedelic leanings, and freedoms to branch into more sounds. Album was put together cohesively and the story telling recreated in guitars, drums, vocals and keyboards, was one that needs to be revisited again and again. This is a listen, and listen again because more will be revealed. I give 7/10 Metal Marie

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7/10  Victory is possible
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