SERPENT ASCENDING “Hyperborean Folklore”

By Dr. Abner Mality

In many ways this is an archetypal release on the I, Voidhanger label. It’s got long, involved songs that have a progressive edge and deal with esoteric, mythological subjects. And it should satisfy fans of the iconoclastic label. But there’s also something a bit more accessible to it that could appeal to fans of epic heavy metal and Viking/folk metal.

It’s a one-man project (also an I, Voidhanger characteristic), the creation of Finnish musician Jarno Nurmi, who’s been in some gut-chewing death metal acts like SLUGATHOR and DECREPESY. You won’t find any of that sound in SERPENT ASCENDING. Nurmi seems much more drawn to epic metal like ATLANTEAN KODEX and even MANILLA ROAD. These songs feature a LOT of repetition in the riffs, as a mid-paced cruncher is repeated in hypnotic fashion. On top of these riffs is a lot of drifting melodic guitar with a faintly folk metal feel. There’s even a bit of AMORPHIS to it, which fits, because most of SERPENT ASCENDING’s lyrics are based on the Kalevala as well.

I don’t mind repetition when the riff is good but Nurmi comes close to overdoing it several times. But just as boredom sets in, the riff and tempo will change, like it does in the last third of the title track. The real issue with Nurmi are his vocals, which are a kind of muttering mumble like an old skald (Norse poet) reciting verse. I think that’s exactly the effect he is aiming for, but frankly, his vocals are unimpressive and I wish something like Grutle Kjellson from ENSLAVED’s clean vocals were used.

The good outweighs the bad when it comes to “Hyperborean Folklore”. That shuffling, plodding riff that starts the title track is a great one and there’s good stuff to be found in each of the four long tracks here. Fans of ENSLAVED, AMORPHIS, ATLANTEAN KODEX and MANEGARM will find something to like from SERPENT ASCENDING.