Initial Impressions of Serpent Ascending – Ananku

serpent ascending - ananku cover

Article by Anton Rudrick.

Following a tradition of Finnish death metal, Serpent Ascending first proved its allegiance to the old stream of thought on The Enigma Unsettled. The project stood out as possessing that rare gift that grants vision past forms and into the value therein encased as dormant power, codified, awaiting a worthy hero who can pull the Sword from the Stone. While using techniques and musical structures that are well-known, interesting counterpoint and chant-like melodies can be seen in that first album, inserting them in between more conservative power metal riffs that were eerie enough to belong to occult death metal but also displayed a penchant for memorable phrases. Five years have elapsed since then, and several Desecresy albums have seen the definition and reaffirmation of that band into a distinctly esoteric style. Many were keenly expectant upon the future of Serpent Ascending.

Ananku will be a trial for Hessians, and a deceptively concealed gift to a more mundane audience. Rather than following the outward obscurantist path of enmeshing diction to safeguard content from the proverbial Swine, the aesthetics here lean towards the easily graspable. Furthermore, in what consists of a capital sin in underground metal punishable by immediate exile, on this album Serpent Ascending depends heavily on constant rhythmic hooks and a lively “alternative” aura that is more casual than directly enveloping. This album would not sit too strangely besides descendants of Slaughter of the Soul on the metal side of the camp.

Treasures await those who would dare soil their hands in the mud of the Lowest. The album flows together as one and the individual particularities of each simpler piece gains an unexpected significance once this perspective is acquired. Each song appears to have hooks designed around a single promising and more elaborate part contained in them, and the beginnings and endings of songs between the first and last tracks are not as definitive as those at the extremes. The intent becomes more evident still once these clues are kept in mind. Contrary to understandably foreboding predictions regarding these stylistic changes, Ananku supercedes not only the achievements of its predecessor, but also its foreseeable developed potential, albeit in an estranged form that unfortunately does cut future avenues of growth very short.

Among other memorable works of dark beauty arising from stylistic compromises we may find the likes of Septic FleshEsoptron and SacramentumThy Black Destiny. The functional value of these as art for spiritual edification is that they can be used as entry-level works, they provide technically proficient arrangements of an efficient nature that aid the young musician’s education, and they will be enjoyed by the veteran who has seen aesthetic through to its extremes and can now return to solid works of this, a more directly apprehensive character.

4 thoughts on “Initial Impressions of Serpent Ascending – Ananku

  1. Billy Foss says:

    “Contrary to understandably foreboding predictions regarding these stylistic changes, Ananku supercedes not only the achievements of its predecessor, but also its foreseeable developed potential, albeit in an estranged form that unfortunately does cut future avenues of growth very short.”

    My initial reaction was articulated through pure, self-induced hype, but I’m still eager to hear this record. However, that is troublesome. In what way does it supersede The Enigma Unsettled?

    1. Clarity, for one.
      The Enigma Unsettled was jumping between ideas without a clear image.
      The unique parts of Serpent Ascending what appeared here and there on The Enigma Unsettled,
      such as the voice in the melodies, the chant-like exposicion of these, etc, are brought
      into focus in Ananku.

      As I said, it is only unfortunate that with it, there was also a change towards a more
      mainstream style which does cut its own potential for further exploitation.
      Underground metal exposition leaves open ends and paths, while the mainstream metal,
      in its pop packaging such as we here hear, immediately closes itself off from these,
      rounding everything off to easily-understandable parts. In short, its catchiness is
      enhanced while the complementing and supporting aspects of the music were stripped away.

      Underground metal could make this truly classic-symphony in the advanced death metal
      way with its progressive tendencies, but in choosing this pop approach, they are reduced
      to compelling jingles within powerful but restrained pieces.

      The contradiction in Ananku is that it is best appreciated as an album, the tracks being
      singular expositions of the variations of an idea, but its packaging makes us veer our
      attention towards track-based/single mentality because of the way “catchiness” is played
      in the arrangements.

      1. Billy Foss says:

        I think I understand you, though it’s difficult to say as I only have access to one track right now. I agree that The Enigma Unsettled is inconsistent in some aspects, though we may be talking about different things. I think it’s important to consider that it was a compilation of two separate demos which seems to have played a part in some of the discrepancies from track to track. It’s unfortunate and highly contradictory that pursuing what made the previous material unique has somehow resulted in a more streamlined pop variation. Thanks for the reply though, I appreciate your perspective as you’ve given me ideas to consider during future listens.

        On an unrelated note, The Church looks like an interesting film. I can’t believe I’ve never heard of it, but I did enjoy Suspiria.

        1. That’s not the reason for the commercialism. I will post a full review later this week after it gels a bit more.

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