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I am happy to converse with Jarno Nurmi, creator of reality that bears the moniker Serpent Ascending; in the site you will find the reviews of the demo and of the debut album "Enigma unsettled" released through the our local I, Voidhanger.
Welcome to Aristocrazia Webzine, how it feels to have placed the main beam of a seriously and musically important ideological temple with Serpent Ascending?
I am grateful because for the first time I have a feeling that I truly have the freedom and ability to give musical expression to things that I hold in high position in my life. With the release of "The Enigma Unsettled" the first scene in the life of Serpent Ascending is accomplished and things are ready to go forward.
What has changed from the first contact we have had two years ago, when I asked you to review the demo? And how did this project born? You have played and play again in many bands (Slugathor, Nowen, Desecresy, Nerlich), from what is sprung the desire of a "solo" dimension?
Many things have changed within Serpent Ascending and I see it really is rising higher, ascending as it is supposed to be. Things are moving fast these days and I hope I manage to keep up with the speed of the progression. The need for a "solo project" arose when I was at the situation when I really felt that I must express my personal views through this art form. Even though I have played with many bands during the years there was never a situation where I had the possibility to really express myself. Actually I hadn't even fully acknowledged it before 2008. During the year my ideological and spiritual views were going through some major changes. This kind of expression couldn't have been possible with any other band because it would have been against the spirit and idea of those groups. All bands have their own Spirit and Idea that should be followed. That's the main reason why a solo project had to be spawned.
In the various formations in which he plays or has played, Jarno Nurmi reinvented from time to time its role as a musician? You have played the guitar in Nerlich, the bass in Nowen and you sang in Desecresy, while in Serpent Ascending do it all yourself. You are at ease whatever the position to be filled? Have you taken advantage from this versatility when you have set up your own solo-project?
Varying between bass and guitar isn't really difficult to do if you understand the basic differences between the instruments and what they are supposed to do. But I wouldn't call myself a multi-instrumentalist as I can not handle the drums. At least not yet. The only advantage is that I've been able to do most of the things by myself. Vocals were something new to me and I really wanted to explore that area and will explore more in the future. That is the most interesting "instrument" at the moment because it is more uncertain then the others. You can go and pick up a guitar and just start to play but you can't do the same thing with vocals. It's always different and every time you'll hear if things have developed or regressed.
I said it two years ago and I confirm it now, having had the opportunity to write also about "Enigma Unsettled": the mind of someone who lives and plays music in a certain way, putting in their own personality and research that is not limited to the usual "vulgar" and not credible styles of Satanism full of "Hail Satan" and "Kill The Christian" (great song of Deicide among other things), can project into the notes the path that is taking, the direction is now more clear and ritualistically evocative, what do you want convey to your listeners?
The ideal that I wish to convey through my lyrics is the more intelligent and maybe higher form of Satanism. The death worship is still there but it doesn't mean that as a Satanist I should support the annihilation and destruction of everything around me or spread hate everywhere I go to. After all, this so called annihilation will not come by destroying everything but only through ascending spiritual progression that can also follow the Left Hand Path. The ideal form of death worship that I respect is more like an inner contemplation on death and letting the lower sides within you cease their reign for the glory of the higher Self. Personally I'm not that much interested in the "Kill the christians" rhetoric but I do understand its importance at some situations to some individuals. That kind of christian or other false religious influences must be cleansed within and usually it takes those aggressive and dark forms at first. That's the destructive side that obliterates something undesired within and hopefully gives birth to something higher and more profound. But that happens only if we see the process as an inner struggle and not as an external war against something that we think is to blame for our misery. Satanists often think that "do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law" but they forget that the will of the personality, the lower mind or the hive mind, is not the true will of an individual. Personal wishes, hopes and fears are easily confused to be the voice of the inner master, Lucifer, and they must be discriminated from each other. Solve et Coagula. That's the reason for the evocative approach that was used especially with "Saturnal". By the way, actually the working title for that song was "Hail Satan" but it changed to "Hail Saturn" which you'll find in the lyrics. So much for that credibility.
The artwork has a perfect connection with the songs, the illustrations follows the story posing with movements that seem to recreate the mysticism expressed by the sounds. Who is the artist who have created it and how did the subject born? Has it a special meaning?
The paintings were created by an American artist called Wiley Trieff. They were suggested to me by Luciano of I, Voidhanger records and I thought they would perfectly fit the atmosphere of the album. It were the right synchronicities that made paintings a good choice for the cover art. I'm glad that you feel the illustrations are in connection with the songs as it's always little bit challenging to integrate two different art forms that have been created separately without conscious connection. The inner sleeve picture is my personal favorite as well as the larger picture inside the booklet. Especially the narrow path, the door where the light glows makes it impressive and important to me.
Present again in the second part of the disc the songs of "Serpent Ascending" revitalized by more "effective" production has been, in terms of result, a great move. What has changed since you wrote those songs when you have write the new ones? How you give life to your songs? I think that being elementary and evil melodic makes them really interesting.
Thank you for the feedback! I too think that the first demo sounds better now. The main difference between the older songs and the new ones is the more crystallized idea of what Serpent Ascending is about. In a way the first demo was more ecstatic (though mostly through Shadows affection) and enthusiastic throwing a lot of different ideas and symbolism around while the new songs are more focused on the main idea they are to express. When writing songs I have a feeling that every song should have certain fulfilment. They are the audible manifestation of something perfect and totally balanced and that's how I want the songs to be like. They might not sound perfect but they still are! It is the soul that touches and gets touched. Especially with "The Mournful Pilgrimage" I couldn't go to the technical details that much as the songs were supposed to be bare. There's a paradox here: while the soul or a core of a song is perfect, the earthly form is not, but in our world it's never those perfect things that touch us the most.
One of the criticisms I've read on the Internet in many articles about the disc, are linked to a "canonical" presence in the proposal. Assuming that when it talk about old school, go outside by the canon is not necessarily synonymous of quality, you believe that there is a tendency to write about music listening very little to the stuff you have in the hands?
I believe you are right with your view here. There are reviewers and other people that don't really take time to listen to the records and they only make their minds based on what they think something is supposed to be and not what it really is. They have heard someone describe the music as old-school death metal or something equally conventional and then they think it's probably the same old shit again and only hear things that support their preconception. They have locked themselves up and can't get out to hear those little things they have never heard before. If something doesn't fit their modern metal world of "perfect sound" and appearance with nothing inside they will hate it. And the next day they'll whine because nothing new is happening in the genre.
Extreme metal has become "stuff" within the reach of all, gone are the days of tape-trading, racing to buy a CD just came out because otherwise it not found more, if not absurd shipments arriving after months and months, the Internet has destroyed the metal world and have shaped another much-oriented consumerism. What has yet to say this music? How much passion it takes to go on their own path? Except for a few big name, the gains in metals are little and are increased the personal expenses to give shape to a serious self-produced record, what prospects you see for the scene?
I think it's time to take things on the next level. There's a lot of things that music can deliver to people. Not just good riffs and melodies but something that is really done with the spirit and not just to play some music. It's ok to be entertaining but if entertainment is the only value music has it's empty. What I wish to do is my part in the process that is the beginning of the new era that will take things higher in the long run. I believe people need more than just the music. They need the Idea of something deeper that goes beyond the external expression and form.
Finland is a land that had always gave us masterpieces in the field of death metal, thanks to bands like Amorphis, Convulse, Mordicus, Demilich, Demigod, Burial and the list is really long. There is also a growing movement of new act, among the last I had the pleasure of listening to Abhordium and Fleshred that filling new lines, how you live your national scene you that have given it more in artistic terms with many bands?
Lot of things are happening in the finnish scene and it's quite hard to have a complete view of it. Black metal scene has always been very strong here but I wouldn't say that underground death metal is really that big thing in Finland. It's mostly recognized elsewhere.
What do you think about the growing, in some case trendy, choice to offer a selection of old school sound particularly oriented to the Swedish side of this genre?
Trends come and go. I think there might even be some old-school bands that are almost mainstream before the peak of the "trend" is over (if it really ever ends as there's always something new that is considered old-school). Serpent Ascending is not really trying to be old-school and I have never wanted do anything just for the sake of being old-school. I wrote the songs and recorded them in a way they deserved to be heard. The sound that supported the songs just happened to be what it is. Being old-school isn't wrong though. It's just not any of my main interests with Serpent Ascending.
How is grown in Jarno Nurmi the belief that the genre that he wanted to play was death metal? What were the records that you have oriented and indoctrinated on this? And if you were to divide them for musical and textual component which would be your personal top ten?
I've been a huge death metal fan for years so it was quite natural to start playing death metal. With Serpent Ascending I didn't really think of a genre when I started. The main thing was the atmosphere and the ideology and at the point that I started writing music again after a long break it came out as death metal yet influenced by other kind of metal music too. I can't just stick to death metal when choosing my favorites so here's a list of wider variety. If I was to choose of what albums Serpent Ascending is made of musically the list would look like this:
- Iron Maiden – "Seventh Son Of A Seventh Son"
- Celtic Frost – "Into The Pandemonium"
- Sentenced – "North From Here"
- Bruce Dickinson – "The Chemical Wedding"
- Emperor – "Anthems To The Welkin At Dusk"
- Morbid Angel – "Covenant"
- Type 0 Negative – "Slow, Deep And Hard"
- Voivod – "Dimension Hatröss"
- Iced Earth – "Burnt Offerings"
- Fates Warning – "The Spectre Within"
Some of these albums already have some occult lyrics but that kind of influences can not be restricted just to the bands that I've listened to. There's lot of books and different tides of occultism that have influenced me during the years and helped me in the creation of my path. For example H.P. Blavatsky, J. Nefastos, Shaivism and Shaktism in general, etc.
You're collaborating with the Italian label I, Voidhanger, as you come into contact with it? Did you received any other proposals? If yes, what was the merits that made ??you choose them?
I didn't receive any other propositions. At the time when the Mournful Pilgrimage demo was finished I thought I'll just wait for some time to see what happens. I didn't promote or spread the dome around anyway so I was surprised how fast things started happening. Luciano from I, Voidhanger records contacted me and I knew that it was right thing to do. His enthusiasm, dedication and respect for interesting and original forms of music impressed me.
Serpent Ascending is a solo-project, but you think there will be opportunities, maybe through guest musicians, to see you play on a stage the pieces of "Enigma Unsettled"?
If it depends on me there will surely be a live band playing these tracks. Probably that will happen after the next album. I've had a feeling that I must lay down the foundation for the band first and seek out the right direction before inviting anyone to join. Because Serpent Ascending is not just about playing the songs I couldn't have demanded anyone to take part in the process at these early stages.
It is often said that the true quality of the bands can be quantified only in live situation, you believe this statement is entirely true? As a musician what do you believe is served playing in more reality and have the opportunity to try your hand with a good number of artists on stage?
It is partially true when considering a band. At the moment Serpent Ascending is not really a band and it is not playing live so it can not be judged by that kind of merits. People have to hear the music and other contents to make an opinion. Of course many have already made their mind merely by the fact that SA is a solo project and thought that such "bands" can not be taken seriously but that's not a problem. There is no defined path that should be followed when forming a band.
There's been, in your metalheads life, an experience life that you feel unforgettable?
As a metal fan there's been a lot of unforgettable moments. The first time I saw Iron Maiden with Bruce Dickinson in 1999 stays in my heart. Totally different kind of experience was seeing Ride For Revenge perform couple of years ago. That really changed my view of live performances. Many bands speak of live rituals but that's the only performance I have seen that really deserves to be called as such.
What will be the next step? What should we expect now by you?
I am writing songs for the next Serpent Ascending album. There will be certain similarities with the songs relesed this far and also something totally different. Maybe there's some more variety between different songs and the feelings. That is important for there will be more integral lyrical concept that goes through the whole album that requires a wider scale of feelings.
I'll give you my personal good luck and I thank you for the availability, we reached the end of the interview and does not stand to greet us and launch a final direct message to those who follow us.
Thank you for the interview and thanks to anyone who read this far. I hope Serpent Ascending will be able to give listeners even a little hint of those things that can be found through patient quest for that which is true and never disappers. It can be a dangerous path but definitely worth the effort.