Serpent Ascending is a solo-project of Jarno Nurmi (Slugathor, ex-Nerlich), and is meant for expressing his personal thoughts, satanistic and occultic views and philosophy, and praising Satan, "the true waker of man". Death Metal was chosen as the medium for these thoughts, because J.N. felt that it has become the most natural way for him to express himself.
Musically Serpent Ascending is mostly mid-tempo Death Metal that relies on layered, even twisted riffs and a dark, occult atmosphere - which also means that this music is not that crushing or brutal. The songs are really well composed and are overall a really pleasant listen. The guitars and bass work very well together, creating layered and varied structures that last for many, many listens, and keep you listening to this record even if there isn't that many evident hooks - the lack of evident hooks makes the songs take more time to really stick to your head, though. There are some little flaws in the guitar playing, but nothing that would bother the listening experience.
The drums aren't up to par compared to the string instruments. The drumming is quite basic, and there are flaws in the playing. Due to recording equipment the sound also seems to fade a bit occasionally, and the drums are just too plain clear which makes them less fitting to the whole. Otherwise the overall sound has little to complain about. The vocals are adequate and quite monotonous low growls. It sounds like the singing was done way too close to the microphone, which occasionally bothers the listening experience. After you've listened to this demo for a few times the vocals and drums won't be such a bother anymore, but they should still be improved.
There's no sense in highlighting any of the tracks because this demo is best served as a whole due to the atmosphere, and all the songs have their moments. The lyrics are also good in their description of spiritual ascension and make you think, though the vocal style makes the lyrics inaudible and thus less memorable in the songs. The cover art in it's simplicity suits the occult themes and atmosphere well.
I'm giving this demo a seven due to it being a first demo of this band. If it was an official EP-release, it would get a six. Still, I see this demo as a really good presentation of what this project is about, and it shows that in the future Serpent Ascending might have some really good and occult music to offer. It also shows well the amount of dedication J.N. has put into creating this occult piece.