Saturday, May 20, 2023

Interview with A.A. Nemtheanga of Verminous Serpent (Primordial, The Nest, Dread Sovereign, Blood Revolt…)

This is a more brief discussion that took place over the course of a week with the venerable and fervorous A.A. Nemtheanga with the intention of poking and prodding into the intentions and ideas of his newest group, Verminous Serpent. I had an early listening promo and spent nearly two weeks straight listening to it, munching on their blend of bestial black/death metal which draws from the wells of the underground and early adopters aforementioned below… I intended to have this up a month ago, while 'The Malign Covenant' was striking the anvil hot, but life happened and I gulped down a barrage of work and other responsibilities which halted my progress in getting this up. I digress, it was my pleasure delving into this brief conversation with A.A. and I thank him for his time and patience. It shouldn't take more than a few minutes, so read on and educate.

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SHOM) First off, thanks for taking time out of your very involved life to blow some smoke regarding your newest project, Verminous Serpent and the debut album, ‘The Malign Covenant’ out on Amor Fati as of today (while I write this)… Feel free to open this up anyway you'd like.

A.A.) If you like nasty, bestial analog old school black/death metal, go for it… check the link to the album!

SHOM) What is the genesis story of Verminous Serpent, and when and how did this trident of metal veterans come to take its shape?

A.A.) Matt from Malthusian had the idea. He and I were jamming one day during the lockdown, and it came from there. He asked Joey from Slidhr and we started to put things together. No magical mystical meeting, and it took some shape and here we are. 

SHOM) The entirety of ‘The Malign Covenant’ is rife with a primitive and feral energy, sonically the mix of the instruments carries the same weight as a live performance and feels both raw and compelling in the same sense—What was the recording process like on The Malign Covenant? Was there any file trading in the early stages or were most of the decisions fleshed out in person in a rehearsal setting?

A.A.) We rehearsed together, old school. I wont trade files for any band I'm in, and neither are the guys interested in that. Has to be a human process. We hired a good studio, with a live room, went in, set up in the same room, blasted through the album in 2 takes… and used the first. All done in about 4/5 hours maybe. Overdubbed a few guitars and the vocals, mixed it. Done and dusted probably in about 16 hours proper work.

SHOM) Verminous Serpent exists somewhere between the death/black metal canopy—The overarching sound being something unfettered and bestial, do you find a different kind of catharsis in playing this type of sound over some of your other bands? Does this new sound open up different pathways of exploration for you in any creative sense?

A.A.) Not really… my influences for this were the same as they were in 1991/92 starting out with Primordial, we just took a slightly different path. For me it's kinda like returning to where I came from. The catharsis of course exists as we made this in lockdown, its a record full of anger and intensity. The main difference for me is really bass and vocals. I'm always open to creating with new people and in new environments with different goals. Life is short, get busy. 

Photo courtesy of Amor Fati Productions

SHOM) I really enjoyed what came from Blood Revolt—'Indoctrine' exists, in my opinion, as something wholly unique in the space of bestial death metal—Though the "signature" A.A. vocal delivery is still present throughout those songs, did you go into writing everything on 'The Malign Covenant' knowing you were going to explore new territory within your vocals or was it more of a byproduct of what seemed right within the desired tone and sound of Verminous Serpent?

A.A.) Well I knew (we all agreed) it shouldn't have any of my signature vocal sound, and once that was agreed upon… it was just a case of finding this new tone. I took a lot of influence from all the old Brazilian and South American bands, and Eastern European stuff from the late 80's. 

SHOM) This "signature vocal sound" nearly casts a shadow in the closing seconds of the album opener, 'Seraphim Falls', but instead yields to something more primitive and in a higher register. It sounds cool—In the earlier stages of Verminous Serpent were you experimenting with these types of vocal nuances or were you focused on keeping it more orthodox and within the range and influence of the South American and Eastern European stuff of the 80's?

A.A.) Well we all agreed at the beginning that it couldn't be my, what would we call it… signature voice—another band with the same tone, so we had to steer clear of it completely—Yet it also had to not be like my 'brutal' voice in Primordial either, so my intention was to always have this kinda old school obscure old style vocals and after a few experiments I got there. But also to give that tone some diversity as well, mix it up… so it had its own character, and without a doubt also me, but a different side. In the beginning really, we were concentrating on getting the songs together, the vocals weren't really first on the agenda.

SHOM) What were the explored themes and lyrical focus on 'The Malign Covenant'?

Photo Courtesy of Amor Fati Productions

A.A.) Just to set the tone, there is no specific statement being made, they are a texture, but of course dark. They are mainly (vaguely) alluding to religious, medieval occultism, secret societies, etc. But what I also wanted to do was have a flow of words based on the sounds, you might call it Onomatopoeia, a stream of consciousness to convey an overall atmosphere with no real grammatical structure. Which is why on the back of the album the lyrics are all in one long sentence.

SHOM) As a follow-up, could you illuminate the idea behind the album cover?

A.A.) Basically I collect interesting images all the time. I keep them in a folder and when I'm creating something and need an image, you never know, something might make sense… so that's what happened here.

This is if I am not mistaken a pencil drawing created some time in the early 19th century by an artist trying to depict the Black Death coming to the town centuries before. Seemed to make sense.

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This is where we cut it off, short and sweet—No more, no less. If you got to this point, I thank you for keeping the underground lit! Thanks once again to Amor Fati and Alan. A. for taking the time to engage. Give this monster of an album a listen—One of the years best!

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