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Serpents Oath's Tes Re Oth: "Over decades I have walked on my own individual path and that obviously has formed me as a person. Hence it feels only natural to use that in my lyrics as it is deeply personal…"

Interview with Tes Re Oth from Serpents Oath
by Lior "Steinmetal" Stein at 24 July 2022, 9:50 PM

It is about the approach, and how to perceive things. It has always been intriguing of why people believe in what they put their trust into, on a spiritual manner. To not question but to accept as if it is a fact of life, sometimes blindly, may as well be a cause to think about it in depth. Free will is something that people have in most of the modern world, but when it comes to belief, or faith for that manner, at times there is a sort of ban from questioning and judging differently. Raising the bar for the ultimate thought pattern struggle, there is Serpents Oath. The band's new album "Ascension" tells quite the story of a raging Heaven. Steinmetal had to know more about questioning and the story through the band's vocalist, Tes Re Oth.

Greetings Tes Re Oth, I hope that this interview finds you well, it is good to have you for this interview for Metal Temple online Magazine, how have you been?

As we have just released our second album, things couldn’t be better. With live concerts also being on the menu again, the future is looking on fire!

There has been a lot going on in the world, times of desperation, but also a glimmer of eventually, that there is a way out of the situation, even if not in a perfect way. How have the last two and half years affected your mentality, your perception of reality?

I have used the time on the one side to reflect on what is truly important but then also make the necessary changes to follow that path. I decided to focus on what we could do instead of what we couldn’t. The major part of that is Serpents Oath, so immediately after the first album “Nihil” was released, we used that period to start working on finding a full line up and writing new material.

At the beginning of this wretched pandemic Serpents Oath issued its debut album, signed to the Dutch Soulseller Records. While setting your foundation, as a Black Metal band with a lot to prove, restrictions became part of ordinary life. In your view, what was the influence on the band members at the period of time?

In the beginning it meant that our debut album was released later as initially everybody thought it would be over after a couple of months. As it became clear that this wasn’t going to be the case, the album was unleashed upon mankind. The main obstacle however was that it meant we couldn’t promote our first album live. To us that is where the essence lies, during a live concert sharing the energy with the audience. Since live concerts weren’t possible because of Covid restrictions, we immediately continued creating new music after the first album. Then with the addition of 2 new members the fire burned even brighter. We meet up several times per week to create music and discuss different topics. That modus operandi meant that we now have a new album to be unleashed unto the world.

More or less continuing the story of the previous album, “Nihil”, the next chapter of the Serpents Oath legacy just arrived. Titled “Ascension”, as if tagging along with Lucifer on his way to become the next divine thing. What is your take on this title?

On the first album, this vision of rebellion was represented in the cover art. It showed the first rebellion, Lucifer that leads the War in Heaven. Only this time the outcome is different, and the rebellion succeeds, visualized by Lucifer casting out the Arch Angel Michael and therefore a perfect representation of the ultimate victory of free will.

The new artwork shows the next chapter of that rebellion. Lucifer has now stormed the Throne of God only to find it empty and thus ascends to become his own God. The title ‘Ascension’ refers to this journey of becoming your own God. And indeed it also refers to the journey of the band as we continue to ascend to our own Black Metal Throne.

Becoming your own God, well that is a powerful phrase I have to add. It is providing a sense of nihilism into our way of life, crossing into a variety of aspects to prove that point. In your perspective, what is for a person to gain by becoming his own God? Why do you think that people need divine intervention in the first place, so to speak?

The vision behind the band is one of transformation. This shines through first and foremost in the lyrics and is carried through in the cover art and supported by the music. The transformation is that of an individual striving to become transhuman with the ultimate goal of beating even Death. This is the ultimate rebellion as even Death is not accepted as a given. That is the entire idea of becoming your own God in charge of your fate, you don’t need to rely on any divine intervention.

Adding another layer to the entire album’s atmosphere is the band’s career, and it’s going up the ladder of the genre. What is that line that you are connecting between the story of Lucifer’s and his will to become God, and the present and future of the band?

The reason we used Lucifer on the artwork is because he is the best symbol of rebellion or free will and willing to fight for it. This theme of rebellion is also present in the second piece of art that is called „Lilith Rising“. With this piece we wanted to showcase the female arch rebel, the one that had everything in paradise but refused to lead a subservient life. Not only has she embraced the Serpent within, it is now one with her.

In that way, it is symbolic for our approach as a band as well. On the one hand we follow our own path and approach everything from a perspective if it is right for us. On the other hand, we always strive to be better tomorrow than we are today and thus reach our own ascension as a band.

Other than the rejection of other beliefs, in particular religions, do you perceive that “Ascension” is a concept record that portrays the entire picture on Lucifer’s striving to the throne? In your view, is there an actual flowing story?

Lucifer is used symbolically as a representation of that striving for free will purely on the art. Lyrically that vision of transformation is the overall red thread that runs through the majority of the songs as well. So here it is not a description of Lucifer’s story but written from a personal point of view. As such it is not a concept album by definition, however as there is a strong vision behind the band, there will always be a red thread connecting the releases, as it all about rising above yourself to transcend the mortal barriers.

In the matter of your belief systems, does this album, in overall, sit well with you? How do you grasp the ideas going on within the songs, mostly I mean the lyrical basis that has its own special kind of charm?

There is no point in singing about it if you don’t practice it. On a subconscious level, the discerning listener will hear the difference. The vision I already explained above but it is clear that the guiding line behind everything is that of personal experience. My involvement in the Dark Arts has been just as long as my involvement in extreme metal music. Over decades I have walked on my own individual path and that obviously has formed me as a person. Hence it feels only natural to use that in my lyrics as it is deeply personal. Most of the lyrics have several layers which will only be recognized fully by certain initiates however if it stimulates someone to dig deeper, all the better. I approach the Dark Arts in a very practical manner and use it in my everyday life. The aim is for my work on the Nightside to leave footprints in the Day. To summarize this in a couple of lines isn’t possible but suffice to say: test everything, believe nothing!

Throughout my listening to “Ascension”, I felt the true meaning of persistence and the majestic nature of protecting a burning flame. Sure, there are vast old school driven Metal bands out there, but when it comes to the second wave of Black Metal, it occurred to me that Serpents Oath has a strong saying. How do you find your musical progress, going forward on “Ascension”?

We were very satisfied with our debut album, so it was more a question of fine tuning instead of changing things. Having said that when we were in the studio this time round, we also had quite a few guitar lead parts ready to be recorded. However, after recording some of them, we noticed that this time they were distracting from the brutal essence that was the basis of the songs. Hence we actually discarded quite a few of those planned lead recordings making this album an even more devastating affair.

In contrast to the debut record era, Serpents Oath became a fivesome, after being a trio for several years. Usually, there is a reason why trios remain solid, as there is less probability for someone to ditch the ship as it sails. What were the advantages of Serpent Oath that you thought about that made you add two new members?

As the aim always was to perform our music live, we embarked on a search for a full line up as soon as the first album was recorded. We went through a lot of candidates to find Baelus and Mørkald. It is always tricky since you are looking for members that are not only technically up to the challenge and into the music but stand firmly behind the vision of the band.  When you then find the individuals that bring this spirit to the table (and believe me, we had a lot of candidates that were not up to the challenge) it gives the band extra fire. The addition of new members gives another evolution to the original entity. In the end this then results in an output that is even more devastating than before.

Adding a bass player and a guitarist to the fold took their toll from the band, and for the better. What can you share about the contributions of the new members, their influences and their perception of the essence of Serpents Oath?

Daenum, guitar player from day one, brings the majority of the music to the table. On the first album he brought those ideas into the rehearsal room where, together with Draghul on drums and myself on vocals, we shaped these into the songs you hear on the album. We had already started the same process for the next album and had about 5 songs ready. The new members then contributed more in the final 3. However, having then, the possibility to play the first 5 songs with a second guitar and a bass in the rehearsal room, you start to already add some extra layers and fine tune ideas that you couldn’t do before. Hence even those songs were brought to the next level.

The fact that we live in the vicinity of each other and get together several times per week to play music and discuss a variety of topics has had a major influence as well. It has meant that we have established a unique bond as we have become more than the sum of our parts. It also meant that musically we got aligned very quickly and could test out new ideas immediately and keep new music flowing.  Spending that much time together not only means that you get attuned to each other but also that you keep pushing each other to constantly improve. Our vision of transformation also applies to that: tomorrow you should be a better version of yourself than today. Just like the Serpent that sheds its skin and a new version emerges, so have we evolved and that evolution you can hear on the new album.

Continuing with the comparison to “Nihil”, which elements of your music received more focus this time around? 

When you have a clear vision of what the band stands for, the rest has to follow. It is also a case of not being satisfied with something being just ‘good’. This attitude we bring in all aspects of Serpents Oath as we strive for only the best. So we kept refining that until you get to a point where it is clear that you have left all mediocrity behind. We then apply that consequently throughout the process. This means we have to invest more but in the end it represents Serpents Oath, so we don’t compromise.

Let’s talk about the songwriting phase of “Ascension”, what can you share about what was made differently in contrast to the debut album? What lessons of the past were implemented as the songwriting process progressed?

When working on these songs in particular we had a live environment in mind. That was also a result of being able to play it “live” with 5 members in the rehearsal room. We could test out what worked for us and what didn’t. This was a great filtering process and actually meant we cut down on some material as well. The end goal was to make songs that would take you by the scruff of your neck and wouldn’t let go.

When it comes to influences surrounding “Ascension”, what came through your mind while writing the songs? How did you base your vision of the music for the album, with regards to what drove you to write?

Right from the start we just played the music that we wanted to play and have a strong connection to. The source of that is probably situated in 90’s Black Metal since we experienced it first hand in that period. So although we aren’t directly influenced by any particular bands, the fact that we create music that harks back to that same era, probably means that it is bound to have Scandinavian influence in it. In the end, it doesn’t matter where a band comes from, as long as the music and intent is pure and delivers a punch in the face.

With two albums under your belt, what can you tell about what you learned from the experience? What are you taking with you from the sessions up until the release of the album?

It is clear that this is a growing process. With 5 members now fully on board we can create all the music from that new base. The vision has only been reinforced even if you can see some other influences shining through in the new material. We can’t wait to continue on this path and share the next evolution of Serpents oath with you.

Continuing your relationship from the debut album, Andy Classen sure made it happen for you guys once again, as the sound of Serpents Oath on “Ascension” blasts the early 90s with authority, but with a slightly cleaner direction. What do you make of the engineering work done for the record?

Sound wise it had to retain that aggression that was found on the first album and hence we teamed up with Andy Classen again to deliver that punishing result. Apart from knowing how to deliver a fitting sound and getting the best out of every member whilst recording, he also really got into the music and started thinking with us on what would work best. Especially vocally he encouraged me to get out of my comfort zone and deliver it all. Although he might be subtle in his suggestions, it happens throughout the entire process:  from preproduction (does the tuning of the guitar work for the music?), recording (ensuring that we all do different takes with some small nuances), mixing (providing several test versions) to mastering (obviously a separate one just for vinyl). He thus not only ensured that we received that crushing sound but that the songs themselves fulfilled all of their potential. He was on one wave length with us and when, at the end of the day, you notice him humming your songs, you know you are on to something strong.

When “Summoning The Ancients” crash landed into my ears, it was like reliving the first few times I listened to the Scandinavian driven Black Metal at a younger age. Nonetheless, not everything is crossing through storms with blast beats, I felt there was more content. What is your opinion about the track? What do you make of the impact that it made on letting the listener slide into your world?

Ultimately you want to give the listeners the chance to get a good taste of what they can expect from the new album. So we picked 3 diverse songs that illustrate the variety of the album. We choose “Summoning the Ancients” as the first single since it shows this variety within the song itself. It has that fierceness but also has moments where the speed is reduced to allow the build up for a threatening atmosphere. On the lyrical side I share one of my personal rituals with the listener. It describes that part of the occult ritual titled "calling of the 4 winds". It is an invitation for the Ancients Gods to join in true Communion. It is not only a summons of their presence but is also a general announcement to them of your intentions. As such this song is imbued with their power and will leave you rattled after hearing it.

Looking into 2022, or better said its remainder, how does your schedule look in order to support the new album properly? Are you scheduled for festivals?

Luckily concerts have indeed started again without any restrictions. To be able to do that again is extremely liberating. The energy that we received from the audience has been immense. It is what keeps you pushing for more and as such becomes part of that transformative process. In the end that is what the aim of extreme music is, to be played live with an audience that loses themselves, as that is what lifts you to another plane. Nothing compares to that. Take all the live streams that you want, they cannot capture that energy on film. You have to be present in order to experience it. How else can you smell the incense, taste the blood in the air and feel the warmth of the flame on your skin? Only in a live environment does this music truly come alive. Come join us when you have the chance!

Tes Re Oth, I wish to thank you for your time and effort on this interview, and thank you for the experience of an old school Black Metal album, well-made work. Cheers

Thank you for the opportunity to let your readers know more about Serpents Oath and for your kind word on our new album. For those that haven’t listened to it yet, check it out and form your own opinion, because in the end “Believe nothing, test everything!”



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