DUNGEON SYNTH DIGEST #1

Forgotten Pathways / Magic Forest Tales / Forgotten Kingdoms

Forgotten Pathways / Magic Forest Tales / Forgotten Kingdoms

Previous Material

Kaptain Carbon’s Reddit post on Dungeon Synth

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Review: Masmorra Zine #1

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This is the first section of what could hopefully become a lifetime series, Dungeon synth is a dark ambient sub-genre of black metal in which solo artists make synth-laden fantasy landscapes, offering deep escapism to both the listener and creator. It is a style of music that I only recently found and has since enveloped my entire existence. A month ago I reviewed first issue of the Masmorra Dungeon Synth zine. Since then, other artists playing the same type of music have contacted this site asking for reviews. It would be silly to shut this heavy wooden door on this growing genre. I am going to take up this walking stick and make my way through the wild, wandering hills of dungeon synth. Some of the roads may be treacherous, while others a pleasant walk through sleepy fields. I may never come back. Continue reading

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POWERWOLF – Blessed & Possessed

Powerwolf - Blessed & Posessed (2015)

Powerwolf – Blessed & Posessed (2015)

POWERWOLF
Album: Blessed & Possessed
Released: July 17th 2015
Label: Napalm Records
Website: Official
Score: 7/9 Hammers

Your reaction to the name Powerwolf will tell you more than enough about whether the band is for you. If you hear “Powerwolf” and think “stupid tacky nonsense” then that’s more than likely going to be your response to the music. However, if you’re the sort of person whose response is more along the lines of “Shit yeah! Fucking wolves with power and shit!” then that’s a good sign. Basically, Powerwolf as a band has lived and dies on their audience’s ability to just fucking roll with whatever awesome nonsense they throw out without overthinking it.

The thing you’re not thinking about is their frankly ludicrous theme. As themes go there’s far worse than vampires, werewolves and odd, quasi-Christian weirdness, though perhaps all at once might seem a little like overkill. In Powerwolf’s case, it does. Lyrics are a confusing mess of vaguely religious, vaguely gothic cliché and, thanks to all that vagueness, it’s never quite clear where everything fits together. “Dead until Dark” is a particularly mystifying example, whose lyrics come fast enough, and on the tails of such high quality soloing that you barely have the time to register them, let alone figure out what the song is about. It’s catchy as hell, sure, but if somebody asks you what it is that’s “Dead until Dark” as you hum to yourself, you’re not going to have a fucking clue. Continue reading

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game review – APOTHEON

Apotheon (2015)

Apotheon (2015)

APOTHEON
Developer: Alien Trap Games
Released: Febuary 3rd, 2015
Website: Official
Score: 7/9 Hammers

Apotheon is the story of an ancient Greek warrior who, finding his country betrayed by the gods, goes forth to seek justice via a raid on Mount Olympus. It’s not the most original considering this is basically the only plot we know how to tell with Greek heroics and it might also sound a lot like God of war on paper (Any/all of them. Each new iteration is a love letter to the find/replace tool) but the way it succeeds is because it tells it in a different way.

Though not a new one, admittedly. This is Metroidvania all the way to its ancient, blasphemous heart, complete with vertically based 2D levels, weapon pickups, and the occasional giant bastard with a single, tiny weak spot that you’ll have to find novel ways to poke him in. Continue reading

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ANACHRONAEON – The Oracle and the Keyholder

Anachronaeon - The Oracle and the Keyholder (2015)

Anachronaeon – The Oracle and the Keyholder (2015)

ANACHRONAEON
Album: The Oracle and the Keyholder
Released: February 12th 2015
Label: Stygian Crypt Productions
Website: Official
Score: 8/9 Hammers

Swedish Death Metal. Now, that’s a phrase with a fucking lineage. Those three words and suddenly you’ve got yourself a pretty good idea of what to expect; electric guitars played with incredible technical skill, viciously guttural, almost Black Metal vocals, and long songs exploring just what it’s like to be a Viking warrior lost, far from home, with only his father’s war axe for company.

Except nobody told Anachronaeon about the last one. Their lyrics have the intimate touch, though they’re still somehow sung with the same grizzled corpse-growl. It’s a little odd to start with because all the other elements are there in full force and our hero, despite sounding like he’s singing through a throat made of magma and broken glass, concerns himself with a strictly human interests. The result is more than a little disconcerting at first, like attending couples therapy with a balrog. This is the first of their albums I’ve listened to, a fact I have nobody to blame for but myself. Your experience may vary, ect. but it took me by surprise in a way Death Metal rarely does. Like stumbling into a forest to find a group of Middle Earth dwarves chatting about legislative loopholes in Erebor’s iron tax. Continue reading

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AMIENSUS – Ascension

Amiensus - Ascension (2015)

Amiensus – Ascension (2015)

AMIENSUS
Album: Ascension
Released: July 1st 2015
Label: Independant
Website: Facebook
Score: 9/9 Hammers

Calling Amiensus a band feels a little dismissive. Your average band stops recruiting at around five members, one for each major metal foodgroup, but at five Amiensus was just getting started. As of this album, they’ve five credited guitarists, four vocalists, three keyboardists, two drummers and one (presumably very lonely) bassist. Sure, they’ve managed to cram all this into only seven people, but nowhere does that detract from the incredible sense of depth all this talent imbues within their music. In the same way that an orchestra would only become more impressive if it were just one woman playing every instrument from within a spiderweb of pulleys, Amiensus is no less impressive for its efficiency.

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VIRGIN STEELE – Nocturnes of Hellfire and Damnation

Virgin Steele (2015)

Virgin Steele – Nocturnes of hellfire and Damnation (2015)

VIRGIN STEELE
Album: Nocturnes of hellfire and Damnation
Released: June 17nd 2015
Label: SPV gmbh
Website: Official
Score: 4/9 Hammers

Virgin Steele was at its best when it was new. Back in the 80’s they were a sort of Manowar-lite; a full bodied, classic metal group who thought nothing of creating direct sequels to their own albums and soundtracks to imaginary movies. In some ways they’ve never changed, and a quick listen to anything they’ve ever released brings to mind the strong, heady stink of the eighties. They call it “romantic barbarism” which to me sounds like something a tweed jacketed poet might complain about if he found crumbs in his jam, and jammy crumbs in his butter, but a quick spin will tell you this isn’t the case. They’ve nothing in common with the Decemberists, a group of what I’d call romanticists. Rather, these are a bunch of metallers who burn swords on stage, there’s nothing spectacularly romantic about them.

There’s a few things you’ll immediately notice if you’ve never heard them before. Beautiful riffs, enchanting melodies, the soul of eighties metal (as perfect as a neon unicorn) in the powerful instrumental work.

And then frontman David DeFeis opens his mouth.

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game review: MASSIVE CHALICE

Massive chalice (2015)

Massive chalice (2015)

MASSIVE CHALICE
Developer: Double Fine
Released: June 1st, 2015
Website: Official
Score: 5/9 Hammers

I want to like Double Fine games. I really do. They’ve got some of the best ideas in the industry and a history of producing fun (if misunderstood) games that transcend genre and convention, all while telling a damn fine story. Psychonauts, Brutal Legend and Costume Quest are all quirky greats and, while none of them are perfect, there’s enough wit and charm to outweigh any technical imperfections. I want to, but damn do they make it hard sometimes.

Massive Chalice (aside from sounding like a particularly mucky euphemism) is their latest release, emerging recently from that troublesome pit known as early access. Continue reading

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LUCA TURILLI – Prometheus, Symphonia Ignis Divinus

Luca Turilli's Rhapsody - Prometheus, Symphonia Ignis Divinus (2015)

Luca Turilli’s Rhapsody – Prometheus, Symphonia Ignis Divinus (2015)

LUCA TURILLI’s RHAPSODY
Album: Prometheus, Symphonia Ignis Divinus
Released: June 19th, 2015
Label: Nuclear Blast Records
Website: Facebook
Score: 4/9 Hammers

I believe I gasped a little when I found out Luca Turilli was coming out with a new album. I would probably do this for anything related to the house of Rhapsody. Before I get into this review, I would like to note that I will be making multiple mentions of another band that sort of shares the same name, Rhapsody of Fire. This is another band from whence Luca Turilli’s Rhapsody was born. I will also mention that I will be using flowery language befitting of the more obscure JRR Tolkien writings for this review.

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OMEN – Battle Cry (1984)

Omen - Battle Cry (1984)

Omen – Battle Cry (1984)

OMEN
Album: Battle Cry
Released: November 1984
Label: Metal Blade Records
Website: MA Page

Score: 8/9 Hammers

“In the days of darkness, men feared not the sword and the lance, Nor did he fear the beast of fire… He feared… The Axeman!!”

The 4th of July is a wonderful time to gather with friends, drink in other people’s yards, and spin classic American heavy metal records. While all of those things may not happen exactly as I want them to, this weekend should be used to make your way through a time when power metal was an American invention, before Europe made it into what it is today. United States Power Metal (USPM) has a wonderful history that has been touched upon briefly in my other reviews of Manowar and Cirith Ungol. I believe that Omen will be the first time we get serious with speed and power of the sound.

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OBSEQUIAE – Aria of Vernal Tombs

Obsequiae - Aria of Vernal Tombs (2015)

Obsequiae – Aria of Vernal Tombs (2015)

OBSEQUIAE
Album: Aria of Vernal Tombs
Released: May 26th, 2015
Label: 20 Buck Spin
Website: Facebook
Score: 7/9 Hammers

Though categorizing Obsequiae is seemingly easy, fully understanding this US black metal band, who has devoted themselves fully to a medieval aesthetic, may take some time. Okay, I got it. This is a black metal band with a harp. Got it. It is half way through the year and on various lists, a strange name has continued to appear, followed by what sounded like murmurings echoing off a ruined castle. In the highlands of Minnesota sit three musicians who are ready to bridge the time gap between past and present with the lush sound of harp intros.

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book review: MASMORRA #1 – A Dungeon Synth Zine

MASMORRA #1 - A Dungeon Synth Zine

MASMORRA #1 – A Dungeon Synth Zine

MASMORRA #01
First Published: March 2015
Publisher: Romulo
Score: 7/9 Hammers

This year I have talked a lot about Dungeon Synth. An absurd amount to be precise. I think I have talked about Dungeon Synth more than other genre at my first acquaintance with them. This all happened because I stumbled upon Erang, which led me to his private Facebook group, which led me to multiple albums of ambient electro medieval music, which led to the short stories and maps, which led me down farther into this weird cavern of wonder. All of this led me to seek out more material, which included labels and blogs, which eventually led to the zines. Perhaps it is because this genre is still obscure and followed by a small group of devoted fans of this fantasy ambient music. Perhaps it is just the fantasy aspect combined with the overbearing sense of nerdniness. Whatever it is, I love it.

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An Obituary for Sir Christopher Lee

"To be a legend, you've either got to be dead or excessively old!"

“To be a legend, you’ve either got to be dead or excessively old!”

It is difficult to be a part of the fantasy and metal community and write a memorial for Christopher Frank Carandini Lee for many reasons. First of all, it is slightly emotional since the longtime actor and musician has been a part of both fantasy and metal culture for quite some time. Aside from making his own silly metal records, Lee provided the voice for Rhapsody’s introductions, primarily as the role of the Wizard King on the 2002 record Symphony of Enchanted Lands II. Additionally, the actor is perhaps best known for his role as Saruman in Peter Jackson’s’ Lord of the Rings Trilogy. Lee’s death earlier this month left many people in a state of both sadness and remembrance for the variety of roles and appearances he has made over the past decade.

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CAIN’S OFFERING – Stormcrow

Can's Offering - Stormcrow

Can’s Offering – Stormcrow

CAIN’S OFFERING
Album: Stormcrow
Released: May 15th 2015
Label: Frontiers
Website: Facebook
Score: 8/9 Hammers

I’ve never understood super groups. I mean, of course I understand the coming together of a group of fantastic musicians to form a great, new whole, but surely that’s what all bands are? Insisting that your group is superior (and what else does the word “super” insist?) simply because you’re all already successful seems a little big smug, especially if you consider just how few of them are any bloody good.

This is one of the many things Cain’s Offering do differently. A simple merging of Timo Kotipelto of Stratovarius fame and Jani Liimatainen of Sonata Arctica, they’re what often gets labelled Euro power metal, though the association with power metallers Europe doesn’t exactly do them justice. Theirs is a grand type of power metal, with big sweeping solos and Timo’s operatic stylings coming together for an immediately enjoyable triumphant score. While 2009’s Gather the Faithful had something of melancholic undertone, this is purely celebratory, a big dumb celebration anything and everything, with some gratuitous soloing to give it a little thunder.

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metal history: THE VARANGIANS

Holmgard and beyond / That's where the winds will us guide /  For fame and for gold / Set sail for those lands unknown

Holmgard and beyond / That’s where the winds will us guide /
For fame and for gold / Set sail for those lands unknown

THE VARANGIANS
Source: Wikipedia
Key Dates: 700 – 1200 AD

History is filled with tons of drama, blood, gore, and probably more blood. It is no wonder that heavy metal draws on history as inspiration for some of the greatest songs of all time. I can really only highlight one example, but suffice to say, history is filled with badasses, archvillians, and crazy stories. Just turn a Ken Burn’s documentary on and crank up the tunes!

The Varangian was the name given to a group of river vikings that ruled the Kievan Rus’ (modern day east Russian Federation) and developed trade routes from Scandinavia to the Byzantine Empire. The Varangians offered their mercenary service to the Byzantine empire and even comprised an elite group of bodyguards of important byzantine officials. Who wouldn’t feel safe with a group of river vikings wielding axes by your side? The Varangians served as the impetus for trade disputes, wars, and cultural sharing that bridged the east and west through goods and services. They were also the source of inspiration for the Easterlin in Tolkien’s middle earth and a platform for a dozen games, albums, and fantasy novels. Continue reading

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