This Year in Dungeon Synth
As the end of the year approaches, Dungeon Synth is perhaps one of the styles which will not care when its albums are released. I believe that myself and a new acquaintance Boss the Ross from Toilet OV Hell are the only ones doing any sort of end of the year list. I feel in a scene this active and this small, one can perhaps travel towards and objective evaluation of this year in dungeon synth. Before that however, we still need to sort through the pieces of this month and possible all of the albums which are still being released while everyone else is surmising the end of the year. Maybe one day we will reach the level where best of dungeon synth articles are released in the weeks following Thanksgiving. Until then, we must soldier forth with the end of the year before the end of the year.
The New: (New Artists with New Albums)
Dear Lighten Up Sounds. I love how you supply me with DS tapes but equally I love the scope of your label as you bring the icy frontier of sound and texture which leads me into strange sonic wilderness. Рабор’s previous work Источник was released earlier this year by Out of Season, Wulfrune Worxxx, and Flecktarn Productions. Голоса collects three ambient soundscapes dotted by minimal synth made between 2014 and 2016 which exude cold and serene atmospheres. At nearly 40 minutes, Голоса is a triumph of meditation which ties fantasy and folklore in an unyielding knot.
Demos are not uncommon to black metal but they are somewhat of an artifact for dungeon synth as the style is ripe for unfinished works being released without notions of album type. The fact Germany’s Dol Guldur is releasing a demonstration of music under the banner of demo feels oddly novel. The music is a frighteningly competent display of cold ambient accented by things like frozen footsteps and windscapes. Add to this a restrained triumphant ending with choral chants and I am wondering if this is perhaps the greatest find that has been passed over by others. If this is just a demo I am eagerly awaiting more releases from this masked horsemen which appears on the cover.
EDIT: It also appears that Hollow Myths run by the mysterious Canrith Knox is working with this artist for future releases. I want to start a 24 hour DS news channel for breaking news like this.
dhûn means “Alone” in black speech and Nan Morlith is A small set of mountains jutting out eastwards from the Mithram Spur which surrounded the Vale of Fell Beasts. This geography is apart of the non canonical expansions of Middle Earth created for Lord of the Rings RPGs. The Vale of Fell Beasts were supposedly the dwelling place of Nazgul steeds. The dedication to minor and obscure Tolkien themes are the hallmarks of this Irish artist whose work evokes not only the loneliness of mountains that no one knows exists but also the potential dwelling of horrible beats. Quiet and sorrowful, Nan Morlith is a fantastic exploration in an artist who seems to be on a mountain all alone.
Dungeon synth is amazing just for its variety. Though the style is marked by its dedication to bedroom soundscapes, the depth that one person can travel just with simple instruments is astounding. Enter Arathgoth who has spent the last 4 years putting out 9 albums of black metal. Earlier this year, the artist “returned” to dark ambient with Return to the Old Castle. Guardians of the Fall is Arathgoth’s second dungeon synth inspired record with a landscape blazing bright with the foliage of yesteryear. Mournful and wise but still with a regal splendor the soundscapes of Guardians of the Fall invoke wonder and the mystery of a future uncertain.
Den Svarta Landet is another artist whose work is coming in as a demo. If this whole thing is catching on, then I am completely on board. More traditional int he dungeon synth style, Den Svarta Landet’s compositions evoke a feeling of wandering through empty castles which happen to adorn the cover. The music is often time imposing especially on “Widows Lament” whose synths loom like gargoyles over bleak grey skies.
The Old (Recently Featured Artists with New Albums)
Jesus god, this artist. Not only did Fief’s first album make a splash with the dungeon synth crowd but the arrival of the second record a few months later caused panicked exasperations of glee. It is not hard to see why. Not only does this artist explore the light and orchestral side of the genre but the depth and timbre of the music walks a line between professional immersion and homemade charm.
I would like to think that it was my praise of Eltamin Pegase’s previous release za stary królestwa, which ventured from modern classical into dungeon synth, lead the composer to try another album of the same style. Maybe I am just inflating my self worth. Regardless, dąbfaust continues Eltamin Pegase’s long journey into the world of artsy dungeon synth with only fabled reflections as a map.
Remasters are actually not that uncommon for dungeon synth and in fact in this current climate of a new founded interest in this type of music artists are resurrecting older material. While this seems like it could be rehashing, the fact that Skarpseian’s first two records are dovetailed together for a low price for both physical and digital is damn fantastic. Add to this remastering work by Grimmik and the digital bonuses of the seamless mixes offered by Deivlforst Records and one has perhaps a wonderful collector’s edition to a competent composer.
Dwalin (T.A. 2772 – Fo.A. 91) was a Dwarf of the House of Durin. He was, along with his brother Balin, a member of Thorin’s company which took part in the quest for Erebor. Dwalin survived the adventure and lived well into the Fourth Age.
I love Dwalin and have since September of this year when the mysterious French duo released In the Misty Hills Lies a Forgotten Tale. Despite tromping off into the hills of Tolkien lore much like others, Dwalin still manages to inspire wonder and fascination with music that retains a light sensibility but has depths the size of dwarven mines.
The Odd (Fringe Artists)
Oh man…this….this….this is wild and quiet. At 36 minutes, Warden’s Obsidian Realm / Rites of Passage serves as the second and third chapter in a dark ambient odyssey which was begun, apparently as a live ritual As of now there is around 2 hours in the world of The Shadow Kingdom which serves as both the world and also the label supporting not only Warden but acts like Old Tower and Orodruin. There are a lot of questions and not many have answers in this labyrinthine release of hidden knowledge.
Delvok is …well…from New York City. this is about all I know of this artist aside from what seems to the first full length release. The artist seems to have taken the name of a minor name in the Star Trek universe. Delvok was a Vulcan composer and a favorite of Jadzia Dax in Deep Space 9. Aside from that factoid nothing else is really known about this artist. Aside from the mystery, the music of Delvok seems to be a very raw exploration of sound in often times polarizing compositions that could be apart of the ancient world or far reaches of space.
EDIT: What was said previously about Dol Guldur goes for Delvok as Hollow Myths is picking up this artist for future releases. I can not think of a better match.
Angst is a Swedish based darksynth act whose work is similar to the growing outskirts of DS which seem to slope into a valley of 80’s synth. Rather than immerse oneself in the aesthetics of a time periods, Med Hotfulla Hälsningar ( A Swedish salutation) could work in any time period as long as there is adequate dread which looms overhead. Angst, despite having a really weird logo has crafted a chilling EP which does everything it is suppose to and much much more.
Dear Lighten Up Sounds I have decided to end this article with your label as I started it. Why? Because you are strange and represent some killer off kilter music. Overscan is an Australian/Japanese artist who uses synth in an abstract landscape full of memory recall and meditation. Halfway between ambient drone and Kosmische electronics, Time Erases Memory may not fit into the realm of dungeon synth but its work would be of interest to any discerning listener.