Many years ago, rumor has it, two noted personages in the area, Rogahn the Fearless (a fighter of renown) and Zelligar the Unknown (a magic-user of mystery and power) pooled their resources and expertise to construct a home and stronghold for the two of them to use as a base of operations. The location of this hidden complex was chosen with care, since both men disliked visitors and intruders. Far from the nearest settlement, away from traveled routes, and high upon a craggy hill, the new construction took shape. Carved out of the rock protrusion which crested the heavily forested hill, this mystical hideaway was well hidden, and its rumored existence was never common knowledge. Even less well known was its name, the Caverns of Quasqueton. Construction of the new complex, it is said, took over a decade, even with the aid of magic and the work of hundreds of slaves and laborers. Vast amounts of rock were removed and tumbled off the rough cliffs into large piles now overgrown with vegetation. A single tower was constructed above ground for lookout purposes, even though there was little to see other than a hilly, forested wilderness for miles around.
Rogahn and Zelligar lived in their joint sanctuary for quite some time, conducting their affairs from within except for occasional adventures in the outside world where both men attempted to add to their reputations as foremost practitioners of their respective arts. The deeds and adventures of these two characters were never well known, since they both kept their distance from civilization. Some say, and perhaps rightly so, that their motives were based on greed and some kind of vague (or chaotic) evil. No one knows for sure. What is known more widely is the reputation of each. Despite their questionable alignment, both Rogahn and Zelligar capped their reputation of power when they joined forces to stop a barbarian invasion threatening the great valley below. In a crucial battle at a narrow pass in the hills, the two combined powerful forces and decisively turned back the invasion. Rogahn slew a horde of barbarians single-handedly and Zelligar’s powerful magic put their army to flight. A grateful populace rewarded the pair and their henchmen with considerable treasure, after which the two retired to their hideaway. Most of the reward treasure was apparently used to finance the further construction of Quasqueton, although some of it may yet be hidden somewhere. In any case, the hill stronghold was not completed in its entirety when, years later, the intrepid pair apparently embarked on their last adventure.
Some years ago, Rogahn and Zelligar apparently decided upon a joint foray into the lands of the hated barbarians. Taking most of their henchmen and associates along in a great armed band, the two personages disappeared into the forbidding alien lands to the north, far from the hills and forests surrounding Quasqueton. Word just reaching civilization tells of some great battle in the barbarian lands where Rogahn and Zelligar have met their demise. This rumored clash must have occurred some years ago, and there are few details—and no substantiation of the story. The only thing certain is the Rogahn and Zelligar have been gone far too long. If only one had the knowledge and wherewithal to find their hideaway, there would be great things to explore! And who knows what riches of wealth and magic might be there for the taking???
– Dungeon Module B1: In Search of the Unknown (1979) by Mike Carr
Frostveil is noted for the relationship with black metal as the act is an atmospheric black metal band who =occasionaly dabbles in dungeon synth. This connection is important as Frostveil, the black metal act, is already ferocious enough so the foray into dungeon synth and the competency with soft and lush melodies is perhaps more frightening. Antediluvian Majesty is a wonderful and compete work from an artist who has seemed to know the rhythm and culture of dungeon synth long before others. This is an advanced work from someone who spent their time on the other side of those cold mountains.
This is a debut? Really? Wow, I am going to be expecting everything then for any follow up. Out of nowhere comes one of the better debuts of the year with “Dungeon Synth/Medieval inspired music based on the well known fairy tales collected by the Grimm brothers.” Already Isegrimm sets up a rhythm with the themes of dungeon synth but does not go for the most well traveled roads. Both traditional and progressive with its themes, Über Den Sieben Bergen is a mystery which came out of a magic forest almost by surprise to everyone.
At one point, I had a rule about featuring artists too many times. This is one of the times where I will break my rules. Aragonath has already had a productive year with the release of Journey to the Otherworld which was a delightful survey of Celtic lore and mythology. The Cattle Raid of Cooley doubles down on this interest with a full album dedicated to the tale of Táin Bó Cúailnge. The energy and devotion to the source material is almost paltitaple with a record that is both mastered in its themes but also its dreamy melodies.
This release is a demo according to the artist. This is important as it appears by the Bandcamp statement that the material on Of Hope And Fading Glory does not reflect the entirety of Maradon. This is interesting since these 5 tracks are both complete and entrancing to anyone interested in dark and majestic style dungeon synth. Similar to the work of Barak Tor and even Depressive Silence, Of H ope And Fading Glory is the sound of tall lonely mountains which jut out of the landscape and summon cold winds. If this is the beginning I am completely ready for whatever comes next.
Nitlott is from Brazil and by the looks of it, this artist has much to discuss. Not only is the musiisc atmphsperic and dreamy but it seems to be based on a story written by the artist and yet to be released. Tenebris is a fantastic record which even comes with a cover of Grimrik’s 2014 track “Der astrale Ursprung Teil II” with guest vocals from Visions of Ulnahar. If you know who all of those people are, then this record is completely for you since you.
Secluded Alchemist was something that came to me via the dungeon synth compilations. While I knew the name floating around the libraries of dungeon synth, I was taken aback by the sound and competency of the project. Here was dungeon synth cast in minimal tones which recalled both a magical aspect as well as deep melancholy. For a demo, Ruminations Of A Hermit is certainly the right step in a wonderful career.
Dungeon noise is something that is controversial among the small scene of dungeon synth fanatics. The idea is to explore alien sounds within the template of dungeon synth. Vagor even has a banner professing this project as a dungeon noise act. While I am sure other releases are more in line with the idea of dungeon noise, the debut demo is nothing more than a decent dungeon synth release with ragged edges. The melodies songs like of “Dwelling In Enchanted Woods” are fantastic with very little noise in its making. Perhaps this is a new facet of the style.
Moonworshipper Records is wild. From the black metal/noise/DS act Roman Master to the schizophrenic classical project Effluvium to other things that were too scary to even review, this Nebraska based record label is truly frightening with the tone and theme of their releases. Ledrfadir is the new release from this label and as a suprise, it is mild in its disposition. Dark and minimal, this self titled debut is dungeon synth cast out in the freezing cold about to develop frostbite. Perhaps the truly frightening part is such a reserved release being surrounded by monstrous noise which makes me more cautious of the one that is smiling in the corner offering friendship.
While it is no longer on the Bandcamp page, this album came with a slight self deprecating note that these melodies were the start of project and perhaps nto very good. I initially found this note humorous as the world of digital releases comes with a sometimes very frank informal presence. Entering the Dungeon is certainly not a polished release and by the quick album art which grabs on of the Dungeons and Dragons art as well as the Old English font, Trolkar certainly has the air of someone finding their way. This is all evident until you hear the simple yet hypnotic melodies. As someone who has heard albums consisting of bare synth lines, this is certainly not the worst. In fact, Entering the Dungeon, for what it is, was surprisingly entertaining than originally thought. Both complete and entrancing, Trolkar has many miles to go but with already a good bit traveled.
I enjoy seeing dungeon synth albums from black metal artists as it seems like we are entering another age where the two styles are forming a close relationship. Homo Novus is no the first dungeon synth release but it is the most complete. While still sketchy and rough, the pathways drawn by Urangst form interesting trails through the dark forests of the sound. Perhaps both the raw black and dungeon synth side from this project will continue in 2017.
Gatekeper is interesting since it is a project that composes video game music from video games that never existed. Germani Manga is an entire selection of overworld, town, and dungeon music for a game that sounds like it would be popular 10 years ago. Both nostalgic and current, Gatekeeper leans on a more global sound of ambient and new age to make fantasy music into something much more cosmopolitan. Perhaps this game will never be made nor did it ever intend to be. What we get is a fantastic soundtrack to a world created by the composer.
Is it time to get weird? It is time to get weird. Bastard’s Prison is the first release by Snarling Clearing which was followed by two more albums. I have yet to step into those as the debut from Snarling Clearing is a ruminating nightmare of dark ambient that I do not know if Ill ever get out of here alive.
As pr usual, the selections at the end of each digest delve into some weird territory. This may come as a surprise when listening to Winterblood as the sound on Waldeinsamkeit is quite melodic. It is only after realizing that the melodies construct an hour long ambient soundscape that you realize that this wintery wonderland has no exit and you are slowly freezing to death. Both mournful and dreamy, Waldeinsamkeit is a triumph in the sub genre of cold yet magical music for dying alone in an icy dream.
Fuck yeah, this is weird. I love weird and Embers of Tara is my type of weirdness. Imagine the theme music to haunting ghosts as they hold trea parties in some decrepit parlor locked away inside some abandoned house long forgotten because of tragedies too sad to remember. This is in no way party music, nor anything you pass along to loved ones. This is music which drains the lifeforce from the listener until they are sitting along side the others at that eternal tea party.
Do you now the weirdest part about this album? It is not the haunting almost formless shadow of music which creeps across the landscape like the fog of death. No, the stragnest and perhaps most horrid thing about this album is the seemingly innocuous Bandcamp page and album art. For a record this detached from melody and anything warm, the unassuming presentation of the album is something truly frightening. What is someone picks this up thinking its an indie rock album? What then? They are dead. All joking aside, The Western Lands is so far down the path of strange that only fans ready for music that sounds like it is silently conjuring hexes will be even ready to appreciate it.
“The tower of the tyrant is not a treasure trove. It is a test of strength. Legend has it that those who can reach the top are ensured eternal glory. However, none have ever advanced beyond the first floor, guarded by the sorcerer and his ferocious serpent. Many flee at once, while many others die in vain, attempting to defeat the invincible duo. Do not throw away your life. Turn back while you still can.” Einhorn releases are something I have featured multiple times throughout this digest. Even past the subject of derisive dungeon noise is an artist continuing to make fantasy based releases the way they want to without much of a care for what many think. The Sorcerer and the Seprent is the second chapter in what seems to be a large book of a hellish adventure.