Down Into the Dungeon and Off To the Crusades
Dungeon Synth as a genre can explore many different facets of history and fantasy. With acts like Verminaard we can dive deep into the pool of Dragonlance and with Chaucerian Myth, we can read pages of century old text, but with Soltri we are taken to the time of the Knights Templar and their unfortunate demise.
While I would normally treat you to a collection of Dungeon Synth releases, I got caught up in this album and its story and for the sake of everyone’s sanity, thought it best to leave you with one. – BtR
Cursed Kings, Soltri’s second release since December’s Excerpts already shows the artist growing in a direction of overarching storytelling and more unified musical themes. Whereas Excerpts was a rough gathering of influences, atmosphere, and was thrown together under rough production, Cursed Kings is concise, grand and sounds like a well-seasoned Dungeon Synth artist. Soltri begins graciously with opening track “The Glory of the Templars” depicting, with the use of regal melodies and triumphant drums, a once mighty and glorified order of knights. Here, we understand the artist’s reverence towards these ancient men of the cross and the Templar’s history.
Unfortunately, as history shows us, the Templar’s time was doomed and with the second track “The Fall of Acre” we begin the downward spiral and the conspiring that led to the decline of the order. The Siege of Acre took place is 1291 and was an event that marked a severe loss for the Crusaders. Following this tragedy, no further attempts were made to control the Holy Land. Though many plans were discussed, none would come to fruition. With that in mind, you can picture the siege as Soltri weaves battle horns into melancholic melodies of defeat. The melancholic tone turns even darker, however, as we begin the next track “The Arrest of the Templars.”
In 1307, King Philip IV gave the order to arrest all members of this sacred Order and for their lands to be seized. On the morning of Friday, October 13th these commands were executed, leaving the Knights Templar in vast disarray. Soltri, once again, brings emotion to the forefront of his music. Being most relevant in the ominous and rhythmic drum work combined with eerie atmospheric passages atop the already menacing refrain. And if that track wasn’t haunting enough for you, Soltri holds back nothing as he plunges deep into the darkest of times in the Crusader’s story with “The Execution of Jacques de Molay.” Molay had led as the 23rd Grand Master of the Knights Templar from 1292 until their arrest in 1307. Following that fateful date, he would stand trial until the nightfall of March 18th, 1314, which after much deliberation, he was sentenced to burn at the stake with two of his peers. Building upon the already evocative drumming, Soltri incorporates a snare roll to relay the doom of Molay’s death.
From here, we enter the next chapter in Soltri’s tale as we come upon the eponymous track “Cursed Kings.” The artist takes his time to create an interlude that not only acts as a breather from the dreariness of the previous track, but also to describe the coming events. After the dissolution of the Order, King Philip IV returned to his life as a noble, however, on November 29th, 1314, a mere 8 months after Molay’s sentencing, he died. “The Death of Philip IV” is a solemn, repetitive dirge that depicts the slow passing of Philip IV due to a cerebral ictus he sustained from a hunting injury. At the time, many legends surrounded this event and correlations were made between Molay’s death and his own, some people going so far as to claim justice had been delivered and that he was, in fact, “cursed.”
In the 14 years that followed, the king’s title was passed down to his sons, all of whom expired at a young age. This notion of “Cursed Kings” had been fully realized, and harkening back to the previous track, one can hear the sorrow and doom that Soltri emphasizes with a slow, menacing drone note and dreary melodies. Cursed Kings does not end on a low note, however, as “Eternal Light of Chivalry” begins we can hear the adoration return. Bright tones and uplifting synth melodies begin to awaken this age-old tradition and code once more within the world. Soltri beckons back to the ancient order and their noble foundation once more on this final track and sends off his debut album with grandeur.
While this has not been my utmost favorite Dungeon Synth release of the year, the heart that Soltri puts into his music is very commendable and I can find very little fault here from a songwriting perspective. One qualm I do have, though this could be strictly the Bandcamp load, a few of the songs seem to cut off abruptly just a few seconds sooner than they should for a seamless album. That being said, I am very much looking forward to the prospect of a physical release from this artist and their future releases.
Support Soltri at their official Bandcamp page.