Down Into The Dungeon: First of Twenty-Twenty
Quite the time has once again lapsed between now and last we scoured the vastness of the dungeon labyrinth. So once again we shall keep this short and simple. For there is much to see, and far more to
Old Sorcery – Strange And Eternal
A project of Warmoon Lord’s Vechi Vrajitor, Old Sorcery hits the perfect spot between complexity and simplicity. Long and carefully constructed songs intersperse with shorter and busier ones, though it is often in the lengthier ones where the complexity has a chance to rear its head. The album is based on a foundation of dungeon synth from the time of its very beginning, but adds modern undertones and contains Visa Tikka’s poem “Tulessa Uinuva Kuningas” read by the man himself. Old Sorcery is quickly carving a niche of its own, from what was already a very small and unique niche.
Ekthelion – Under A Mournful Moon
This is the last part of Ekthelion’s “macabre trilogy”, and the first to feature no contributions from Prince Losdir. Seemingly inspired by a fictionalized version of Vlad II Drakul (known as the father of Dracula) and his devastation of the Ottoman armies, there are plentiful references to witches, mournful moons, ripped out souls, blood and other imagery associated with vampires, though it lacks confirmation whether Under a Mournful Moon is Dracula-themed, or simply Drakul themed. The music is appropriately dark and dramatic, sometimes accompanied by distant percussion, but mostly built on straightforward synth-lines with enough layering to distinguish Ekthelion from the endless hordes of two-penny, no-effort artists by sound alone, but not enough to add any specific depth to the arrangements. However, it does create a mirror between the clearer and murkier tones and the organ-like sounds used for flair. All in all an enjoyable, darker, dungeon synth release, even if there’s still quite a way to be made towards excellence.
Tarkin Turfer – Old Finnbar Furrorbrow
A personal favourite from the last few years, Tarkin Turfer is a stylistic representative of many things in dungeon synth that I do not often end up liking, but one that has always made its parts work, becoming more than their sum. Old Finnbar Furrowbrow improves upon practically everything and broadens the palette with which Jon Dexter paints, yet keeps the instantly recognizable sound of bountiful but simple percussion, almost dominating basslines and the often simplistic, interwoven and quickly cycling key motifs intact. The compositional finesse has hit a new peak, the tones have a constant air of otherworldy adventure to them and especially the horn sounds are on point. A new high for Tarkin Turfer that should attract even a few people who weren’t into his earlier material.
Druadan Forest – Dismal Spells from the Dragonrealm
Originally active in the late 90’s, Druadan Forest dropped a few demos of varying styles and quality, ranging from Summoning-styled metal through ambient to video game soundtrack and even eurodance. The project was re-established with a tighter artistic focus in 2016, but even so, it took a while for V-Khaoz to drop the metal from Druadan Forest’s roster completely. First presenting its shed skin on a split with The True Werwolf, Dismal Spell from the Dragonrealm followed last September. Its 4 long songs are darker than anything put out under the name before, lacking the optimistic and festive air that permeates the older works, evoking desolation instead of woodland realms. Built on some of the most minimal and careful development featured today, Dismal Spells… asks patience and requires concentration to open up. But if you enjoyed Aindulmedir’s “winter music for hermits and bibliophiles” from our last trip, I’ve no doubt you will eventually learn to understand the dismal spells.
Fogweaver – Fogweaver
Colorado’s Fogweaver put out, by far, one of the finest dungeon synth records of 2019. Inspired by the world and stories of Ursula K. Le Guin’s Earthsea, it is a dreamy, beautiful journey that manages the sense of wonder often equated with adventure, but is no stranger to alienation and a sense of foreignness either. Melancholic and minimal, it has a sense of growth and rehearsed structure, experiencing times of ease and turbulence and never quite surrendering to the surrounding ambiance. I tend to prefer my dungeon synth without percussion, as this far too often proves to be any given band’s weak point. For Fogweaver, it is another triumph. Used relatively sparingly and always with consideration, they become an important part of this amazing debut’s sense of movement. It is not often anymore that a new artist in the style makes as strong an impression as Fogweaver did. Do not miss.
Thangorodrim / Haryon – Under the Reign of a New Power
No doubt one of the better known DS artists around these parts, Thangorodrim‘s newest output is always received with delight. It’s inspired by Mortiis and Tolkien, the two perhaps most traditional figures in dungeon synth circles, but despite its strong roots digging deep into dungeon synth’s past, never has Glorund been content on merely repeating those tropes as a tribute act and I cannot help but echo the words of Lacertilian (now that’s what I call writing): “I’d heard a lot of albums in this style that could be considered epic, and if indeed they are deserving of that title, then[Thangorodrim] is legendary. You do not need to be a total Tolkien-dork to appreciate the overwhelming grandeur of these four tracks; the intricate layering of unending chordal walls that seem to mimic the stolid masonry of timeless castles are constantly being washed over with a deluge of medieval melody, bestowing every moment with a sweeping majesty.”
Haryon is a new project from Murgrind, focusing on all aspects, time lines, characters and landscapes of Tolkien’s world and Under the Reign of a New Power is its debut. Whereas Murgrind’s albums are filled with lush, almost orchestral arrangements, Haryon’s simpler palette recalls the 90’s. The actual scope of these songs is no smaller though, making it the perfect companion to Thangorodrim.