Down into the Dungeon with Bear and Boss
Come, weary traveler, join us as we spin tales of moutains high and dungeons deep!
Erang – King of Nothing, Slave to None
When last we spoke of the dungeon, I conducted an interview with the mighty Erang and reported that his 14th album had just been released. At the time, I wanted to leave the topic alone as I needed to spend more time encased in its magical aura to fully develop my thoughts and opinions. Thusly, I wandered throughout this new realm for two weeks and have found it to be of only the finest quality. Erang, yet again, proves his ability to reinvent himself within each album and shows a true progression with King of Nothing, Slave to No One. This is not Erang simply backpedaling from his escapades to the future, no, this is Erang thoughtfully and meticulously working to produce his best work to date. In this statement, I exaggerate not.
An example; “Day of the Troll” personifies the masterful songwriting that Erang can accomplish. A simple string staccato melody starts the song and is soon joined by a leading xylophone. This cheery foundation is then doubled with a wonderful string accompaniment that lushes into the background and later gives way to deep synths and Native American flutes in a bone-shaking passage of despair. The listener is not left for solitude, however, as the cheery atmosphere returns and the song come to an end. Within the scope of a single song Erang is able to take you on an emotional journey and back again with a variety of tones and sounds. “Flow of Time Is Always Cruel” is another standout track as the opening instrument is a modest, bright and clean electric guitar(an instrument rarely used within the genre). The guitar sings out a somber riff but remains full of life. Mournfully, we are then lead into a heart-wrenching organ melody. The vastness of sound here is brilliant, much like the reverberations heard in halls of an old church and our heart is fully torn from our chests as an acoustic guitar, no longer bright and no longer full of joy repeats the intro. The passing of time is cruel, indeed because to me, I hear the representation of youthful joy being tattered and taken away from an aging life.
Erang also takes the time to create a few niche songs by way of “The Madman and The Dragons” and “True Alchemy Never Dies.” The former being comprised of a pulsating drum marches, beautifully dark melodies and an eerie voiceover section depicting a mysterious dwelling known as the Eye Tower and its inhabitants. Erang has done voice work prior to King of Nothing, but on this track, we hear a new development. “True Alchemy Never Dies” on the other hand, is a romp in an old dungeon which calls back to the earliest recordings of this genre. Fizzy tape hiss surrounds the selection of instrumental compositions and even a stretched out warble can be heard as if you are listening to a relic that was once lost.
Overall, as I have mentioned, Erang has graced us with his grandest opus to date. He has come a long way since Tome I and I look forward to further journeys in his land. -Boss the Ross
Tarkin Turfer – Glade Keeper
There’s not a whole lot of information available on Melbourne’s Tarkin Turfer aka Jon Dexter. A relative newcomer, having released his debut in 2013 and second full-length Glade Keeper early this January, I stumbled upon his work only a couple of short weeks ago. I was instantly hooked and enamored by the simple and captivating compositions, the warmth of added bass lines and the drive of (programmed) drums, an ingredient often overlooked in dungeon synth. The Eleanor Fortescue-Brickdale adorned Glade Keeper opens with the almost introductory piece, “Unseen Glade”. A very stripped-down, basic song lacking the momentum brought by the rhythmic backbone and despite it’s four minute length serves better as a mood setter than an actual song. Over the next few songs, Dexter adds synth-strings and the aforementioned percussion that set the project apart from the majority DS artists relying on simplicity. Especially the quietly pulsing bass of “Queen Boudicca” provides a very satisfactory “oomph” for mine ears. Some songs like “Into The Fray” and “Forging Spectral Blade” add more space-y synths and on the back half, multiple pieces forgo percussion completely – only to bring them back in the closer “Wave Sweeper”, a softer piece, topped with some flute-like melodies that are simple even for this record. Glade keeper has a very uniform sound throughout, though the compositions show great diversity ranging from Celtic influences to dark, neoclassical sounds. One thing that I find rather drawn to, is that Dexter never even attempts to make his instrumentation sound like anything else than an honest keyboard-synthesizer, giving the record an old school vibe, without ever wandering into Mortiis’ territory songwriting-wise. -Karhu
Oldenhelm – Ruins and Reverence
We now travel to another far away land, a land known as Oldenhelm. Having spoken of this great bard in the past, I was eager to hear him spin more tales of grandeur. With Ruins and Reverence, we are introduced to a wanderer and master songsmith known only by the name of Shadowcloak. Clad in black he spins tales of long lost times, ancient battles and arcane knowledge that he once learned. With January coming to a close I can safely say that this is my favorite new release this month, spanning all genres.
“Overcome with the power from the wisdom he had gained, his desire to further explore the great land of Oldenhelm engulfed his mind and bones, on that fateful night of ruins and reverence”*
With the intro track, we follow Shadowcloak’s expedition to a ruinous city where his journey into mystery awaits. Hefty drums and high-spirited melodies describe the wonder he observes and soon after a mysterious voice whisks him away to forgotten times, carrying us along for the adventure. We journey with him first to the Emerald Vale where all at once we behold a scene both grand and somber. Forlorn tones play a melody that encapsulates the wonder Shadowcloak observes. An ancient valley begins to unfold its ageless secrets to him and we are gratefully included on this splendorous sight. As this chapter is closed another mystery takes its place, one of grief and prophecy.
“Through astral gates once unprovoked
The Wanderer fares with staff and cloak
Portals of grief and stars of old
Dark prophecies are now foretold”*
As Shadowcloak passes through the emerald Vale we follow him into the lost city of Oldenhelm. The city, once great and flourishing, now lay in ruins yet a wisp of magic still remains. It is this magic that now speaks to the traveler which he relates to us with warbling synth soundscapes and hollow, plucked melodies. Building upon each other the sounds finally climax with the striking of cymbals and the bursting of awareness. Shadowcloak learns of primordial tales and is finally shown the arcane knowledge of Oldenhelm.
“With sword and steel the wyrm he fought
The talons rare the king now sought
When fire died the king adorned
A crown of claws and battescorn”*
The magic of Oldenhelm depicts first a great king of “brawn and savage grace” and his quest to defeat a sly and wicked dragon. Pounding war drums immerse us into the thick of battle as we march alongside this noble king whilst great horns call commands of formation and direction. We halt at the entrance of the dragon’s lair and a mysterious voice calls out from the darkness. Never deterred, the unfaltering king climbs his way to battle the beast. Mystic choral lines echo through the cavern and illustrate to us the mighty battle being fought. And it is a duel for the ages. Booming brass melodies exemplify the cursed dragon’s screams and the resounding chime of metal on metal, the mighty strikes of a sword. As the final blows are struck, the chimes slow and ring out with victory. The warrior king proudly stands tall, adorned now with the claws of his vanquished foe.
After the conclusion of this glorious battle, Shadowcloak takes a moment to pay tribute to the bards of old with a retelling of Forgotten Pathways’ “Dyfed”. This short and simple prance is the perfect mood lifter after the heavy predecessor. Cheerful melodies and light tones delight us and work wonders to warm or weary hearts. However, one must remember that life is not full of joy within all moments and Shadowcloak once again takes us down to dark and weary scenes. Album closer, “Somber Paths Where Nightwinds Fare” is a just and deserving conclusion to the adventure heard throughout Ruins and Reverence. -Boss the Ross
*taken from the liner notes of Ruins and Reverence
Be sure and check out each artists bandcamp and Facebook pages for more information!