Not Dungeon Synth Nor Dark Ambient But…Fifteen Albums From 2021 That (for me) Transcended Greatness!!

Although The Dungeon In Deep Space is primarily focused on Dark Ambient and Dungeon Synth, I take great pride in the fact that my love for music has no borders. I’m a life-long metal fanatic but there are so many more genres that I love and respect. Here are some of my favorite albums of 2021 and I hope you enjoy them as much as I have.

1. Spiritbox – Eternal Blue

https://spiritboxofficial.bandcamp.com

A lot of hype surrounded the release of Spiritbox’s debut album ‘Eternal Blue’. Prior to its release, quite a few video singles were released that catapulted the band into a much bigger realm. Was the album worth the wait? Absolutely!! With an impeccable blend of djent metal and commercial anthems with a slight pop vibe, the album lived up to the hype and much more. Soaring vocals, masterful instrumentation and top notch songwriting make this one of my favorite albums of 2021. Best of all, there was a cassette release as well!

2. Atomic Skunk – Wisdom Of The Sun

https://atomicskunk.bandcamp.com/album/wisdom-of-the-sun

I’ve been a huge fan of Atomic Skunk since 2009 and it’s the blend of light ambient, World music influences and a plethora of soundscapes & field recordings that make this style so unique. After an 8 year hiatus, Atomic Skunk started releasing consistently great albums in 2019 and has been on a relentless escapade since then. This years ‘Wisdom Of The Sun’ has been one of my favorite electronic album of the year and I hope this pace continues for the foreseeable future.

3. Cannibal Corpse – Violence Unimagined

https://cannibalcorpse.bandcamp.com/album/violence-unimagined

Hands down, ‘Violence Unimagined’ is Cannibal Corpse’s best album since 2006’s ‘Kill’. I’m not sure if it’s the addition of Erik Rutan (who recently replaced Pat O’Brien) or the fact that their songwriting is getting better with age. Either way, this is a banger of an album from start to finish and it reiterates the fact that Old School Death Metal is alive and well…and here to stay.

4. Kowloon Walled City – Piecework

https://kowloonwalledcity.bandcamp.com/album/piecework

Kowloon Walled City excel at creating a lethargic brand of Post Punk. The songs are complacent, not overly aggressive and no other band does it quite like they do. As adroit songwriters, they are able to blend heavy music with scaled back distortion while maintaining a massive sound. ‘Piecework’ is one of their best albums and I still listen to it on a regular basis.

5. Cosmic Abyss – Midnight

https://cosmicabyss.bandcamp.com/album/midnight

Cosmic Abyss is one of the best DIY artists in existence right now. Producing an offshoot brand of Doom Metal with an alluring ambient vibe, this is obscure experimentation at its best. ‘Midnight’ is one of his best offerings thus far and sets a high bar for other artists that dabble in this style of music.

6. Dinosaur Jr – Sweep It Into Space

https://dinosaurjr.bandcamp.com/album/sweep-it-into-space

80’s alt-rock masters, Dinosaur Jr., continue to release their brand of pre (and post) grunge rock. Expect plenty of fuzzy guitar tones, laid back vocals and well executed songs that continue to impress from an aging band that doesn’t see an end in sight.

7. Human Figures – After An Ordeal

https://popnihil.bandcamp.com/album/after-an-ordeal

If you grew up in the 80’s and were exposed to the surge of dark wave and post pop and liked it, then look no further than Human Figures. Creating a resurgence of the aforementioned genres, Human Figures excels at recreating that retrospective vibe and the production value alone is the icing on the cake. ‘After An Ordeal’ is an EP’s worth of incredible tracks that are sure to impress the listener with its emotional output and captivating sound. Don’t sleep on this one!

8. Breather 1 – The Noodle Bar

https://breather1.bandcamp.com/album/the-noodle-bar

Breather 1 has the whole cyberpunk and synthwave vibe down pat. ‘The Noodle Bar’ is a massive conceptual album that takes the listener on a retrospective journey in a futuristic setting. Sit back, grab your favorite headphones and enjoy this staggering ride to an enchanted world that you won’t soon forget.

9. Friendly Donut Shop – Childish Footsteps

https://friendlydonutshop.bandcamp.com/album/childish-footprints

There is a reason that Comfy Synth is a thing. It was meant to be a peaceful approach to the easy listening of obscure music. Friendly Donut Shop takes that concept seriously and is one of the best in the business. Latest release, ‘Childish Footsteps’ has a soothing and warm feeling that will take the listener away from their worries and replace it with positive energy. Another amazing effort by Friendly Donut Shop and I hope more albums of this variety are on the way in the near future.

10. Primordial Serpent – The Winter Warrior

https://primordialserpent.bandcamp.com/album/the-winter-warrior

Upon initial listen I was blown away by ‘The Winter Warrior’. Primordial Serpent has a serious knack for writing aggressive tunes that conjure that primitive sound of early 90’s black metal. With a lo-fi production and contentious style, this is exactly what I want to hear when listening to barbaric black metal.

11. Phurpa – Hymns And Rituals Of Gyer

https://modernbon.bandcamp.com/album/hymns-and-rituals-of-gyer

Phurpa takes ceremonial chanting and Tibetan ritualistic vocalizations to the next level. For some, an acquired taste must be obtained before soaking in the deep value of a Phurpa recording or you may not be able to handle it. However, for others that like it, the output is extremely rewarding. ‘Hymns And Rituals Of Gyer’ is nearly three hours of extreme mediation through deep chants and throat singing. Ancient instrumentation are used to give this bleak occasion a setting of ritualistic darkness.

12. Mastodon – Hushed And Grim

https://www.mastodonrocks.com/?frontpage=true

Although Mastodon is not as heavy as they were when they first started out, for what they lack in the “heavy” department, they more than make up with superior songwriting. This mammoth two-album set of songs is some of their best – and most accessible – work to date. There are some heavy tracks on here as well as dark ballads and they are all amazing. What’s more impressive is the three-vocal attack that just keeps getting better.

13. Flotsam And Jetsam – Blood In The Water

https://www.flotstildeath.com/news/flotsam-and-jetsam-releases-title-track-brand-new-video-of-upcoming-album-blood-in-the-water/

80’s Thrash Metal pioneers Flotsam And Jetsam may not have a storied career like that of Metallica, Megadeth or Slayer, but you have to be impressed with their sticktoitiveness approach to releasing music. ‘Blood In The Water’ is their fourteenth full-length album and quite possibly their best to date. Every track is a banger and the vocals, music and production are the best they’ve ever been. Definitely check this one out if you’re into that classic Thrash Metal sound with a slight modern influence.

14. Converge & Chelsea Wolfe – Bloodmoon: I

https://convergecult.bandcamp.com/album/bloodmoon-i

I love collaboration albums and when I heard that Converge and Chelsea Wolfe were releasing an album together, I almost lost my mind. At first, I had no idea what to expect, especially since the styles of both artists are on the opposite end of the spectrum. However, the results is a clean mix of both artist with even distribution of styles and pristine song writing. I wish more artists would follow the lead of Converge and Chelsea Wolfe and push the envelope of fusing styles. This is amazing stuff.

15. Novemthree – Storms Of Memory

https://glassthroatrecordings.bandcamp.com/album/storms-of-memory

I’ve never been disappointed with any release from Glass Throat Recordings. With artists such as Blood Of The Black Owl, Moon Mourning Earth, and Cedar Dreamer, Glass Throat Recordings releases Nature-inspired Folk music with elements of acoustic passages, ambient, and impressive vocalizations. The addition of Novemthree is just a natural progression of the label and ‘Storms Of Memory’ is one of the finest albums to be released this year. Light vocals, dreamy instrumentation and the occasional percussion input are stand-out factors for this highly impressive album.

Mahr G’Didj Composes Dungeon Synth With Unfathomable Twists And Turns On ‘Crane & Crescent Pt. 3: Fate’s Bottomless Well, E’er Churn Her Waters’

Since last year, Mahr G’Didj has been on a roll with the ‘Crane & Crescent’ series of recordings. Divergence seems to be the driving factor that makes these albums stand out amongst the genres’ elite. That particularly holds true on the third outing, ‘Crane & Crescent Pt. 3: Fates Bottomless Well, E’er Churn Her Waters’. From comfy synth and carnival-like anthems to progressive key chops, traditional dungeon synth sounds and obscure black metal intonations, this album branches out like no other. There is a lot to talk about on this effervescent gem, so let’s discuss these contrasting (yet homogeneous) tracks.

The albums lead off track, “Elegy Reprise”, is a cozy little piece that would make anyone feel right at home, snuggled up in front of a warm winter fire. However, the intimate setting doesn’t last long as ”Infiltration, Ruined Arkell” takes this album in a completely different direction. The coziness is replaced with a symphony of keys, synth effects and looming drum pads that hammer away at a fast pace. There is a sense of hurried aggression to this piece as it suddenly comes to a halt and immediately leads into “Three Altars (Kminthi, Lilliah, Piellen Gi)”. An odd sequence begins the track and then a diabolical melody provides another twist in this album of a menagerie of sounds. This track almost sounds like a looping house soundtrack that you would hear while playing winless games at a carnival. However there are enough bizarre sequences to keep the experience fun and refreshing. “Russo’s Ambition” commences with a clean – almost jazz-like – approach with mild percussion keeping a solid cadence in the background. The composition is less whimsical than on previous tracks and contains progressive elements that makes it one of the most engaging efforts on the album. The next song, “Bombs Over Argin” starts with a flashy keyboard loop that is soon backed by a haunting synth effect and bombastic drum pads. The drums are more enlightening than on previous tracks and are hopefully a good indication of broader elements to come. “Embraced By Shadow, Kissed By Venom (Lutecia’s Theme)” is my favorite track on the album and it’s also the point where the dynamics shift yet again. This time, massive guitars (with tremolo picking) and blast beats become the primary focus. There is a synthwave style bridge in the middle of the track that is equally compelling but the song finishes the same way it started – with seismic guitars and rushing drum sequences. “Grado’s Rest (Fate’s Bottomless Well)” is another fantastic track of variables. There are several layers of key effects, progressive drum beats and guitar strums that fuse together in majestic harmony. “The Defiled (Miranda’s Theme)” takes us back to the whimsical side but with a sense of apprehension, as climactic elements are on full display. The drum track also stands out in several spots and are programmed in perfect fashion. Toward the middle of the song, doomed guitar riffs add a touch of heaviness and nostalgic vision. “Elicia Ascendant” begins with barely audible narrations and then melds into a delightful comfy synth arrangement. This is a light-hearted tracks with melancholic undertones and serene layers of synth bliss. The final track on the album is simply titled “Epilogue”. Beginning with a fantasy synth style, it soon breaks into a Disney-esque composition that could be used as a jingle for one of the theme park’s attractions. Such a tranquil and pliable way to end this remarkable album.

Mahr G’Didj has made quite an impression on me with his unique way of composing unconventional songs while remaining true to the Dungeon Synth genre. From Comfy Synth to Carnival-themed songs and Black Metal blasts, this album is totally entertaining from start to finish and will ultimately please fans that love a variety of nuances on a single album. Be sure to download this album – as well as the previous albums in the ‘Crane & Crescent’ series – from the link below.

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Links:

https://oedsvyrtstower.bandcamp.com/album/crane-crescent-pt-3-fates-bottomless-well-eer-churn-her-waters

Mocking The Overuse Of Sub-genres, Moss Golem Defies Style Classification With The Perverse ‘The Woods Of Galdura’ Release

Dungeon Synth sure has come a long way, especially over the last few years. Not only has it grown immensely in popularity but it has garnered a slew of new sub-genres in which artists can hone their craft to a setting more suitable for them. After all, the harsh tones of Medieval-themed synth music – typically meant to motivate and inspire bloodshed and battle as war rages on between ancient kingdoms or mythical creatures – is quite different from the tranquility of music that makes you feel all warm and snuggly inside. Now enter Moss Golem, the insidious new-ish project by Davey Sasahara created to be the antipode to one of Dungeon Synth’s most popular (and ever growing) sub-genre’s, Comfy Synth. Although releasing a debut EP in February called ‘The House That Granda Built’, the March release of ‘The Woods Of Galdura’ sees a full release of idiosyncratic Dungeon Synth tunes with menacing black metal vocals that are sure to turn heads and provide plenty of discomfort. Well, if that’s the case, then mission accomplished!

The perfect example of all of the aforementioned, is the lead off track, “I”. Beginning with the soothing textures of layered synths in an intimate setting to provide the feeling of relaxation and comfort, Moss Golem reels the listener in to a false world. After a few minutes, this cushy setting fades out into a moment of silence. Slowly, bizarre and jovial synths emerge with harsh, black metal vocals, defying the cozy setting depicted in the first half of the track. “II” continues the menacing escapade as a brief ambient moment is met with evil vocals and turbulent horn effects. Pounding bass pulses contribute to the heinous intonations as Moss Golem continue to push the boundaries of synth music. On “III”, grim synths pave the way to enlightenment, just to be decimated once again by bitter vocals. This time, the music is almost dirge-like, while the vocals are like a cry out of pain and suffering. The fantasy synth sounds of “IV” are abruptly cut short, as the bewildering vocals once again shine a darkening light and prove the mordancy of Moss Golem’s existence. The grandiose elements of “V” are persistent with the classic aspects of a cinematic black metal interlude that has stood the test of time. However, instead of leading into a blazing black metal riff, Moss Golem leads the listener down a path of mortifying Dungeon Synth like no other. The melodic keys on “VI” are memorable and picturesque of a harmonious time, however when the vocals start, oblivion sets in and a dark reality is soon realized. “VII” begins with a retro, synth wave vibe and is soon joined with elements of forest synth effects and of course, the harsh vocals. Rich piano textures and rigid cries begin the contingent track, “VIII”. Beautiful orchestrations are added about halfway through for a more euphonious effect. Track “IX” has to be my favorite on this album for several reason. First, I appreciate the industrial soundscapes in the beginning to show a different side of the Moss Golem sound. The synths are arranged in a canorous pattern that also makes this an enjoyable listen. Lastly, the Crypt Hop elements toward the end are insane! Not just in the beats, but also with the fact that the heavily distorted black metal rap, just feels so right. “X” is an excellent track as well, as it’s ironically fitting. It closes the album just as it started, calm and soothing, even after listening to nine tracks of exasperating Dungeon Synth.

Moss Golem have released two outstanding albums this year and both have succeeded in confronting the culture of desiring to have a title to fit into a certain category. ‘The Woods Of Galdura’ kills any trends previous built upon the Dungeon Synth genre and dares to be categorized in a single style. If you’re a fan of Dungeon Synth and Black Metal and are curious about the meshing of genres, then look no further than Moss Golem and the latest effort, ‘The Woods Of Galdura’. Click on the link below and download this exceptional album and support this innovative artist!

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Links:

https://serpentsswordrecords.bandcamp.com/album/the-woods-of-galdura

Abhasa Amalgamate Ritualistic Dark Ambient And Bewildering Black Metal On ‘१’

Ritualistic forms of art have been around for centuries, providing people with an outlet for conveying their ceremonious rites. In music, it’s an all-out free form, and emotional channel that allows artists to express their craft freely and without restraint. Abhasa epitomizes this condition by combining metal, ambient textures and liturgical sentiment on the massively impressive album titled ‘१’. Showing huge amounts of restraint, Abhasa lets the music and atmosphere set the pace by creating the beautiful, emotional tone that will catapult the listener to an ethereal location – for at least the fifty minute duration of this album.

Holistic album opener, “१“, sets the spiritual tone as the hum of Tibetan bowls and ringing bells provide meaning and direction for this ceremonious journey. Field recordings of a natural setting amplify the experience. This vibe continues and seamlessly leads into “२”, which features more Tibetan bowl sounds, and the introduction of more modern instrumentation. Droning guitar riffs slowly crescendo their way into the mix, becoming louder and at their apex, the strums of distorted guitars make their presence known. After a few strums, it stops and after a short break, a beautiful acoustic passage begins, taking this track to new heights. As this track fades into “३”, the ambience slowly fades and gives way to a harsher, post-black metal sound. Interestingly, it has a very dreamy sound thanks to the ghostly production efforts. The next track, “४” starts with an acoustic riff that is quickly abandoned for a louder, more depressive tone. As this being one of the longer tracks, it gives the listener time to soak in the alluring guitar tone that’s equivalent to polarizing dark ambience. “५” begins with malevolent soundscapes and obscure field recordings that provide a sense of dread. The hiss of a guitar creates additional atmospheric tones as well. As the ambiguity fades, the sudden violent rush of distorted guitars introduce the next track, “६”. At just over twelve minutes, this saga runs through harsh metal parts, acoustic passages and ambient atmospheres while maintaining an even keel of emotional moments. The final track on the album, “७” blazes with discordant and blackened riffs, while the drums blast through like an assault weapon at a firing range. At around the half way mark, enticing keys create an exuberant atmosphere before the harsh tones pick up again. After a few minutes, the song finally fades to the sounds of the strums of an acoustic guitar.

The ritualistic sounds of Abhasa are undeniable, as they penetrate the ears and soul with emotional atmospheric music that border the genres of black metal and dark ambient. Now with the backing of the incredible Mystic Timbre label for a cassette release, this prodigious effort can be heard and enjoyed across multiple platforms. Click on the link below to download this ceremonious release!

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Links:

https://abhasa.bandcamp.com/

Moon And Azure Shadow Instill The Sounds Of Dungeon & Medieval Synth On Masterful Black Metal Overture.

Synthesized orchestrations have been infused with black metal for decades now, creating a sub-genre of technical and theatrical metal known as symphonic black metal. Now, I’ll be the first to admit that with the exception of a few bands, this sub-genre hasn’t really been my thing. However, after a renewed interest in dungeon synth and winter synth, I’ve come to appreciate the genre more than ever. That brings me to Moon And Azure Shadow, a one-man Black Metal project that mightily imbues the dungeon, winter, and medieval synth style into his unique brand of gothic infused black metal. The result is an incredible album of epic song lengths and robust symphonic pleasure known as ‘Age Of Darkness And Frost’. Consisting of three lengthy tracks that contain a hefty dose of black metal with a wide variety of other sounds, and four tracks of classical synth-style compositions, ‘Age Of Darkness And Frost’ is a surprisingly exceptional album that is sure to make a few “Top 10” list for 2019.

The breathtaking album opener, “Across Dark Landscapes” makes it grand entrance with an enormous symphonic auditory effect. There are so many imposing sounds on this track, it almost as if it could be used for an expeditious sequence in a movie. The cinematic quality is incredible and hearing this, I imagine a group of nomadic travelers, traversing a snowy mountain summit in search of a new place to secure as their home. As the climax of the music winds down, a beautiful piano melody can be heard, taking us to the end of this triumphant song. The next track – and first long track on the album – is the title track, “Age Of Darkness And Frost”. At almost nine minutes long, this wondrous endeavor features elements of medieval synth, gothic sounds, and very impressive symphonic black metal. Starting with another cinematic opening, it soon embraces the sound of a slow-tempo gothic anthem. The black metal-style vocals kick in and take this track to new heights. After a short melodic interlude, heavier & faster black metal rhythms take center stage and even include a section of blast beats over a canorous guitar and keyboard riff. The following track, “Black Winged Gates Of Destiny Descend” is another short respite between longer tracks but it’s no filler by any means. Theatrically, this song is monstrous and contains some chilling keyboard tones that are equally catchy. “Abyssic Lunar Tower” is the longest track on the album at seventeen and a half minutes long. The opening keyboard riff is like an addictive dirge that has a considerable sound and is soon joined by a sequenced drum beat that really sounds incredible. After a few minutes, an acoustic guitar plays a simple riff before an early-era Emperor-style Black metal riff unloads in the audial senses and makes this track even more pummeling. The riff at the six minute and twenty second mark is one of the best I’ve heard in many years and is one of the most brutal sounds on the album. At around the eleven minute mark, the song winds down to an eerie winter synth sound with a thunderstorm soundscape augmenting the ambient space in the background. A slower black metal riff soon takes over and plays out to the end of this majestic track. Next is “Through The Channelling Of Souls”, and with its medieval synth sound, provides a powerful statement with regards to the elements of nature and the darkness that conceives it. At almost eleven minutes long, “Unholy Vanquishing” begins with a ceremonious keyboard track, as if a group of warriors are preparing for a long battle in the icy cold north. Soon after, a gothic-like Black metal riff takes over and has a wonderful – but sorrowful – sound, like early Hecate Enthroned songs. This track also features some mighty voice narrations, adding yet another great element to this album. The last couple of minutes of this song is a great mix of slow-tempo black metal and dungeon synth and the vocals once again shine throughout. The final track, “Passage Through Time And Cold” features an excellent piano arrangement with some symphonic keys to add additional layers. The tone throughout this track is very melancholic and ghostly and is the perfect way to end such an amazing album. The last couple of minutes turns into an ambient soundscape with a scene of a snowy ridge and a traveler making his way to a nearby destination.

Listening to ‘Age Of Darkness And Frost’ has turned out to be such a pleasurable experience. Within a few months, I’ve gone from never hearing of Moon And Azure Shadow to including this album on my Top 10 metal albums of 2019. Even though this is a black metal album, there is enough medieval and dungeon/winter synth elements on it to be featured on The Dungeon In Deep Space site. Beside, there is a high possibility that if you’re even reading this, you’re a fan of both genres anyway. That being said, I highly recommend checking out ‘Age Of Darkness And Frost’ by clicking on the link below.

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Links:

https://moonandazureshadow.bandcamp.com/album/age-of-darkness-and-frost