The darkness in music can be a wonderful thing. It allows us to drift off into a world that doesn’t normally occupy our physical being, so that our minds can expand beyond the realm of ordinary existence. Dark ambient is a great medium for this, as it’s soothing, but bleak drones gives us the time to open up and meditate in the moment. Although dark ambient is normally set in austere and desolate conditions, it has a calming quality that keeps our mental capacity dialed in on a relatively easy landscape. However, the darker, harsher off-spring known as black ambient has some of the same sound qualities as dark ambient, but it goes a step beyond with its anxious loud textures and drones to create an edgier vibe. Ruohtta uses this creativity to their advantage to emit a chilling and boisterous effort on their latest release, ‘Kaanij’. An EP consisting of two long tracks, ‘Kaanij’ is a solid display of monotonous, emphatic drones with mind numbing, discordant keyboard and guitar sounds that are enough to permeate the mind and alter the mental path forward toward a cold, dark existence.
On the opening track, “Ganii I”, Ruohtta’s sole provider of doom & gloom – Tervaaja – blasts us with a perpetuating distorted drone that assimilates through the whole track. The random keyboard arrangements are a stark reminder of the cold, winter season and it’s vulnerabilities. Various sound effects blaze through the mix, like meteors penetrating the atmosphere. There are hidden melodic moments throughout that not only make this an interesting track, but keeps it focused on the elements of its craft. “Ganii II” contains many of the same conditions of the first track but at a different tone. The backing distorted droning track is in a lower key, as if an evil presence has possessed the mindset of the listener and has taken the subconscious into a new, dark direction. The guitar harmonies are supremely written and have a grandiose sound that constantly expands time and space, allowing the listener to drift in and out of the music while creating their own subjective headspace.
Although only consisting of two tracks, this is a very impressive recording. This is black ambient at its best with a little bit of a mix of other genres thrown in and it’s very well written. Not only does this have a digital release, Realm And Ritual have issued a cassette release as well. I’m looking forward to hearing more from this impressive artist, but in the meantime I highly recommend downloading ‘Kaanij’ from the link below.
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In the ancient Persian religion of Zoroastrianism, there were twin spirits that ruled over good and evil. The spirit called Spenta Mainyu was known as the deity of truth, light and all living things, while Angra Mainyu was the evil spirit of deception and death. For thousands of years, these twin spirits fought on the earthly battleground for supremacy and ultimately Angra Mainyu morphed into the entity known as Ahriman. It is at this point where the demonic being became its most horrific form. On Varkâna’s latest album, ‘Ahrimanic Chamber’, sounds of cold and sovereign dungeon synth prevail and display an intense scene of epic bloodshed. Like a doomed enclosure full of impious pariahs, Varkâna makes use of intense keyboard tones, droning ambient textures, live drums and layered frightening resonance to produce moments of dreadful unforgettableness. These nine anthems dig deep into the soul and imagination of the listener and describe the incantations of the dark spirt that once was the Ahriman.
The albums first track, “A Graveyard Under Snow”, sets a very calming, atmospheric mood with its opulent keyboard drones and hazy dungeon-esque melodies. The underlying percussion softly beats a rhythmic pattern as if warriors are slowly marching to an ill-fated battlefield. “Ahrimanic Enlightenment” approaches with a lush synthesizer arrangement that provokes a supernatural mood in ethereal environment. Suddenly, harsher keyboard tones kick in as if providing the audial description to a death scene in a fantasy movie. As the song reaches its climax, dark ambient tones pave the way as if the final onslaught has left everyone lifeless. “Into The Chambers Of Ahriman I Walk” features a great drum track that is supplemented by a beautiful piano provision. This could very well be a perfect intro piece to a symphonic black metal song. However, halfway through the track, it morphs into a peaceful ambient interlude as if the protagonist in the story is anticipating the unexpected as he finally reaches the doorway of the chamber. The music then crescendo’s back into high gear and closes the song out just the way it started. “Lugubrious Ruins” start with droning, dungeon synthesized riffs and continues throughout the whole song with spots of higher pitched keyboards to add layers of dreariness to this already gloomy track. Since this one combines both elements of dungeon synth and dark ambient, it’s probably my favorite and most played song on the album. “Mist” has more of a fantasy/forest synth influence and is predominantly lighter in tone that most of the other tracks. However, it effectively sparks imaginative tales between Angra Mainyu and Spenta Mainyu as their endless battle to provoke good over evil (and Vice versa) rages on. “Old Man’s Tale” succeeds in puts the album back on track in a darker setting with off-kilter piano parts, steady tribal drum beats, and ghostly, droning pads to create a feeling of emptiness. Toward the end of the track, an elegant acoustic guitar riff is introduced and puts the overall sound of this track in another worldly dimension. “Rapture” is another radiant track that combines elements of dark ambient and retro wave sounds of 80’s horror cinema soundtracks. “Spirituality Deformed” has that traditional dungeon synth sound but with added elements of live drums and an unforgettable melody that seems to intensify until the last note of the song is played. The final track, “The Night Of The Hunter” continues down the path as the previous song, as the Ahriman bestows his evil legacy on his legions of followers and it’s chambers become the spiritual battleground for which good has no chance of survival. This track contains energetic keyboard arrangements, a bombastic drum track and ends with a droning tone that signifies the supreme reign of the Angra Mainyu.
Varkâna has auspiciously created a conceptual dungeon synth masterpiece based on the ancient Persian spirit of darkness and evil. The music does an excellent job of providing a soundtrack to this resounding storyline and crosses into dark ambient and even 80’s retro wave cinematic score. With a good balance of both light and darker sounding tunes, ‘Ahrimanic Chamber’ is an excellent dungeon synth album. I highly recommend Varkâna for fans of both dungeon synth and dark ambient so please show your support by downloading this amazing album at the link below.
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It’s been quite the year for Eldest Gate Records. They’ve released multiple, exemplary albums by Wayfarer & Inoriand and have launched their publishing company, Eldest Gate Books. Earlier this month, they swiftly commenced book sales by releasing ‘Three Eerie Tales Of Vampires’, the first volume of the Bibliotheca Obscuris series. Here at The Dungeon In Deep Space, I’ve had the pleasure of reviewing recent albums by Wayfarer and Inoriand and both are absolute forerunners in the Dungeon Synth genre! With the brand new release of ‘Misty Morning’ by Wayfarer, I’ve had the honor of communicating with the man behind the project to catch insight of the driving force behind this and his many other projects, including the brilliant startup of Eldest Gate Books.
1. First of all, thank you very much for the interview opportunity and for also being the first interview session on The Dungeon In Deep Space site. Wayfarer has been quite busy this year with releasing three brilliant recordings on Eldest Gates Records. What influences you to record such beguiling material?
First, I thank you, for the opportunity! I think it can be said, that I am a newcomer to the DS revival scene, but that doesn’t mean that I have only recently discovered the genre. Back in the early 2000s my friend and I were big fans of such music as Mortiis or his numerous side-projects, the prison albums of Varg Vikernes or his mystical synth tracks on Burzum albums, such as Rundgang Um Die Tranzendentale Säule Der Singularität or Tomhet. We have recorded our own materials in this style and shared it with each other and was very proud of them! But never knew anybody else, who were into this kind of music. We didn’t even have a name for the genre, so we called it “you-know-that-burzumish-dark-ambient-stuff”. And then one day, years later, I happened to find a blog on the Internet, found the name Dungeon Synth and then the Facebook group and suddenly I saw that we are not alone with our love for this kind of music! Here I found many great artists who influenced me, but the one I remember the most from the beginning was Ancient Boreal Forest. Also, I was a big-time RPG enthusiast all my life, mostly a DM as I’m kind of a creator type. And reading, of course, many-many books since I learned how to read! Fantasy, horror, classics, etc. Those things together, mixed with my passion for experimenting become what is Wayfarer today (or my many side-projects).
2. In my recent review of the ‘Ata Amutar’ release, I’ve described the overall texture of your music as “icy cold Dungeon Synth”. Do you feel that is a fair assessment? Also, did you intentionally set out for Wayfarer to become this dark entity in the Dungeon Synth community?
Yes, I think that’s a good description. I tend to see the beauty in darker things. Being dark, melancholic, occasionally atonal or dissonant makes a good way for me to get those listeners more involved, who are interested in this kind of experience. Also, I think the less receptacle the music for the first listening, the more it makes the listener think about it. Dungeon Synth is a great genre because every artist can find themselves in it some ways. Some artists are looking for that medieval feeling, some of them are more fantasy oriented. For me, it’s all about the atmosphere, world-building and to bring the listener into this world and let them make up their own stories in it while they listen to the music.
3. Typically, DS songs are short and to the point, whereas Wayfarer songs tend to be long. For me, this is an advantage for the listener as it challenges the imagination for what story each track may entail. Do you have a particular mindset prior to recording Wayfarer songs or are they improvised?
Most of the time both. Sometimes I start with something improvised and build the track from there, other times it’s the other way around. Improvisation is fun and lets you set your mind free. I also love long tracks that take the listener on a journey and I make music that I would like to listen to. I consider Wayfarer tracks as a kind of landscape painting with sounds. I don’t want to tell a story with them, that’s up to the listener’s imagination.
4. ‘Misty Morning’ is such a calming album title but the music is bleak and dark. What is your own story behind this recording?
I wouldn’t consider it dark, maybe a bit melancholic. Being alone and focusing your thoughts inwards to your self is what I think this album is about. But for someone else, I think it can be a dark tone. I like to believe that it’s not the music that creates the emotions it’s just the medium that brings them to the surface. If that’s true, then something dark and unnerving for someone in a certain moment can be calming or meditative for someone else or even the same person when in another mindset.
5. What can you tell me about your recording studio and the equipment that you use?
I may be unpopular with this, but I have to admit that I use VSTs nearly all of the time. It’s a budget issue on one hand, but VSTs also make me able to experiment with nearly any kind of sounds or tones.
6. For your VST’s, do you have any favorite plugins that you use on a regular basis?
I try out many VSTs and always looking for something new and interesting, but there are a few that I use in nearly all of my projects. One of them is SQ8L, which is modeled after Ensoniq’s SQ80 and it is a wonderful plugin to use! It’s the basis of the characteristic sound of Inoriand, but I use it on nearly all of my albums. The other one I’d like to mention is Dexed, modeled on the Yamaha DX7. It is a real monster! I use it all the time, especially for Wayfarer.
7. Do you also do any field recordings for your albums?
Sometimes I use field recordings, but no, I do not record them myself, I use royalty-free resources from the web.
8. I’d like to shift topics and talk about some of the other projects you are involved in, specifically Eallnulf and Abyssu. These projects are very experimental, yet very relevant to the DS scene, how hard/easy is it to maintain the balance between Wayfarer and your projects that have harsher tones?
It’s easier than you think! As I said, I love experimenting and sometimes these materials are such different from the tone of my main projects that I just start up a new one. I love to keep my stuff somewhat coherent.
9. Do you plan to release any more albums under those pseudonyms?
Maybe. They are not finished officially.
10. Do you have any other projects that you record under?
Yes, some of them are well-kept secrets, while others are known in the community, like Inoriand, La Morte Amoureuse or Zungarak.
11. I suspected that you were behind the Inoriand project just wasn’t quite sure. I also reviewed ‘Silence’ earlier for my site and must say – for me – it’s my DS album of the year. Since you do a lot of improvisations, at what point do you realize, this is a Wayfarer project or an Inoriand project (or some other)?
Wow, thanks! Usually when I start composing I already have an idea in my mind and that already connects the music to one of my projects. Improvisation doesn’t mean being completely random, but letting your creativity wander freely within a certain set of boundaries. Be it a theme, a scale, an emotion, a leitmotif etc., these rules separate improvisation from pure chaos! But I have to admit sometimes things go out of hands or take unexpected turns. That’s the point, where new projects are born.
12. Recently, Eldest Gate Records has ventured into the realm of book publishing and has established Eldest Gate Books. Can you talk a little bit about the decision to add books to the Eldest Gate media market?
As I wrote in the foreword to the book and also mentioned it earlier, we are avid fans of reading. Publishing a book ourselves is a long-time dream come true. We started working on it at the beginning of this year and took a lot of time to get everything together, as we aren’t experienced in the field and had to learn many things, because – as with everything else Eldest Gate produces – we wanted to do ourselves everything we are capable of. Learning about publishing, typesetting, cover design, printing services, copyright law etc. was a long journey, but a real fun all the way!
13. I already love the direction of Victorian Era vampire tales for the first book offering. Do you already have an idea of future releases?
We have a whole series planned out; the Bibliotheca Obscuris and we are already working on the next volume. I hope that people will love these books. We wanted something that isn’t only enjoyable to read, but also a joy to take into your hands or show-off to others, something that is collectable and looks really great when put on the bookshelf. In the future there may be other series, maybe a fantasy-themed, we will see!
14. Will Eldest Gate books be open to providing publishing opportunities for up-and-coming authors in this genre?
I hope so, in the future! We achieved to learn a lot in the past few months about publishing, but there’s still more we need to get through. But there are many creative and talented members of this community and if somebody reaches out to us to publish his or her novel or to help with self-publishing, we would be more than happy to help.
15. Is the idea to stick with physical books or is there a possibility of providing e-books for the Eldest Gate book catalogue in the future?
E-books are cool, but we wanted a real, physical book, that you can hold in your hand. For this series, we aren’t planning e-books, mainly because these stories are in the public domain and already available on the Internet. But if we happen to publish an original work someday, there will definitely be an e-book edition!
16. I really appreciate your time for this interview opportunity; do you have any final words for your fans in the DS community?
The only thing I can think of is “Thank you, all!”. This community is incredible.