For someone like me – that simply cannot live without music – it’s nearly impossible to listen to all of the amazing albums that are released in a given year, especially across multiple genres. In the Dungeon Synth and Dark Ambient communities alone, some artist produce ten albums or more in a calendar cycle. So, when it comes to conducting music reviews and putting together my “Best Of” lists at the end of the year, I can only base judgement on what crosses these ears. I’ve had ‘Unholy Descent Into Catatonia” by Subterranean Hellchasm in my review queue for a while now and if I ever had the chance to get to this album last year, there is no doubt that it would have found a spot on my Top 10 Dungeon Synth albums of 2020 list. There is something equally terrifying and quirky about this release and I love every minute of it. The fact that we’re graced with fifty three minutes of malevolent synth vibes is a great bonus to this amazing album.
“Phosphorescent Luminations” immediately catapults the listener to an ancient, ethereal world with traditional dungeon synth vibes and dreamy synth tones. The layered keyboard arrangements are vibrant and chock full of haunting melody and even the darker twists seem to take on the role of heroine vice the villain. “Chamber Of Goblin Rituals” begins with a jazzy arrangement and discordant keyboard chops that soon fuse together in a grim little harmony that has a mischievous sounding tone, as if a murder mystery is currently being investigated. “The Trials Of The Vials” features a dissonant keyboard composition, accompanied by intense soundscapes and captivating layers of synth harmonies. “Exchange Of The Goods Inside The Underground Plaza” is a jazzy arrangements with contrarient keys that sounds as if it could be played in the dimly lit corners of a jazz noir club of yesteryear. This is definitely one of my favorite tracks on the album. “Discovering The Cavernous Aqueduct” takes the sound back to a more traditional dungeon synth arrangement and the beautiful harmonies are guided with a soothing, water-based field recording and compelling synth leads. “Cautiously Down The Ominous Corridor”, is a quirky little tune that has a wondrous rhythmic pattern played by a looping keyboard chop. You’ll be nodding along to this one, as the lead keyboard parts take center stage and delights the listener with an incredible cantana. “Chased By An Invisible Presence” abruptly takes the album in a different direction by introducing an incredible synthwave composition. Just as you get hooked on the main rhythm section, alluring synth leads show a progressive side in the way they are arranged and played and it’s absolutely irresistible to the ears. “Sudden Envelopment Of Lunacy” is one of the darker tracks on the album, as it begins with a harsh drone and ominous soundscapes and effects. From grimness to creepy, the darkness has set in and evil is definitely present. “Awakening From A Deep Trance In A Mysterious Potion Shop” is a quaint little tune with hints of percussion and textural soundscapes to give it that dreary feeling. The key leads are cozy and effective at portraying the message represented by the song title – an awakening state of unknown euphoria. “Impervious To Cabalistic Enchantment” starts with a beautiful, fantasy synth tone and the echo sounds bare reminiscent of being disillusioned in a great hall with no clear path to an opening or exit. The synth leads are dry, but properly counteract the background music and it all takes shape to be a wonderfully majestic tune. The albums title track, “Unholy Descent Into Catatonia” is a nightmarish concoction of discordant tones and eerie soundscapes, fused together to present a punishing take on the traditional dungeon synth sound. Multiple keyboard effects take turns running up and down the ivory keys to present a dismal arrangement. The final track, “Disembarking With Newly Acquired Ancient Wisdom”, lightens the mood one final time, especially after previously hearing several dark intonations. The backing keys sway smoothly throughout the track and are almost orchestral like and properly accompany the main chord as well. The scattered bizarre synth compositions are firmly placed to keep a warm, spirited mood throughout without seeming to be overused. All in all, this is the perfect track to end this highly adventurous (and infectious) album.
Subterranean Hellchasm have released a monster with this album and consistently remain on point throughout. Although presenting more of a fantasy vibe than a Medieval one, there is no doubt this is top-rate dungeon synth music and shouldn’t be overlooked by anyone that is a fan of the genre. Please show your support for this amazing artist and download ‘Unholy Descent Into Catatonia’ from the link below.
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