The Legendary Mortiis Returns To His Dungeon Synth Roots On Meritorious New Album, ‘Spirit Of Rebellion’

It’s one thing to be prominent in two different genres of music, but to be considered (by many) to be The Godfather of one is an amazing feat – especially when you leave that genre for several decades and then make a ferocious return as if you’ve never left in the first place. That artist is Mortiis and his genre of dark desires is none other than dungeon synth. Blasting out on the black metal scene in the early 90’s as the original bassist for Emperor, he recorded the infamous ‘Wrath Of The Tyrants’ demo and ‘Emperor’ EP before splitting with the band and creating the Era 1 material of his solo project known as Dark Dungeon Music. I’m not even sure if he knew at the time what an influence those earlier albums would have on the dungeon synth community for generations to come, but he’s inspired a magnitude of artists and labels to create music with the same passion and desire. After the 1999 ‘Stargate’ release, the music of Mortiis began to take on a new form and the dungeon synth sounds were laid to rest…but not forever. Mortiis has finally returned to his roots and has graciously presented us with the magnificent ‘Spirit Of Rebellion’. Although it was intended to be a reworking of the 1994 masterpiece, ‘Ånden Som Gjorde Opprør’, it formed a life of its own and warranted a new title. The outcome is an explosive revival of the Era 1 material and I couldn’t be happier.

The twenty four plus minute long “A Dark Horizon” blasts into a battle worthy anthem with layered keys, pounding percussion and cinematic orchestrations that are film worthy. Depending on the version of the album you get, either the two songs are in a single format, or broken into multiple parts. For the sake of this review, I will reference the various parts of each song when describing the music. Part II of “A Dark Anthem” is haunting canticle with vocal effects that are sure to give you goosebumps. This is just a precursor to Part III which goes full throttle with the electronic vocal effects and pulsating drums as if unavoidable bloodshed is about to commence. However, the tempo changes to a more melodic structure and Part IV finds elements of forest synth as if a scenery of peace has been the vanguard of a mythical village, hidden away deep in a sacred forest. In terms of pure keyboard effects, Part V is the most old-school dungeon synth sounding part in the whole song. This multi-track effort has tons of melody and the background arrangement is memorable enough to stick with you for days on end. This beast of a song ends on a high note as Part VI perfectly summarizes this audio adventure with a welcomed reprise that features elements of the opening moments of the track. The second track, “Visions Of An Ancient Future”, is another top quality musical experience that includes over twenty six minutes of advantageous dark dungeon melodies. Part I is a high-tempo intro with a mix of goth and cinematic qualities. The grandiose elements of Part II are mesmerizing, especially when the electronic vocal chants kick in. The atmosphere continues to grow and remains overpowering throughout the remainder of the track. Part III contains warm elements of forest synth with ambitious effects thrown in to create the perfect medieval ambience. Part IV continues the medieval theme of the last track but takes it to a larger scale with the increased percussion parts. The somber keyboard arrangements create a sense of negotiation between good and evil, as the track continually sways from loud to softer parts. Part V has grim, eerie synth effects that keep this track interesting yet again. As the massive backgrounds continue to play without being overpowering, the dreadful melodies in the foreground carry on aggressively. Part IV is another bold and energetic piece that has an uptempo vibe and a strong mix of all of the elements present thus far in this mammoth of a track. Part VII has a tenacious medieval and fantasy synth vibe and features some awesome percussive sounds and keyboard arrangements. This is not only an excellent way to end this song, but an admirable finale to a spectacular album.

Whether this return to Era 1 material is short lived or an enduring comeback, Mortiis has accomplished an incredible feat – especially after being out of the dungeon synth genre for so long. There is nothing that I would love more than for Mortiis to continue down this path and continue producing material of this nature. If that turns out to be the case and ‘Spirit Of Rebellion’ is just the start, then we are in for a treat, as this album is as good as it gets. If you’re a fan of DS and you’ve not heard this album yet, what are you waiting for? You will not be disappointed as Mortiis once again sets the standard, just as he did nearly thirty years ago.

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Mortiloqvist Deliver A Necropolitan Tale Of Death On The Imposingly Brilliant ‘Overmorrow’ Release

Death is inevitable for all of us and although we cannot escape it’s clutches, the dreadful end continues to captivate us in many ways. Not only are we mystified by the moments that lead up to the actual occasion, but thoughts of the afterlife and how our physical remains are dealt with (over time) are equally fascinating. What better music is there than dungeon synth to provide a platform for exposing a compelling story of the death and the afterlife? Even with just music alone, ‘Overmorrow’ is an alluring look into a mischievous tale of life after death gone wrong and Mortiloqvist takes us on that passionate journey with extraordinary synth tunes.

Sensational album opener, “The Taste Of Graveyard Dirt” begins with the sounds of workers digging, as if they are seeking to resurrect a long lost tomb. Demon like grumbles signifies they are near their goal but are they really ready to unleash what they are about to find? A beautiful guitar chord plays willfully in the forefront which eventually leads into a clean-sounding, classic dungeon synth recording. With almost a summer synth vibe, the instrumentation leans heavy on medieval times as wondrous melodies layer to create a dazzling sound. Next up is “The Dead Rise Up And Form Into Ominous Words The Night Wind That Moan Through Their Skulls” and is has a dark, winter synth vibe as a single keyboard note drones in the background. Supreme string picking creates an architecture for discordant harmony and although it may sound random, it’s like a cosmic and brilliant string solo from a scene in a horror movie. “Among These Sacred Ruins A Doppelgänger Of You Rots In Silence” is the longest song on the album, as it clocks in at just over eleven minutes. Starting with a quick dose of field recording before moving into a orient style synth structure, this track is full of surprises. Quickly moving back to a traditional dungeon synth sound, the main melody in the song is very unforgettable and you’ll surely be humming along. The addition of exceptional, female operatic vocals is very welcomed and fit in perfectly with the direction of this track. After that, there is a short dark ambient interlude with demon like growls before kicking things back into high gear with the medieval synth melodies. The final track, “Looting A Corpse” begins with the crackling sounds of a small fire in the forest while a lush tune surrounds it in dominating fashion. With the lonely strums of a stringed instrument and long-noted keys augmenting the harmony, this track signifies the dreadful beginning of the end and a sudden journey to the great beyond.

Although we all will probably not have the fortune of having a soundtrack to signify our journey into immortality, Mortiloqvist has put together an exquisite album that tells an adventurous story of the hereafter. As music listeners, we seek fulfillment in satisfying the senses with tales like these and when the music is able to do the talking, then the artist has created a successful endeavor. ‘Overmorrow’ is one of those albums and it is also special in that it uses an equal mix of synths and organic instruments. Additionally, the field recordings are used sparsely but very tastefully. I definitely recommend checking out this album so please click on the link below and download this masterpiece.

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Five Of The Noblest Dungeon Synth Artists Collaborate On Monumental Disciples Of Sunlight Debut Album Entitled ‘Radiance’

Let’s face it, the Dungeon Synth Community seems a little cutthroat these days. If you follow any of the social media groups, there are quite a few topics that spark debate in a negative way that tends to divide the populace rather than promote unity. That being said, it’s rather refreshing to see artists come together to solicit their craft on a consolidated project so that us – the fans – can come to appreciate a variety of sounds on a single album. We can all thank Disciples Of Sunlight, the collaborative efforts of Vandalorum, Nameless King, Rêvoeil, Amethyst Dagger & Count Shirintsu, for converging to deliver a phenomenal debut album called, ‘Radiance’. These six tracks flow amazingly well together and show the power and resilience of a unified bond between motivated artists.

The first track is “Scent Of Evil” by Vandalorum and it begins with the soft, effervescent movement of layered keyboard tracks that contain a large dose of medieval melody. As more delicate instrumentation is added, I’m reminded of a brisk, wintry dawn as the sunlight breaks over the horizon and overtakes the night sky. As daylight comes to full motion, a synthesized drum beat is added to give the track a more massive sound. The next song is “A Cave Of Crystal” by Nameless King. As one of my favorite dungeon synth artists, Nameless King shines bright on this track with an excellent forest synth vibe that has a multitude of sounds and a superb arrangement. The main keyboard sound is crystal clear and the flute-like harmony is like a mid-day ray of sunshine in a peaceful kingdoms village where everyone seems to prosper. Next up is “So I Stood Below The Stars And Wept” by Rêvoeil. At first the simple arrangement will have you wondering the direction it will take, but soon, a full orchestration of sound kicks in and overwhelms the senses. Although this is the shortest song on the album, it perfectly fits in with the arrangement of the other tracks. Providing a second song on the album, Nameless King is up next with “The Embraced Knight’s Plot”. This is a wonderful, melancholic arrangement that has that signature Nameless King keyboard tone, with – once again – excellent songwriting. There is a trance-like quality about this track, especially as the illustrious melody plays over and over again. Amethyst Dagger provides the first of two long songs with the epic “The Judgement Of The Moon”. At just over eleven and a half minutes, this exquisite piece is mostly an ambient & winter synth track, but does contain a few spots where it breaks off into a dungeon synth tune. However, this is unlike any track I’ve heard in quite some time and it’s quite impressive and possibly my favorite song on the album. The second long song – and final track on the album – is “To Water We’ll Return” by Count Shirintsu. As it begins with a field recording of waves hitting the sands of a beach, a single keyboard track provides a desolate tune that sounds cold and isolated, as if and endless winter is drawing near. This winter synth dirge is the perfect way to end this album as it seems have completed the cycle of radiance, through various seasons.

Disciples Of Sunlight is an alliance that I hope will stick around for a while. If ‘Radiance’ is any indication of the affect of their collaborative efforts, then I’m sure future albums by this group of artist will continue to improve and impress. If you’ve not heard this album already, you’re missing out on something very special. I highly recommend this, so click on the link below and download it right away!

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Drifting Symphonic Dirges And Soaring Vocals Surmount To Potent Effort By Tir On ‘Urd, Skuld & Verdandi’

Like a grim calmness after a harsh battle, the amble winds flowing over a searing mountain top, altering the bleakness of sudden silence can be neurotic in a very intense way. The battlefields intense aftermath is serene, albeit amongst the stench of blood and death. Will war continue to rage on or did the cost of victory for one side reveal an endless truce? Although we’ll probably never know the outcome of this imaginative tale, we can thank Tir for setting up an impressive display of medieval-era scenes on the triumphant new album, ‘Urd, Skuld & Verdandi’. Layered with harmonious anthems with impressive vocals and piano work, Tir, takes us on a valiant journey where our awareness for ascendency will be tested.

“Intro” is more than an introduction to the album, it’s a wonderfully layered dungeon synth tune that is soothing and gives us a comforting place to forge our own journey as we listen ahead. “Ancient Spirits” begins with a brisk cello & bass sound, giving a dynamic charge before leading in to the next part of the song. A soft, steady drum beat and plucking strings provide a landscape of preparedness for an upcoming deadly campaign. As the volume intensifies, choir-like vocals are added, giving this track a raging sound. “Song Of The Rain” is a captivating piano ballad with howling winds in the background. This is the first track with lead vocals and they add an outstanding texture to the song and the album as a whole – something not usually heard on a dungeon synth/medieval synth recording. “Tyr”, again features the sounds of a distant choir, as they croon a melodious chant while droning keyboards provide a fluid platform for them to come together in harmony. About halfway through the track, it takes a dark turn to a more evil and viscous sound, as if a mysterious dark cloud suddenly forms over the ancient city, changing day to night and altering the plans for those going into battle. “Giant’s Tragedy” has a more uplifting sound, as symphonic keys find the balance between triumph and tragedy. There is a nice piano & orchestration break in the song before it picks back up and finishes just as it started. “Invisible Part Of Mountains” represents calamity with its saddened keys and well-written melodies. This is one of the standout tracks on the album as it showcases a beautiful cinematic composition with haunting spoken words. “Burzum” is a short interlude that has some comforting field recordings and formidable keyboard arrangements with a droning tone in the background. “I Can See The Stars Behind” starts with the pulsating of a tribal drum and horn-like sounds instigate the forward march command as a battalion of warriors prepare to defend their kingdom. “Memories In The Shadow” is another fearsome piano-led song with more lead vocals. This song has a lovely fantasy synth vibe and the arrangement is full of warmth. “Wagnerious” is another short track that features several wondrous piano parts and although it starts with a fantasy synth foreboding, it ends with a very nice symphonic arrangement. The final track, “Rhön” opens with the howling wind of an empty valley and layered piano tones offer their melodies to combatant the sudden silence. Soon, an acoustic guitar riff ensues, adding even more depth to this enormous album.

Tir has successfully created a magical endeavor to follow-up the magnificent 2016 debut recording of ‘Mountains’. Although musically just as focused as it’s predecessor, ‘Urd, Skuld & Verdandi’ is more impressive with its dynamic arrangements, brilliant vocals, and the use of multiple instrument settings, without over using any of them. There is just enough detail in each song to tell an amazing story, allowing the listeners to latch on to what’s going on, and proceed with the adventure at hand. Please show your support for this amazing Turkish artist and download this grandiose album from the link below!

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The Luminosity Of The Summer Synth Sounds On Amethyst Dagger’s Latest Release, ‘Beyond The Gates’ Are Beautifully Incomparable

All is not necessarily dark and grim in the world of dungeon synth. Although many dungeon synth albums are comparable to medieval times, the bloodshed of battles, and mythological creatures of the forest, there are some artists that put a lighter, distinctive spin on the genre. Amethyst Dagger is one of those artists and on their latest offering, ‘Beyond The Gates’, they present a mostly uplifting sound through melodic song structures and peaceful, droning keyboards. Each of the nine tracks are serene & pacifying and chronicle the times of an ancient world discovering its place amongst imposing kingdoms.

“The Tome Of Ancient Wisdom” begins with the peculiar sounds of someone entering a room and turning the pages of a timeworn scribe. As the reader catches up on the knowledge of past, elegant synths play gentle, fluid tones, keeping the peace surrounding this room that maintains hoary insight of the past. “Visions Of The Prophet” exhibits gentle and cheerful synth arrangements that continue to build and layer throughout the track. The charming ambient sounds are constant throughout, except for the abrupt distorted synth at the end that signals a particular danger in the air. “Downpour Over Silver Chapel” starts with a discordant keyboard sound and a soft but affective thunderstorm soundscape and then alters into a clear & dreamy keyboard arrangement that loops over and over again with alluring, synthetic droning keys in the background. “Hall Of Souls” is the first track on the album that sounds more like a traditional dungeon synth piece with its introspective tone and key pattern. The albums title track, “Beyond The Gates” is next and it has a very appealing cinematic sound and the arrangement speaks volumes of positivity and light vibes. One of my favorite tracks on the album, “A Long Rest” starts with the cracking of a small fire and a light-hearted keyboard riff, as if explorers of a mythical village are winding down for the night by a camp fire, deep in the woods, recollecting days events and planning for tomorrow’s journey. “Farewell, Companion” is an ambient based piece thats calm and dreamy and well represents nature’s harmonious morning, during a peaceful dawn. “When The Last Sword Falls” follows the same demeanor as the previous song and produces alleviating, droning keys as if everything is happening in slow motion, and without a care in the world. The final track on the album, “The Legends Live On”, is another one of my favorite tracks as it contains a wonderful mix of smooth ambient tones and the contentious keyboard arrangements of traditional dungeon synth. Additionally, the inclusion of a drum track in the last quarter of the song is a fitting end to the album as it summarizes the prosperous lives of those that forge on, despite the tragedies, trials and tribulations they are put through.

Amethyst Dagger have conceived a delightful recording that is much more that just a dungeon synth album. There is a certain cinematic quality throughout this amazingly produced effort, so there is no denying that fans of multiple genres of music will have a fondness for what it holds. ‘Beyond The Gates’ is one of those albums that can be listened to at anytime and for just about any situation and can remain enjoyable. Show your support for this admirable Brazilian artist and download ‘Beyond The Gates’ at the link below.

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Mantle Of Dust Emits Effulgence On Radiant & Energetic Fifth Album, ‘Through Paths Well Remembered’

In just about every music genre, there is a specific type of celebratory sound for every occasion. Depending on the type of situation it is, it could also mean a sub-genre classification, or an just an album that generates a cult following. The same holds true for dungeon synth. Whereas a lot of the musical themes tend to be geared toward battle hymns or dig into the realm of ancient medieval synth, with a focus on more serious and theatrical instrumentation, there is a lighter side as well. Forest synth and fantasy synth tend to have softer musical elements and the arrangements evoke an imagination of peaceful times in ancient kingdoms and mythical villages hidden away deep in mountainous forests. Those are the exact feelings that I get while listening to the latest Mantle Of Dust release called, ‘Through Paths Well Remembered’. Although there is a melancholic feel to this album, the acoustic guitar riffs combined with the beautiful synth arrangements ensures that the overall sound borders between classic, symphonic black metal-esque interludes and cinematic fantasy score.

The soothing guitar melody of “The Path Well Remembered I” creates a lavish atmosphere of warm emotions and when the flute arrangement begins, the song puts us right in the heart of the forest, where there is peace and gathering amongst villagers. “Lake Of Tears” starts with a haunting flute and synth combination. Soon, the sounds of battle-like drums kick in and the pace of the song increases, as if a peculiar alertness is in the air. “The Three-Sided Coin Inn” is one of my favorite tracks on the album and has more of a medieval sound. The mix of live and synth instruments along with the occasional vocals, provide many layers of great sounds as this song represents love & spirit throughout the village, as well as a place for everyone to come together in harmony. “The Wise Tree” is a very uplifting song that represents celebration and I can see everyone dancing gleefully and drinking large mugs of ale while listening to this track. From the fast pace drum beats, flute arrangements and multiple keyboard and synth sounds, this track is sure to stand out. As “The Wise Tree” suddenly ends, “Madness Beckons (Medley For The King)” begins, as if the king has suddenly appeared at the front gate of the small mythical village deep in the forest to pay a random visit. The synth melodies in the beginning are slight somber but about halfway through take a turn to a much darker tone, as if the visit from the king isn’t going as well as expected. “Paradise Found” features grandiose keyboard arrangements and the main sound is extremely catchy and I guarantee you’ll be humming it after the song is over. This would be a great song to be used as an into for a symphonic black metal album. However, it perfectly stands on it own as a dungeon synth piece. “…Of Noblest Steel” is another strong synth-based track with a great melody featuring several layers to give a very cinematic sound. I could imagine this track being used in a fantasy-based film score. “Through Paths Well Remembered II” is quite different from the first track as the approach seems more animate and action packed. The solo keyboard notes work well with the backing melody and this song flows smoothly right from the opening note. “The Seventh Castle” is another one of my favorite tracks on the album as it successfully combines elements of medieval, dungeon & forest synth in a single track without being over bearing. There are several spots of grand cinematic score as well, as this track just has it all. “The Dwarven Realm” starts with a rhythmic drum beat, memorable keyboard melody and a steady ambient tone in the background. Suddenly, a beautiful violin riff joins in the mix to expand the horizon of the song. The overall tone of this track is mesmerizing and the violin sound in several spots give it that extra push toward greatness. The albums final track, “Victory Or Death” is the perfect way to end the album. With an excellent blend of dungeon synth style keyboards, ambient synths, cinematic score and spoken word, this song provides a final dirge for the villagers of the mythical village in the forest to look up to.

Mantle Of Dust has created an excellent dungeon synth album with their fifth effort, ‘Through Paths Well Remembered’. On this album I hear many influences such as medieval synth, forest synth, ambient, and cinematic movie score. Additionally, with the use of live instruments and vocals/spoken word in several spots, they’ve added elements not normally used on your typical dungeon synth album. This is a superb album and one that is definitely worth checking out. Please click on the link below to download this album and support this amazing artist!

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Top 10 Dungeon Synth Releases of 2019 by The Dungeon In Deep Space

This has been a fantastic year for dungeon synth! More artists, more releases, and a more diversified range of sounds being infused to keep things as interesting as ever. Even with the successful DIY approach of many artist, more micro-labels have surfaced with physical releases/distribution and even merchandise. That all being said, coming up with a top 10 list out of what seemed like a million dungeon synth releases this year was extremely difficult. However, I decided to keep it simple and resorted to the albums that I continue to listen to on a daily or weekly basis. Whether you agree or not, I hope you enjoy my top 10 dungeon synth releases of 2019!

10. Varkâna – Ahrimanic Chambers

Varkâna’s conceptual album based on the death spirit known as Angra Mainyu, is extremely dark and has a chilling mix of droning dungeon synth keys, live drums on several tracks and ambient undertones throughout. Top quality work on this excellent album and a well deserved entry in my top 10 list.

9. Borg – The Triumph Of Spring

Borg’s ‘The Triumph Of Spring’ is probably the black sheep of my list. It’s strange, quirky, unique and full of harmonized (what sounds like) kazoo solo’s, but I find myself returning to this album quite often. The entertainment value is extremely high and the music is as close as you’ll get to comedic, medieval music. It may not be for everyone but I absolutely love this!

8. Wayfarer – Ata Amutar

Wayfarer create a very unique brand of dungeon synth. The songs are very long, constructed as if they could be part of a fantasy movie soundtrack, and yet they are all very different and flow together so well. Although there are a few uplifting parts, most of the vibe on this recording is bleak in nature. For those that like background music while you’re working, studying, sleeping, etc., then this superb album may be right up your alley.

7. Solus Woods – The Wanderer

Solus Ritual is so much more that your average dungeon synth artist. Leaning less on medieval aesthetics and more on ritualistic ambience, Solus Ritual is in a class of its own. Although I reviewed two other amazing albums by this artist earlier this year, “The Wanderer” is the album that stands out as the shining gem in the discography for me.

6. Dungeontroll – Labyrinth Of The Golden Princess

Dungeontroll have released four albums this year and “Labyrinth Of The Golden Princess” is hands down the best offering of the four. The music is amazing fantasy synth, with a touch of melancholy and somber expressions . Additionally, the untold story behind the concept is one that manifested with me from the very beginning.

5. Aufhocker – False Confessions

This could very well be the soundtrack to your worst nightmare! Although, not a nightmare filled with bludgeoning horror, but one filled with eerie visions and mystic, abandoned places! This is very well crafted and is surprisingly not as one dimensional as you would expect from an album containing eighty minutes worth of music! Of the ten Aufhocker albums that were released in 2019, this magnum opus is my absolute favorite!

4. Blue-Ghost – Coral Sea

Although the musical components are true to dungeon synth, the story is based around Naval battles in the Pacific that occurred during WWII. The music is depressive and somber and probably accurately represents the emotional state of the sailors back in those times. Absolutely genius!!

3. Nameless King – Sovereignless Souls

This was the third release of the year by Nameless King and its an outright monster! The crystal clear production allows the multiple layers of keys & synths to take the spotlight and the result is one of the most majestic sounding DS releases of the year. The songwriting is spectacular and I can easily imagine a life in medieval times every time I listen to this magnificent recording!

2. Immateriæ – Leere

Immateriæ successfully uses dungeon synth fundamentals to an advantage by creating a retro-style space exploration ambient album. This is something new, fresh and unlike anything else I’ve ever heard in this genre. Four tracks and nearly thirty minutes of spacey dungeon synth is exactly what I needed to hear at the time of its release and I’ve not stopped listening to it since.

1. Inoriand – Silence

Inoriand’s ‘Silence’ was released in May of this year and I’ve not stopped bragging about it since then. Ethereal and dreamy, this cold, winter synth masterpiece evokes the feeling of dread and isolation but not necessarily in a negative way. With ‘Silence’ I imagine being stuck alone in a fire-lit cabin on a winters mountainside with no contact to the outside world. Such an incredible & amazing album and my top pick for dungeon synth album of the year!