Eyre Transmissions XIII: Interview with Synth Extraordinaire, Elminster

With just over a year of active involvement in the Dungeon Synth scene, Elminster has managed to rack up quite an assortment of excellent albums. Whether released under his flagship moniker – Elminster – or other incredible crafts such as Anadûnê, The Owl Knight or DCCCVIII, it’s apparent that Elminster is in it for the long haul and is quickly becoming a “go to” artist for all of your Dungeon Synth needs. I recently had the opportunity to chat with Colin Bacon – the maestro behind all of these amazing projects – to find out what the driving force is behind all this talent, how he got into this genre of music, and what the future hold. Please enjoy this very detailed account for all things Elminster!

1. Thank you so much for this interview opportunity. Elminster hit the Dungeon Synth scene just over a year ago with the ‘Making Of A Mage’ series. Since then, you’ve been on a relentless spree of new album releases, other projects and splits. How did you get started in the genre and where are all of the fresh ideas coming from?

As much as I wish that I could say that my introduction to the genre was by finding a cassette hidden in the middle of a stone circle or castle, I actually found the genre via Youtube’s recommended function. I had checked out a few before, but the first handful to grab me were the Blood Tower/Apothecarium split, Barbaric Frost’s Against The Darkness, Coniferous Myst/Owlbear/Scrag/The Herbalists split (which Isaac was kind enough to sell me their artist copy of), and the Druadan Forest/Uruk Hai/Bannwald Split. All of these albums are magical to me and, even though I now know the basics of songwriting, I still am not entirely sure how each was made. Pivoting to the second part, I get a bit restless with my hobbies and often feel like I am climbing the walls if I am not able to indulge them, in a rather compulsive sense. As for the variety, I read a lot growing up, especially fantasy novels. Each of my projects is an attempt to capture a specific feeling within a wide and varied genre.

2. I want to go back to the ‘Making Of A Mage’ series of releases. Can you talk more about the inspiration for these EP’s and do you have a plan for anymore “Mage” albums?

The inspiration for TMOAM was a novel of the same name by Ed Greenwood, never has a book captivated me with such ease. My brain created a picture of every scene and ran wild with how I would make a movie for it, how it would be scored, etc. etc. (It would be animated similarly to the 1970s LOTR movies, if I had my way). When searching for what the alias of my project would be, Elminster just felt right and I decided in that same moment that my favorite novel required a soundtrack. Each of the EPs is named after a part of the book (part 1 was brigand, part 2 burglar, etc. etc.) and each of the song titles are referential to plot points. Seeing as I created a product that accomplished what I wished it to, there likely won’t be any more albums of that name, but I would certainly consider doing soundtrack albums for the other books in the Elminster series.

https://elminster.bandcamp.com/album/the-making-of-a-mage-2

3. Earlier this year, you released the Crypt Hop EP, ‘Beats To Dungeon Crawl To’. This was definitely a seamless transition to another one of the fascinating Dungeon Synth sub-genres but was this something that had been planned all along or just an experimental effort?

When first creating the Elminster project, I did not know of Crypt Hop, it was only through the Vandalorum episode of Midnight Ambience and murmurings on facebook that I learned about it. I had been into the concept of beatmaking ever since discovering the grime artist JME during early lockdown. Through him, I got into UK Drill artists such as Digga D, Kwengface, Teezandos, Abra Cadabra, and Pop Smoke (an american who laid down NY Drill vocals over UK beats, rest in peace Bashar). I saved up my money and got FL Studio and began to learn how to make those types of instrumentals. While getting into each of the aforementioned genres, I began to realize that I enjoyed the fact that they borrowed from carribean dance rhythms and blended said rhythms with darker instrumentals. A practiced ear will likely notice that most trap artists put the snare on beats 3 and 7 while using a steady rhythm hi hat pattern, but these genres (drill especially) like to put the snare on beats 3 and 8 while using a nonlinear hit hat pattern, which gives the beat both bounce and swing. From there, my selfish desire to marry crypt hop and drill produced the EP in question.

https://elminster.bandcamp.com/album/beats-to-dungeon-crawl-to

4. I have to talk about ‘Antipaladin’ as it’s one of my favorite efforts by you. How does your albums evolve from one epic story to another and what do you think makes this one stick out amongst your ever growing discography?

My albums usually get named near the beginning. I am usually on a nature walk and think “It would be awesome for an album of X name to exist. Alright, Colin, what would it sound like? What would the songs be called?”. The reason it stands out could vary from listener to listener, but the reason it feels different to me is that it was the first time I had had a mythological topic in mind and that I really pushed myself to learn a new songwriting style, which I’ve heard get called Berlin school (I’m a bit of a genre tourist with that genre, so I won’t claim to have a great understanding of its hallmarks).

5. You also did a very unique thing with this release by giving download codes for those that donated to the Shelter House Domestic and Sexual Violence Center in Fort Walton Beach, Fl. What was your decision to release this on a “give back” like scenario?

I’ve been slowly coming to the realization that I want to be involved in activism. I naturally lean a bit more introverted so I figured that leveraging my music would be the most effective and most comfortable way for me to do some good. On top of that, I figured that a DV shelter is something that pretty much anyone could get behind, so people would be willing to give more freely. I’d like to thank High Mage for being so willing to help me make this a reality and I’d like to thank the community for raising a combined $250 for those charities from that run, it really warmed my heart. I would also like to mention here that the split I have with Maiden Hair and coming out through Weregnome this October will also be giving its proceeds to (I believe 2 seperate) wildlife charities, please consider donating if you have the means to. I would like to make this type of release happen a few times a year.

6. In July of this year – almost a year after releasing albums under the Elminster moniker – you started a new project called, Anadûnê. Other than the music being a tad more cinematic than Elminster, what influenced the creation of this project?

This project was created because I was lucky enough to land a spot on the dev team of the Medieval II Total War Silmarillion Mod as the in-house musician. I felt like a project of that theme should be separate and approached with a different writing process.

https://elminster.bandcamp.com/album/the-rise-of-gondolin-2

7. ‘The Rise Of Gondolin’ (by Anadûnê) is probably one of your coldest albums to date, but there is so much dreamy melody happening at the same time. How do you manage to incorporate these distant facets in order to create something so amazing?

Thank you! I’ll be honest, I don’t know. With that album, I didn’t let myself think too hard about it and just let myself write. I often find that it is pretty obvious when I overproduce a release and usually find that I enjoy trusting my instincts. Gun to my head, the patches I used were not as in your face and I leaned into them.

8. The Owl Knight is another fascinating project that draws upon chip tune, retro experiences and classic RPG theme songs. How are you able to make this sound so refreshing without being as whimsical as other chip tune recordings?

If I had to guess, the reason it doesn’t share a lot of the tropes with other chip tune recordings is a combination of hardware (I use toy keyboards as opposed to synthesizers/console sound cards), growing up after the era of 8 bit music being the de facto game soundtrack, and by being primarily inspired by the album Sunken Dungeon by Longsword. I also have listened only to a little bit of chiptune DS. It’s definitely good music, but there’s only so much time in my day.

https://elminster.bandcamp.com/album/i

9. You have another Crypt Hop project out called DCCCVIII. First of all, what is the meaning behind the name and secondly please tell me that this is a long term project because it’s freaking amazing!

DCCCVIII is a nod to my love of using crazy 808 patterns in my beats, it is the roman numeral spelling of 808. I have no plans to stop that project, it has been both incredibly fun to write for and has been extremely good for me to have a new challenge, genre-wise.

https://elminster.bandcamp.com/album/in-days-past

10. In August alone, you’ve released 5 albums including two splits. Where do you find the time to stay this busy and what’s behind all of the musical motivation?

I get incredibly restless and I don’t sleep a whole lot haha. On top of that, music has been a very rewarding hobby to get into. I love the dopamine hit I get when I hit the publish button or when I see people receiving their copies of my tapes.

11. The split release with Baerdcyn is so tantalizing that it’s quickly becoming one of my most listened to albums at the moment. Do you record music specifically for split releases or are they leftover tracks from previous efforts?

Thank you! I usually create them specifically for splits, I generally don’t keep a lot of “overhead”. When I finish something, I release it in most cases.

https://elminster.bandcamp.com/album/mystical-manifestations

12. I think split releases are very important as they show artist solidarity and help promote from within. What are your thoughts on this and do you have any more split releases in the works?

That is absolutely how I view them! I love the work of so many artists and selfishly want to have an opportunity to work with them and splits allow me to do that in a less invasive way. I also got into the genre through several splits and from doing so gained an immense appreciation for them. I have 2 more in the pipeline that are finished, 1 that I was doing the vocals for before I blew out my voice from screaming, and handshake agreements with a few artists for more in the future.

13. Do you have any plans to share your craft in a live setting, specifically during one of the Siege events?

I am certainly interested in playing live, but would probably only do so if reached out to. I would really want to do something fun for it if so.

14. What do you have in store for the rest of 2021 and what are your musical goals/dreams for 2022?

For 2021, I am planning on continuing to have fun writing different types of music. I have plans to try my hand at black metal and might give black ambient (think gonfanon but without being a fascist) once my 4 track arrives. In December, High Mage and I have agreed to do an event called Magemas, where they will be doing an entire month of my releases, so keep your eyes peeled for that (I hope they don’t mind me mentioning it here haha). For 2022, I plan to release an Elminster box set through them as well.

15. I really appreciate your time and thanks for all the great music! Do you have any final words or thoughts for those that may be reading this interview?

Thank you so much for having me! This has truly been an honor. My parting shot would be to ask the community to keep their eyes open for releases of mine with the charity element involved as their donations will be able to impact the wider world and allow our beautiful genre to do good for others. Stay safe and love each other. – E

Links:

BC: https://elminster.bandcamp.com/music

Psyclopean, Visions Of Ulnahar & Noctilucant Congregate For A Cinematic Lovecraftian Offering With ‘Libris Arcanum’

What happens when three idealistic artists come together on a collaborative effort with a single theme in mind? An absolutely brilliant album is born and an unparalleled blend of Dark Ambient and Dungeon Synth intonations tell a Lovecraftian story of horror and lore. ‘Libris Arcanum’ presents six epic tracks of sonic adventure with Psyclopean, Noctilucant and Visions Of Ulnahar contributing two fanatical adventures each. These dark compositions combine droning ambience with the essential sounds of riveting Dungeon Synth, providing an eerie exploration into the world of One of our favorite fantasy authors.

Psyclopean caters the albums lead off track with “De Vermis Mysteriis”. This majestic undertaking begins with soaring synth leads and subtle soundscapes that set a captivating scene of somber foreboding. The cinematic approach to the first section is a beautiful introduction to this extremely diverse album. However, gloomy elements start to merge in a horrific fashion with moments of layered keys fused with a grim ambience. Elegant keys bring this song to a close, properly preparing the lister for the remaining intonations. The next track is “The Dhol Chants” by Visions Of Ulnahar, setting an aggressive pace with jolting soundscapes and loud, distorted keys. As these tones drone on at full capacity, evidence of evil luring in the background is apparent, as subtle instances of abhorrent effects make their presence known. This one will definitely get the heart racing as the unknown prevails. Next up is “Cthäat Aquadingen” by Noctilucant. The sound of crashing waves start this eight plus minute journey into oblivion and soon, discordant keys set a bleak atmosphere. Inaudible noises dwell in the background as sections of divergent disarray cast a spell on those that continue to listen. About halfway into the track, ominous keys create a sense of melody, casting a shadowy light on this otherwise dark encounter. Psyclopean is up next with their second track of audial ambience in, “The Book Of Dayan”. A beguiling, warm drone casts a melancholic foundation while synth effects churn out a cold arrangement. A mournful vocalization adds a layers of funereal essence before giving way to a drifting thunderstorm field recording. Echoing narrations can be heard in the distance while peculiar percussion valiantly plays an off-kilter beat. The final few minutes of this track is filled with celestial drones, thunderous explosions and ethereal chants. If this doesn’t get you in the mood for Lovecraft-themed Mythos, then I don’t know what will. “Zanthu Tablets” is the next track provided by the magnificent Visions Of Ulnahar. Desolate waves on a gloomy beach front encounter cinematic tones and synth glitches showcasing a mixed emotive state. It’s as if this composition represents the ancient clash of good versus evil. This mesmerizing combination carries on until the end of the track, where the waves suddenly disappear and we’re left with just a soft theatrical melody. The final track on the album is provided by Noctilucant and it’s called “Cultes Des Goules”. Continuing on with a barrage of soundscapes and incandescent tones, this track is like an audible nightmare with haunting ambience, muffled wind sounds and soaring effects that are close to ear-piercing in pitch. A malevolent narrative piece is embedded amongst the ghoulish chaos as this nightmare of a track continues on. Retro synth leads are included in the mix and they provide a sinister tone to the overall sound of this track.

I know that this album has been out for a while now, but it’s never too late to review an epic collection of songs of these proportions. Each of these three artists – Psyclopean, Visions Of Ulnahar and Noctilucant – bring their own perception and taste for Synth excellence to collaborate on this pinnacle recording. Combining the best features of both Dungeon Synth and Dark Ambient music, this theatrical presentation tells an illuminating story of conceptual Lovecraftian manifestations. These are top-notch compositions with a supreme songwriting effort that deliver prestigious music of the highest order. Please support this album and these artists by listening to (and downloading) it from the link below.

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Links:

https://noctilucant.bandcamp.com/album/libris-arcanum

Celestial Ephemerides: A Collection Of Dungeon Synth Summary Reviews, Part III

Here with my third round of Dungeon Synth summary reviews that I call Celestial Ephemerides. As the Dungeon Synth genre becomes more expanded with an increased sense of popularity, there are many artists that continue to broaden their sound beyond the sphere of traditional Dungeon Synth. Such is the case for the amazing artists in this posting, as many of them create a fascinating world with their music that incorporates many elements of surprise. Please check these artists out and support them as much as possible and I hope you enjoy these releases as much as I do.

1. Meadow Grove – That Which Lies Beyond

‘That Which Lies Beyond’ is probably my favorite output but Meadow Grove as it’s firm mix of ambient textures and minimal use of synth leads create a mournful Dungeon Synth experience. These four epic tracks present a somber, musical experience that is part whimsical, part melancholic but completely alluring that is surely to reach a broad spectrum of listeners. When this thirty three minute long excursion is over, you’ll want to start it again, further embracing the enlightened bliss that it exudes.

https://meadowgrove.bandcamp.com/album/that-which-lies-beyond

2. Kalameet – The Everlasting Prairie Winters

Kalameet exemplifies the Medieval Dungeon Synth experience with bleak atmospherics and haunting synth arrangements. The gloomy production effort also increases the authenticity of the era that this recording represents. in addition to the captivating synth compositions, elements of percussion and whimsical key leads thwarts the listener back to a darkened time where castles and enchanted forests reigned supreme. I particularly love the ambient lead-ins for each track as they prepare the listener for a middle-aged journey that is compelling as it is real.

https://kalameet1.bandcamp.com/album/the-everlasting-prairie-winters

3. Gate Master – Gate Master

Although the self-titled Gate Master album is not the latest release in his catalog, it’s definitely one worth mention especially if you’ve not heard it yet. ‘Gate Master’ is everything that I love about some of my favorite genres of music. It contains a methodical Dungeon Synth cadence that draws the listener in as well as some bleak atmospherics that will satisfy fans of Dark Ambient music as well. On top of that, it encompasses some very cold and powerful Black Metal that was some of my favorite from last year. The track “Inverse Transcendent Hypostasis” is worth the price of the album by itself. Don’t pass on this artist and the amazing discography of albums that are available.

https://gatemaster.bandcamp.com/album/gate-master

4. Caliginous Empire – Gloom Lands

‘Gloom Lands’ is a captivating listening experience that runs the gamut of soundscapes and genre-bending within a twenty two minute span. Starting with a cinematic intro and leading into an fascinating journey of fantasy synth induced tracks, ‘Gloom Lands’ proves its epic prowess by virtue of musical compositions instead of the length of the album itself. One minute it is inviting with eccentric tones and the next the listener is presented with a brood of darkened atmospherics. An excellent debut from an up-and-coming Dungeon Synth artist!

https://caliginousempire.bandcamp.com/album/gloom-lands

5. Lamerak – Lamerak

At just sixteen minutes in length, ‘Lamerak’ is a charming fantasy synth adventure that catapults the listener into the heart of Medieval elements where a serene setting provides a peaceful existence for the entire kingdom. Although mostly a light and enchanting experiment, there are aspects of obscurity that enhances the listening experience. Synthwave effects create a haunting atmosphere for these tracks, making it a standout release in the Dungeon Synth community.

https://lamerak.bandcamp.com/album/lamerak

6. Lamia Vox – Alles Ist Ufer. Ewig Ruft Das Meer

‘Alles Ist Ufer. Ewig Ruft Das Meer’ is a soundtrack worthy album of cinematic proportions. Beautifully produced and classically arranged, these tracks fuse elements of Dark Ambient and Medieval Dungeon Synth with crystal clear clarity and a precise mix of elegant synth leads and dreamy narrations. Also featuring percussion, piano and stringed instrument arrangements, this album is an absorbing listen and is guaranteed to get multiples spins from listeners of this variety.

https://lamiavox.bandcamp.com/album/alles-ist-ufer-ewig-ruft-das-meer

7. Apoxupon – Nameless And Formless

‘Nameless And Formless’ is a bold and refreshing take on Dungeon Synth music. With dark atmospherics, layers of amusing keyboard arrangements and elements of experimental, avant-garde, Apoxupon has conjured quite an adventure with their fifth album of inspiring synth music. Never one to maintain the status quo, Apoxupon expands upon the realm of darkness and fantasy synth to create a signature sound that is unmistakable. This is one of my favorite Dungeon Synth albums of the year so far.

https://apoxupon.bandcamp.com/album/nameless-and-formless

8. Frailord – Injecting Divine Essence Of The Empyrean Kingdom

Frailord, one of the many projects behind Serpent Swords Records mastermind Davey Sasahara, finds a more regimented sound with a stark mix of Medieval Dungeon Synth and Black Metal, put together in a lo-fi production setting. One thing that stands out is the bombastic percussion, as it creates a hasty style of synth music that hypnotizes from the very first note. Sure you can hear the influences of Serpent Sword projects, but the intonations released on this album stand on their own as a unique project and identity. Another amazing effort by Davey!

https://serpentsswordrecords.bandcamp.com/album/injecting-divine-essence-of-the-empyrean-kingdom

9. Dahliad – The Feast Of Fools

‘The Feast Of Fools’ is a masterclass of synth compositions that extends beyond the Dungeon Synth realm. The theatrical presentation of this album as a whole is on point, while the inclusion of dark ambience and trance-like drones adds a bleak setting to the ominous output of each track. As if you’re trapped in a nightmare, certain tracks will play on the listeners emotions, ensuring an essence of coldness. However, other tracks contain an overwhelming sense of beauty, creating a wonderful balance as this album takes us down a different path in the realm of Dungeon Synth.

https://retconindustries.bandcamp.com

10. Genus Inkasso – Odd Little Gestures

This album is a little older but definitely with the mention in this article. Although not your typical Dungeon Synth album, it’s more like an experimental noise recording with harsh modulations that resonate in the same fashion as Dungeon Synth does. Using frequency manipulation as it’s stronghold for tonal adventure, this single track provides twenty six minutes of angst-laden soundscapes and reverberations that is sure to generate some feedback (no pun intended).

https://tonestrukt.bandcamp.com/album/odd-little-gestures

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Tir Brings A Cinematic Approach To An Ancient Time On ‘Persepolis’

This is not the first trip to The Dungeon In Deep Space for Tir, as I reviewed the spectacular offering, ‘Urd, Skuld & Verdandi’ back in 2019. That album was a quintessential element for the Dungeon Synth genre and one that (I feel) elevated Tir’s status as a driving force in the community. Fast forward to now – and several releases later – and we’re graced with another experience beyond comparison in, ‘Persepolis’. A fifty eight minute epic journey translated through beautifully crafted and cinematic synth music that transcends traditional Dungeon Synth settings. Prepare to be amazed as Tir takes you back in time, centuries before the darkness of the Medieval period and the somber essence that it foretold.

From the very first note of “Daemon Of Desert (Aži)”, an intense cinematic quality fills the air and increases as multiple synth effects and percussive elements provide a somber, yet melodic introduction to this intoxicating album. “Anahid’s Miracle” is a serene, melancholic anthem that plays a sorrowful tone while windy field recordings establish a scene of desolation and solitude. The beautiful choir-like sounds add an addictive resonance that go beyond the reach of any genre. “Summoning Alborz” is a slow starter but the natural soundscapes and enchanting instrumentation begin to take charge and will beckon the listener to dry lands and mystic occurrences. “Righteous Viraz” is a whimsical piece that is supremely memorable and the mix of high and low tones work amazingly well during the intro. Soon after, grandiose keys cry out in pain as somber melodies commence and present an emotional journey until the end of the track. “The Dragon King Raised An Army” completely contradicts the last track, as it’s eerie tone sets a dark path toward desolation. Haunting keys with a small amount of reverb works really well here and then suddenly – for the final minute – a lighter harmonic synth shows a glimmer of hope. “Mēnōg And Gētīg” begins with a bizarre synth effect that ultimately fused into an austere Medieval dirge, complete with rhythmic percussion and trance-like keys. “The Stone Thrown From Činwad Bridge (Extended)” starts as a beautiful ballad with lush instrumentation and a gentle arrangement. As this nine and a half minute track continues to progress, layers of alluring guitar chops fill the air with scenic beauty. A haunting ambience plays in the background, bringing a tinge of darkness to this otherwise charming song. As the guitars slowly fade, we are left with the grumbles of deep winds and enchanting soundscapes. “Sands In The Sky” is a gloomy Dungeon Synth effort with bells, orchestral movements and grainy production. However, half way through, crisp string sounds provide an element of surprise and intricately woven detail. “The Song Of The Cosmos Is Heard From Persepolis” is another Medieval masterpiece as it contains all of the elements that make it a stand out track. From the deep, baritone key arrangement to the ancient soundscapes and vocal effects, this track covers a large range of sounds to present its impressive composition. There is also a touch of synthwave to spice things up a bit. “The Rising Shadow Of Chaos” is one of my favorite tracks as it wastes no time getting to the point with its drum and synth audial attack. Although it’s very minimalistic, there is a dark groove and a terrifying sound that is suddenly amplified by the grotesque vocals at the end. I need to hear more of this! “Blood Red Desert” begins with a warm drone and some snappy instrumentation before settling into a Medieval anthem, worthy of multiple listens. “Welkin” is another beautiful ballad that has layers of well-crafted synth leads and several twists and turns to keep it eccentric and compelling. “Empire Of Stars” is a short, melodic piano piece that morphs into an amusing track with a full ensemble of instruments. Just as you get into the grove of this little jingle, it comes to an unfortunate but abrupt end. “Lost To The Shadows Of Memories” features expanded notes, as if this were being played in memory of a lost soul. I love how (as the song progresses) the elongated notes build in layers, almost creating a symphony of madness as the drums and backing keys play in solidarity. The final track on the album is “Forgotten Prophesy (feat. Varkana)” and it’s such a massive way to close out this spectacle from ancient times. With Tir’s passion for cinematic arrangements and Varkâna’s signature beats and effects, what can go wrong? I would actually love to hear these artists collaborate on a whole album, as this track is one of the pinnacles of ‘Persepolis’.

I continue to be impressed with Tir, as he constantly raises the bar with each release. Never one to settle for “just average”, Tir goes above and beyond to create an extravagant album each and every time and ‘Persepolis’ is no exception. From cinematic to whimsical, battle rhythms to ballads, Tir covers all of the bases in this fabulous expedition set in ancient times. In addition to that, he incorporates elements of synthwave, percussion, and a guest artist to round out this project that makes it such a compelling listen. I highly recommend checking out ‘Persepolis’ from the link below.

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Links:

https://tirofficial.bandcamp.com/album/persepolis

Pafund Exemplifies The Old School Dungeon Synth Sound With, ‘Forbandelsen’

I consider Pafund a Jack-Of-All-Trades Dungeon Synth artists. Whether it’s the pounding rhythms of Medieval battle hymns, the sultry sounds of Renaissance era synth arrangements or gothic undertones that provide a ghastly atmospheric presence, Pafund is the quintessential composer with a firm grasp on the genre as a whole. On latest release ‘Forbandelsen’, the musical fortitude has increased to an expounding radiance that shows why Pafund is the Keeper of the Stronghold. Teaming up with Voices Of The Ainur to produce a special edition “enhanced” cassette release, the lo-fi resonation of this masterful collection of tunes sounds as authentic as ever and is sure to take the listener back in time, on a journey of pugnacious quarrels and darkened skies.

Album opener, “Gammel Trolddom I” begins with an excerpt that literally sounds like someone is being thrown into the depths of an ancient dungeon. Suddenly, majestic keys begin to flow and attune to a melodic pattern that depicts an intense and austere disposition. Layers of haunting synths and background attenuations begin to conform to the bleakness of Medieval skies and the transformation to dark ancient times seem almost complete. “En Søgen Efter Ære” commences with a soothing string arrangement before bursting into a battle-like composition, complete with balanced percussion and layers of synth effects that encourage triumph and victory. Next up is the enchanting narrative, “Ruinernes Hvisken”. As one of the most cinematic tracks on the album, this one is overflowing with wondrous synth effects – expanding to genres beyond Dungeon Synth – while maintaining a solid foundation in Medieval-based compositions. The drums are particularly exciting, as they are upbeat throughout the track and have a strong presence in the mix. More along the lines of a forest synth track, “Visioner Af En Anden Fortid” opens with alluring keyboard affects and an ethereal backing synth that provides a solid foundation from start to finish. Maintaining a steady, celestial tone throughout, this track has a trance-like quality that is easy to get lost in. “Gammel Trolddom II” begins with a gloomy synth intro that builds into a bleak but tenacious intonation that has both synthwave and Neo-classical influences. It continues to build into obscurity and the drum parts seem to play a minor (but important) role this time around. “En Kamp Mod Forbandelsen” starts with a heavy drum pattern and airy synths before leading into a whimsical arrangement, showing even more of a musical diversity than ever before. After a few minutes the reverberations become more grandiose, as organ effects begin to play in unison with the mischievous keys. The track ends with a barrage of percussive patterns before finally falling silent. The final track on this ceremonious album is, “Hvor Klipperne Møder Havet”. Consisting of a funereal orchestral arrangement, this is a soothing and serene way to end an album that was – at times – aggressive and intense.

I’d like to take a few minute to talk about the immaculate cassette quality of this album. Released on the incredibly meticulous, Voices Of The Ainur label, this is one of the highest quality cassette releases I’ve ever seen. From the superb slip case, detail-oriented j-card, and the pro-labeled cassette with the artist name and song titles etched on it, this is as good as it gets. You’d be hard pressed to find quality like this in a cassette release – not only in the music, but with the physical material as well. It’s detail like this that makes Voices Of The Ainur stand out amongst the rest. An absolutely stunning job for this cassette and I highly recommend grabbing one of these gems as soon as they go on sale.

As for the music, ‘Forbandelsen’ is another spectacular Pafund album and I continue to be impressed as to how much effort goes into each release. Although, this is your typical lo-if Dungeon Synth recording, the production effort is by no means low quality. Everything is stellar about this album, from the writing, arrangements, instrumentation to the production and physical release elements. I highly recommend checking out ‘Forbandelsen’, so click on the links below and indulge in the cassette release as well as the digital download, you won’t regret it.

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Links:

https://pafund.bandcamp.com/album/forbandelsen

https://voicesoftheainur.bandcamp.com/album/vota-012-forbandelsen-2

Gavella Glan Summons Medieval Forebodings On Dungeon Synth Debut, ‘A Silent Vigil For Oncoming Plagues’

One of my favorite sites to monitor for new and upcoming releases is the Noctilucant Bandcamp page. Creating some of my most cherished Dark Ambient and synth-based releases of the past few years, Joseph Mlodik has a knack for cultivating neural sounds through various projects such as Noctilucant, Sonic Oscillations and my personal favorite, House Of The Maker. Although these projects are firmly based in the realm of Dark Ambient, they each explore various audial modulations, broadening the spectrum for his magnificent releases. Earlier this year, the Noctilucant catalog (and sound scope) was aggrandized further with the release of his first-ever Dungeon Synth album, ‘A Silent Vigil For Oncoming Plagues’ under the moniker of Gavella Glan. Containing ten tracks of ambient based fantasy synth music, this album is a magnificent debut in a genre full of unlimited potential.

The ambient influences are apparent on enigmatic album opener, “The Calm Before The Storm”. There are plenty of field recordings and obscure soundscapes to propel the listener back to an ancient time, preparing them for the Medieval campaigns that lay ahead. Every so often, a dreamy synth lead will add a sense of peace and tranquility, as the sound effects continue to carry the story. Calmly leading into “Echoes Of The Past”, we’re greeted with lush vocals and synth harmonies that continue down the path of equanimity. As if that wasn’t serene enough, the soothing sounds of gentle waves crashing on a shoreline are added and maintain repose until the end of the track. The next song, “Beyond Hill And Dale”, is a relaxing, yet whimsical tune with random bits of distant laughter and a variety of instrumental effects. Although just a couple of minutes long, this is a beautiful piece that fits right in with the rest of the album. “The One Atop The Mountain” commences with a cracking fire and a soft ambient tone before fusing into a noble synth melody, suffused with layers of harmony and trance-like modulations. I love how the mild use of discordant notes change the atmosphere of this track and the spirit of this arrangement is one of my favorites on the album. “The Oxenfurt Drunk” begins with a quick narrative clip that is loud and crisp in the mix and if you’re not expecting it, you’ll probably jump at first listen. As the narration firmly belts out, “I’m here to talk about the contract”, you’ll be fully participating in the audial essence of the music that begins right after. From ambitious to whimsical, this track goes through several atmospheric changes and is a strong contender for the most cinematic track on the album. “A Story Night Of Arcane Hexes” starts with softly played synth leads and a hint of a strange commotion in the background. Key leads and haunting vocals are reminiscent of a horror movie soundtrack while a multitude of dangers lay ahead as the song is filled with evil sounds, firing blasts and obscure melodies that paint a bleak scene of destruction. “A Silent Vigil For Oncoming Plagues” dabbles in the synthwave arena while staying firmly planted in the cinematic Medieval Synth genre. Elongated synth leads combined with dark, oppressive soundscapes and field recordings provide an extremely textural composition with the occasional subtlety to keep it pertinent with the rest of the album. “Child Of The Elder Blood” is a dreamy arrangement that combines pastoral synth leads and melancholic drones. It’s as if you’re having an out-of-body experience and this track is maintaining a trajectory to propel you to another plane. This is an amazing piece and another one of my favorites. “The Path Of Warriors” is more on the lines of a traditional Dungeon Synth song with lo-if synth effects, combined with soft, flowing winds and a beautiful backing synth arrangement. From chirping birds, a warrior drawing his sword to an overall peaceful setting, this is another outstanding track and is sure to gain multiple listens. The final track on the album is the epic, “The Lord Of Undvik”. At almost eleven and a half minutes Lin length, it’s the longest track on the album and the most diverse. Beginning with the usual field recordings and soundscapes, an ominous drone carries forth in the background and flows persuasively from side to side, as it fuses into layers of ghastly synth leads and battle-like soundscapes, as if a deranged outcome was suddenly bestowed upon an unlikely kingdom. This haunting track concludes with devilish laughter and dark ambient-like drones and a perplexing end to this fantastical story.

I’m so glad that the Noctilucant mastermind decided to venture out and try his hand at Dungeon Synth. Not only is it a highly impressive album, but it showcases quite a story as well. There is adventure, cinematic music, a daring mix of genres and an entertainment value that will definitely keep this album in my play list for a long time to come. I highly recommend checking out this amazing album as well as all the other incredible albums on the Noctilucant Bandcamp page. Please click on the link below and download “A Silent Vigil For Oncoming Plagues “ by Gavella Glan.

Please Like/Follow my blog so that you’ll get first hand updates every time I post a review. Thanks for visiting the Dungeon!!

Links:

https://noctilucant.bandcamp.com/album/a-silent-vigil-for-oncoming-plagues

Eyre Transmissions XI – Interview With Medieval Dungeon Synth Artist, Pale Castle

If there is ever a musical venture that represents the desolation of solitude while remaining steadfast to the culture of true Medieval Dungeon Synth music, Pale Castle would fit the bill perfectly. Creating a sound that mirrors emptiness and isolation, Pale Castle excels at composing bleak arrangements that casts the listener back to an ancient time of fierce commonwealth rivalries, mystical imagery and mythical adventures, while presenting a soothing atmosphere to get lost in. I recently had the pleasure of communicating with the mastermind behind Pale Castle to gain more in-site to this amazing project and what adventures are to come.

1. First of all, welcome to the Dungeon and thank you for this interview opportunity. The name ‘Pale Castle’ is so intriguing to me because there could be so many meanings for its being. How did you come up with the name and what does it mean to you?

You are very welcome. This is first time I have spoken to the outside world and I thank you for the opportunity. The timing was providence as I have now finished a journey from a dark place of inspiration. 

The name is a place, the place is where I once dwelt. The castle was not always pale but now it fades. Some say it’s no longer there….I have not seen it in ages. 

The Pale Castle is where memories once grew but now fade away. Another musician I admire once said that he could “build a castle with memories just to have somewhere to go”. That is how the listener could interpret ‘Pale Castle’…as a fortress of memories.

2. The music of Pale Castle is – at times – very bleak and dismal, presenting a true Medieval perception. Was that the vision for this project?

Thank you, for that is what I sought to convey.

The vision is that of solitude and adventure. 

A personal journey that I would like to share with my listeners. It’s my path in life to seek mystery and find a higher purpose though music and the realms it brings me to. 

My photography on the Pale Castle Instagram heightens and documents this passage.

Simply put though, the vision is a tale as old as time itself. Loss, gain, death and rebirth. The songs are fragments and imprints of my torment and occasionally my joy. That is my vision, a projection of my emotions both jovial and melancholic.  

3. I really enjoy the minimalistic aspect of the compositions, especially on the S/T album. What’s your typical routine for creating and tracking a typical Pale Castle song?

Sometimes I wander the hills and valleys and there I find inspiration in the wind and the night’s sky. There, when I’m Fortunate enough, I am hit with a burst of creative energy and begin to whistle or hum a few chords and melodies. I take that energy and store it in my mind. Then, when I return to my quarters I center myself and begin to preserve it. The process varies depending on the ambiance or sound I ultimately desire to achieve. I use a few different instrument and I enjoy sketching out a kind of story with a single motif and then expanding from that as my mood commands the direction of the track. A lot of the sorcery happens in the mixing and mastering phase of an album. 

I prefer minimal arrangements as it allows for the listener to focus on the emotion of the piece. Powerful chords and melodies and can be repeated with benefit, similarly as a steady fire can warm one’s bones.

4. My favorite track from the S/T is “Wall Of Blood Crosses”. How did you amass such an ethereal sound for that track and what was the inspiration behind it?

Plenty of analog reverb and tape delay was used to get that tone. It was layered several times as well. The inspiration came from the story that the album tells. As you can see, the album has a linear narrative that is told through the song titles. “Wall Of Blood Crosses” is the part in the story when I am wandering the castle and reflecting on my history and admiring the silver crosses filled with my family’s blood going back centuries. Imagine a huge hallway lined with such talismans all sealed with lead to keep them protected. 

That is the wall of blood crosses. Thousands of talismans filled with blood in a room that is most likely no more. “What happened to the crosses?” one might ask. 

I no longer care anymore. 

5. It’s impressive how your songs can transition from ominous to harmonious on a whim. Is there a particular concept in mind for these types of arrangements?

The concept is that those are reflections of life and how things change quickly, sometimes for the better, sometimes for the worse. Especially when traveling. Dungeon Synth to me was always about the idea of traveling and adventure even if only in one’s mind. 

And even in the mind the mood of one’s thoughts can change without warning. This can be an emotional spark in music when done with feeling. I like to catch my listeners off guard and so that maybe they are slightly startled and taken back if for only a split second. That is not unlike when an animal or a force of nature enters your path while wunderlusting on an otherwise clear road. 

6. Moving on to ‘Sorrowful Memories’, it still contains the dreary aspects of the S/T, but this time around there seems to be more cinematic elements. Was it a conscious decision to branch out with a grander sound the second time around?

The initial offering captured in the self titled release is all about the castle and the stories within it’s boundaries. ‘Sorrowful Mysteries’ is the adventurous spirit the was freed once I was able to separate my soul from my body. On the first tape I created a cold and confined sound to illustrate the oubliette like atmosphere, in ‘Sorrowful Mysteries’ I wanted to convey the feeling of traveling and discovery. So yes, it was a very conscious decision to create a more cinematic sound. The listener should feel outdoors and upon a means travel. 

7. Your songs carry a lot of background ambience that is not only soothing, but an important part of your sound. Have you ever considered doing a Dark Ambient project as well?

I have done several Dark Ambient projects over the years. My very first recordings in the late 1990s could be considered Dark Ambient. 

I was only a teenager when I started recording music, nonetheless I believe that Dark Ambient was my first inspiration for recording my own compositions. There are artifacts of these recordings and others that were produced throughout the 2000s and as recently as last year. I will not name them here but there are ways to find these projects. 

That was another life. Still, fragments remain.

8. “The Gathering Of Spirits” is one of my favorite tracks from ‘Sorrowful Memories’ as it seems to have that gothic, romanticism influence. What were some of your influences during the recording of this album and this track in particular.

When my father died in 2011 it was in our family home and many souls gathered there, myself included to witness his death. Convergences such as these are a sort of phenomenon that occur with little or no flow of information, as if to say that the spirits inform those who need to know. The spirits also gather with each other for the preparation to carry one’s essence to the land of deeper shade.

A family friend one night once witnessed an eerie green ball of energy hover over my family’s land, he and I both believe this to have been my father’s power manifested as it was right before he fell ill. After my father’s body grew cold and rigid other visitors arrived.

They brought flowers to adorn his corpse and helped wrap him in sheepskin pelts. 

Some told us that they knew not of his demise and were only guided to the estate by an urge. Others came wholeheartedly to pay their final respects. He was the sorcerer and the final track is about his death as well. As far as musical inspiration for that track I’d say that perhaps it was inspired by my memories of that fateful night.

9. Speaking of influences, let’s talk about your Dungeon Synth beginnings if we can. When did you first start listening to the genre and who were some of your favorite artists?

My first encounter with Dungeon Synth is difficult to pinpoint as I have been listening to unusual music for quite awhile and definitely heard “dungeon” like music on the odd college radio stations at night in the 1990s. 

With that said though I would say that my first introduction to traditional Dungeon Synth was though listening to Black Metal interludes from bands such as Dimmu Borgir, Burzum, Noktunal Mortum, Summoning and also more avant-garde dark synth, especially Sopor Aeternus & The Ensemble of Shadows. That project definitely had a very significant impact on my musical path. I would actually recommend that your readers listen to ‘Songs From The Inverted Womb’.

I would also like to take this opportunity to share an experience I had upon listening to my favorite Dungeon Synth album for the first time which is ‘Fjelltronen‘ by Wongraven. As I recall I was laying in a pitch dark room and within the first few measures of the opening track I began to feel weightless and I drifted into a simi -conscious state of being. Throughout the rest of the album I experienced what could only be described as an “out of body experience”

After that I began to see Dungeon Synth as something very special. That was 2004. By 2005 I had began recording Dungeon Synth experimentations. Pale Castle is my first complete Dungeon Synth endeavor. 

There is a “je ne sais quoi“ about the genre that definitely matches my personality. 

Not in a dark and brooding gothic fantasy way, more akin though to my fascination with the past and of realms unfound or forgotten.

Loss, isolation, suffering, love and remembrance…those are the aspects of life that stoke the fires of the castle.

10. When did you realize that you wanted to record a Dungeon Synth album and at that time were you involved with any other non-synth based music projects?

I have been recording synthesized music since the 1990s and have been involved with a handful of black metal, ambient, experimental groups and solo projects over the last two decades, although as of 2010 I have been producing and recording only synth based ambient and Dungeon Synth. 

The idea for Pale Castle came to me in late 2019 as I began to see the future of “dark music” and it’s esthetics. The romanticism of old-school black metal, the re-discovery of what brought me solace and to be in a mental place where I felt I could give it a valiant effort. 

That is when the transformation occurred. 

I found the castle in the dark recesses of my mind. It’s with me now forever. 

And with that said, I will choose to remain quiet about those earlier recordings as I see them as part of an old life. Not that I am ashamed or not proud of my past but rather to exemplify my commitment to the future and to Pale Castle. 

11. Earlier this year you released the ‘Remember Together, Remember Forever’ cassette, which features both Pale Castle recordings. How is the cassette release doing so far and what do you think about the recent surge in cassette sales as a form of music release?

At time of this interview it is almost gone far as it’s availability on my Bandcamp merch page. 

So that is good, most importantly because that means it is being heard and shared with others and hopefully will bring some to tears, whether they be tears of joy or sadness, so long as they are not tears like those of a crocodile.

That is the goal of my music, to get a genuine emotional response, especially stimuli connected to memories and personal turmoils. 

Yes, the appreciation of the cassette tape as a collectible form of musical preservation is something that makes me smile. When the compact tape cassette was introduced in 1963 it was not yet a major competition to the vinyl LP, by the late 1970s though it was becoming a standard for music collections across the world. It remained very popular until the early 1990s when CDs, although introduced in 1982 we’re finally more affordable and the players portable enough to start the inevitable death of the cassette tape from a popular consumer prospective. That is what is endearing about cassette culture, that people choose to support artists who make tapes and collect their releases despite it being cumbersome and less convenient. I think the resurgence is also due in part by the current generation hearing about the old times of tape trading and the satisfaction of making something by hand. That is the thing about cassettes, they require just the right amount of patience to make at home but are not too expensive such as the case with vinyl and when compared to CDs, tapes are much more resilient. I have seen an uptick in compact discs as well though,albeit in other genres such as noise and ambient. To finish the subject, I will say that I think the resurgence of tape is an art in and of itself and that alone is a testament to the importance of the cassette’s existence.

12. What else is in store for Pale Castle for the remainder of 2021?

Currently I am recording new tracks for a 60 minute album titled “When Everyone Else Dies, We Won’t” Hopefully I will find the time to also design and make a few clothing items. 

Not only t-shirts, I’d like to offer some one of a kind garments and special items for my supporters. That is the beautiful part of this new golden age of independent artists, no longer do musicians and artists need the approval and favors of the gatekeepers to share their creative passions.

I plan to share many of my creations in 2021.

13. Have you ever thought about performing in a live setting or is Pale Castle strictly a studio project?

The idea of preforming Pale Castle live is something that intrigues me, it would most certainly have to be the appropriate location and setting though. An old church, a stone cellar or an actual dungeon. Short of a venue along those lines I don’t see it happening. If I were possessed to somehow play a bar or club I would probably loose my temper at the crowd and go from “dungeon synth” to “prison synth” 

No, If I were to perform it would have to be around a respectful audience in a somber atmosphere.

14. I really appreciate your time for this interview. Do you have any final thoughts or words for those that will be reading this?

Thank you for the invitation and for providing me an audience so that I could share my thoughts regarding not only my music but that of the genre itself and with that I would like to say that Dungeon Synth is not a novelty genre to me and that it’s existence is very much rooted in history though various periods in human history. Growing up I often heard sounds that are not “synth” but most definitely of the “dungeon” I would like to say that Dungeon Synth and Dark Ambient as musical genres are two of the most important aspects of my artistic pursuit in life and that anyone considering releasing their recordings should definitely go forth and be proud of your creations. To all artists, take personal time to be alone with your thoughts preferably in the outdoors or more importantly where you as an individual feels the most tranquil. It is within that tranquility that you will find your most genuine ideas. I could ramble for an eon but I shall save that for hopefully a later time with you as I would be interested in a video interview in the future. In closing I would like to say thanks to you again and all hailz be to TYRANNUS! thank you for your music and inspiration! You are noticed and appreciated. 

– Bless all those who keep the candles burning and the fires lit. I feel your pain and I hear your voices in the night.

-Pale Castle

Links:

https://palecastle.bandcamp.com

https://www.facebook.com/𝔭𝔞𝔩𝔢-𝔠𝔞𝔰𝔱𝔩𝔢-111304390635373

https://www.instagram.com/pale_castle/

Hasufel Spreads Anguish Into The Halls Of Madness With Synth-Spectacular, ‘Exaltation’

‘Exaltation’ has been a highly anticipated release ever since the advertisements and promo packages have been putting out exciting information on the music contained within for the past few months. For me, it provoked a sense of enthusiasm for really wanting to dive in and examine the power of each track. With just four songs and about twenty minutes of playing time, I expected this one to hit hard right from the opening note until the final one. So after have experiencing this album at least five or six times now, do I think it lives up to the hype? Absolutely…and then some! ‘Exaltation’ is a seamless blend of Dungeon Synth, Winter Synth and Dark Ambient with superb vocal narrations and effects, as well as ominous soundscapes and field recordings. This is quite the unique listening experience and definitely a rewarding one.

“School Of The Prophets” begins with eerie drones and sinister, lo-fi soundscapes, depicting a true scenery of dungeon vibes and heinous Medieval existence. Winter synth tones come into the equation and are quite melodic, but as an addition to the darkened tones, it’s presents a grim listening experience. Pastoral narrations add a maniacal and dreadful emotion that may seem overwhelming, but fits in perfectly to maintain the gloomy ambiance. The song closes out with a single – high-pitched – tones that leads right in to, “White Mildew”, another bleak affair that showcases what it would have been like to be committed to a lifetime of Dungeon-dwelling existence. The slight echo on the voice narrations is reminiscent of early 90’s Black Metal ambient sections – desolate and ominous at best. Although keyboards are used in a minimalistic setting, they fuse perfectly with the atmosphere of this track. “Salvación” is a slow builder, almost tribal-like, with more outstanding narrative parts. This time there is a vocal variant that is added, expanding the density of the soundscapes and field recordings. This track is almost in the realm of ritualistic black ambient, and is one of my favorite recordings on the album. However, amongst the chaos, it ends on an austere, but peaceful note. The final song on the album is the title track, “Exaltation”. From the very beginning, it emits very creepy vibes with heavily reverberated piano tracks and almost circus-like anthems, as if a great show was coming to a close. This is a grand meshing of the senses, as it is part whimsical and part malevolent. It’s like chaos with paralysis and a perfect way to end this short but amazing album.

Hasufel fuses the best of both worlds – speaking specifically of Dungeon Synth and Dark Ambient. Although ‘Exaltation’ doesn’t fit firmly in either of these genres, the prodigious tracks contained within takes the best of both genres and expands them to a realm of unimaginable terror and viscous imagery. I’m completely fascinated by this recording and it reminds me of 90’s Black Metal as well, especially with the dissonant ambient interludes that create the horrific scenes between the tracks of hateful riffing. I highly recommend checking out ‘Exaltation’ if any of the above-mentioned descriptives appeal to you. I guarantee that you won’t be disappointed, so click on the link below and download this spectacular album.

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Links:

https://pacificthrenodies.bandcamp.com/album/exaltation

Celestial Ephemerides: A Collection Of Dungeon Synth Summary Reviews, Part II

I’m back with another round of Dungeon Synth summary reviews. As I continue to catch up on my review queue, I find it refreshing (and engaging) to release these more concise write-ups, as it enables me to dive deeper into these albums at a quicker pace without distraction. I hope you enjoy reading about these incredible albums and it’s my intent that you find them intriguing enough to download them and support these wonderful artists.

1. Unterland – Heimweg

Heimweg is a surprisingly good album and it differs from most other Dungeon Synth recordings, as it is primarily guitar based. This unique recording is heavily based in Medieval compositions but a wide array of instrumentation – including metal guitar riffs – adds an unforeseen twist that works out really well. If your ready for something a bit unorthodox but with impeccable songwriting, look no further than this gem.

https://unterland.bandcamp.com/album/heimweg

2. Vacarch – A Dance Around Ourselves

Vacarch, another genre-bending act, pulls no punches on the immaculate, ‘A Dance Around Ourselves’. Although planted in Various sub-genre’s of Dungeon Synth, there is no limit to the musical variety that is packed into this fifty two minutes album. From synthwave to metal, no genre is safe from being besieged by this incredible artist. The compositions are astonishing and the production is gloomy like on mid-90’s gothic metal album releases. Highly recommended for those that aren’t afraid to venture beyond the ordinary!

https://vacarch.bandcamp.com/album/a-dance-around-ourselves

3. Alkilith – Tales Of The Wandering Mage

Minimalistic Medieval Dungeon Synth with a significant mix of gloomy soundscapes and field recordings that easily succeeded in summoning the listener back to the Middle Ages. Don’t expect fancy compositions or pristine productions, as this was meant to be an unsettling adventure back in the times of dark unrest. This is masterful Dungeon Synth at its best and shouldn’t be overlooked by anyone.

https://alkilithmage.bandcamp.com/album/tales-of-the-wandering-mage

4. Erang – Imagination Never Fails

‘Imagination Never Fails’ was in my “Top 10” list for Dungeon Synth releases of 2020. Not only is Erang a legend in the Dungeon Synth community, he creates a fantasy world like no other and by the end of the album, you’ll have visited a fanatical realm beyond verbal description. A master at song composition and instrumental arrangements, this album is one of his best and it continues to expand beyond Dungeon Synth and explore other synth-based genres. Highly recommended for fans of synth music in general!

https://erang.bandcamp.com/album/imagination-never-fails

5. WizzardStorm – WizzardStorm Presents: ‘Excerpts From Beowulf’

This Medieval Folk-based album may be one of the most bizarre albums in this list. However, this guitar-heavy recording is an entertaining endeavor with a high production value and quality songwriting. The vocals are deep in the mix, adding a depth of character that is dark and brooding, while the music is bright, yet at times discordant. This reminds me of a mix between modern Xasthur and Devin Townsend’s Casualties Of Cool recording – very interesting and worth the listen.

https://wizzardstorm.bandcamp.com/album/wizzardstorm-presents-excerpts-from-beowulf

6. Spawn Of Incantation – Ancient Hordes Of Bochi

Not all sides of Medieval imagery has to be dark and majestic. Spawn Of Incantation play an alluring brand of Dungeon Synth that soothes the soul and meets the criteria for Middle Ages themed synth music. This music is a soundtrack for somber times amongst the darkest of days. It’s quite the change of pace from the typical Dungeon Synth music that is released, but it’s calming demeanor is great for me.

https://spawnofincantation.bandcamp.com/album/ancient-hordes-of-bochi

7. Leaves Of Lorien – Golden Wood

‘Golden Wood’ is forty six minutes of whimsical & cinematic synth injected with well-placed field recordings topped off with crystal clear production. This is a high-quality effort that musically expands the Medieval and Renaissance periods and the huge efforts of this artist shows, as this is a gripping album with definite replay value.

https://leavesoflorien.bandcamp.com/album/golden-wood

8. Wooded Memory – My Secret Horror

‘My Secret Horror’ is another album that made it to my “Top 10” Dungeon Synth albums of 2020 but definitely worth mentioning again in this publishing. More like music from the Renaissance era due to its condensed song structure and lightened sense of arrangement, the songs sway from alluring piano arrangements to gothic-infused synth piece with retrospective soundscapes and layering. This is just an excellent album to get lost in.

https://woodedmemory.bandcamp.com/album/my-secret-horror

9. Spectral Spire – Ruination Of Tehten-Hurz

Consisting of just two lengthy dirges of lo-fi Dungeon Synth music, this album will take the listener back to a Medieval landscape of desolation and melancholy. With an excellent blend of droning keys, bleak field recordings and haunting atmospherics, it’s hard not to be emotionally transported back to that daunting time when all things led to darkness. Fortunately, there are layers of beautiful melody throughout these two tracks that make this listening experience a completely enthralling one.

https://spectralspire.bandcamp.com/album/ruination-of-tehten-hurz

10. The Backwards Funeral – The Last Day: Part I

‘The Last Day: Part I’ is the complete package in terms of truly embracing the many sub-genres of Dungeon Synth. This release has tracks that range from Medieval intonations to Crypt Hop and Chiptune. Even if you’re not a fan of all of these sub-genres, this album is laid out so well that it’s bound to draw you in at some point, as this is a highly enjoyable release. I would recommend this album to anyone that is open to a variety of music and tones on a single album.

https://thebackwardsfuneral.bandcamp.com/album/the-last-day-part-i

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Taurwen Finds Solace In Haunting Romantic-Era Anthems On ‘A Wind Blows From The Mountain Of Death’

When it comes to themes and subject matter for Dungeon Synth releases, it’s obvious that historical references play a large influential role. Although mostly tied to Medieval and Renaissance periods, some artist choose a more gothic approach that is more aligned with romantic era topics. ‘A Wind Blows From The Mountain Of Death’ by Taurwen definitely fits into the latter, with elegant synth compositions that beam with both classical and haunting elements. Although not dark and foreboding like Medieval period music, these songs are still somber but in a more peaceful way.

The lead off song, simply titled “Intro”, is a wonderful preface to this album as it quickly establishes its foundation with romanticism and gothic undertones through symmetrical compositions. “Rites Of Spring” is a domineering performance as it showcases cinematic quality orchestrations with rhythmic drum beats. Although this is a sonically dismal piece, it has an alluring nature to it that captures the best of both worlds. “Waterspirit” begins with a soothing field recording of brisk waters hitting a shoreline. As that fades, a deep melodic tone gives way to layers of beautiful synth effects. The underlying drum beat adds a wonderful charm, as flowing synth leads create a massive sound that carries throughout the track. “The Last Farewell” is a memorable dirge-like track that boasts a captivating piano lead in addition to delicate stringed-instrument effect that compliments a melancholic arrangement. “Misty Path” is one of my favorite tracks on the album, as the unforgettable melody is one of the most serene arrangements I’ve heard in quite sometime. This song definitely belongs on a movie soundtrack and epitomizes how great this album really is. “In The Arms Of The Night” is another somber affair that shines with tranquility and emotions. The clarity of the stringed instrument effects are deeply engaging and as this track sways between layers of blissful harmonies and single toned interludes, it never looses focus on the romanticism era for which it magnificently represents. “Resurrection” sounds more like a Medieval piece but played in the Renaissance period, as it’s more uplifting and grandiose. The addition of bombastic beats makes for a more theatrical sound and the excitement of this track continues to grow until the very last note. “Pale Sun” presents a slight change of pace, as the synth effects are more whimsical than other tracks. However, the songwriting is on point and as the additional layers are introduced, scenes of lavish lands and peaceful times come to mind. “Dark Hills” has a very ominous sound and is wonderfully composed. Again, the classical elements continue to assemble into an enchanting barrage of melody. The calmness of the distant rainstorm at the end enhances the moment and slowly creates a sense of reality. “Hum Of The Forest (feat. Tir)” is one of the most ambitious tracks on the album and fuses magical synth arrangements and massive soundscapes, presenting an adventurous composition full of gothic mystery. The final track on this amazing journey is “The Calm Of The Mountains”. At just under two minutes, it wastes no time putting the listener in a placid state, as chirping birds give way to alluring keys and a regal backing synth that exudes an euphoric state of mind.

‘A Wind Blows From The Mountain Of Death’ is much more than a Dungeon Synth album. It’s a classical musical endeavor that uses gothic nuances to pay homage to the romantic period. Although there are a few Medieval elements, tranquil compositions are prevalent throughout and Taurwen excels at creating a musical adventure that sticks out amongst his peers. If you’ve not heard this amazing album yet, I highly recommend checking it out by clicking on the link below.

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Links:

https://taurwenofficial.bandcamp.com/album/a-wind-blows-from-the-mountain-of-death