Neo-Classical Elements And A Conceptual Medieval Tale Give Life To Almesbury Abbey’s ‘Queen Guinevere’

There are many stories that depict the life of Queen Guinevere, the nefarious wife of King Arthur, but one of the most regarded chronicles is her lustful betrayal of her husband and consequent affair with Lancelot. After a period of time, she returns to the King and is forgiven of her treacherous disloyalty. However, King Arthur decides to go pursue Lancelot, leaving Queen Guinevere in the care of Mordred, who has an ulterior motive of his own – a plan to marry the Queen. Fleeing his proposal, Queen Guinevere seeks refuge in the nun convent known as Almesbury – where she subsequently remained for the remainder of her life due to the humiliation of her infidelities. Much of this was paraphrased for the sake of this review but it’s such an intriguing story and the major influence for the album at hand. Almesbury Abbey, one of many projects by Arnaud Spitz (and the material contained within), is a rediscovery of compositions previously written but finally released on this conceptual album based on Queen Guinevere’s concluding years in the Almesbury convent.

Somber opening track, “Guinevere’s Gone”, begins with a hauntingly alluring melody that seems so full of sadness, yet offers a bit of brightness with the extended synth tones that weave in and out of the main keyboard passage. Keeping it simple, this song doesn’t build upon layers of synth leads and rhythms, but instead draws the listener in with its beautiful simplicity. “Mordred’s Curse” is where the excitement begins and the grim, Medieval arrangements take over. Layers of obscured synths and a sudden bit of pulsating effects, followed by nightmarish sounds give this short track a big presence on the album. “The Creeping Mist” is another enticing track that is full of wondrous melody and droning ambience to give this brooding dirge a full and really clear sound. The lead synth chops are used sparingly and in good taste, as they provide an additional warming atmosphere. Next up is my a favorite song on the album, “A Madness Of Farewells”. Commencing with a mysterious synth effect that fuses into an elegant, yet melancholic arrangement, this has to be one of the most memorable moments on the album. Medieval-style keyboard leads and layers of dungeon synth melodies complete this monumental song and in my opinion, it’s just not long enough. “Almesbury Gates” starts with blasting cathedral-like organs before developing into a modest dungeon synth arrangement. These two styles battle back and forth throughout the track with the occasional pulse effect, giving it a percussive feel. Toward the end, the melody changes and contains an echo effect, providing a grandiose sound. “Heathen Of The Northern Sea” is an enchanting piece that compliments the style of Almesbury Abbey. The lead keyboard chops are magical on this track and pay further homage to the traditional dungeon synth sound. “My Sinful Queen I Forgive Thee” has the characteristics (and sound) of a classical guitar composition with hints of retro progressive synth arrangements, with regards to tone and its progressive time signature. The final track on the album is “Beyond These Voices There Is Peace.” The choir-like vocal effects are both ominous and mournful at the same time. Medieval synth interpretations slowly crescendo into the mix and ultimately overtake the vocal effects all together. As more synth sounds are introduced, the more dismal the track gets, painting a very grim picture to close out the album.

Almesbury Abbey is a very fascinating project that contains elements of neo-classical, dungeon synth and Medieval compositions. Knowing that all of these magnificent pieces were written and inspired by the latter days of Queen Guinevere, makes it all the more worthwhile. If you enjoy synth music of a more intimate setting with hints of harsher overtones, I would highly recommend checking out ‘Queen Guinevere’ and supporting this prodigious artist by downloading the album from the link below.

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Links:

https://almesburyabbey.bandcamp.com/releases

Madame Swann Records Rare Compositions And A Few Original Tracks On Unprecedented Self-Titled Album

Although the origins of Dungeon Synth continue to be debated, there is no question that it’s influences date back centuries. From medieval-era composition to turn-of-the-century neo-classical arrangements, Dungeon Synth has taken great prestige in expanding on these magnificent musical cultures. Madame Swann has done something quite unique on their debut album, in that they’ve taken four previously written compositions from the early 1900’s – that have never been musically recorded – and have given them an everlasting audible experience. In addition, Madame Swann have composed two original tracks to add to this stellar recording, giving their personal stamp on this special album. In all, these six tracks flow with a sense of nostalgia with a minimalistic approach to instrument tracking.

Right from the start, the ominous quality of “Balbec Après I’Orage” shuffles through notes with haunting enthusiasm and presents a crystal-clear production that is even more haunting. Various synth effects present a retro feel throughout the track and it’s just so hard to imagine that this beautiful song was written around a hundred years ago, even though it sounds so up-to-date. “Nuit d’Octobre” is one of the original tracks written by Madame Swann and it fits in perfectly with the aesthetics of the other classical tracks on this album with regards to arrangement and melody beautification. In addition, the minimalistic approach provides such an eerie backdrop to go along with the minor keys that are played in such a masterful structure. “Captive” keeps the same sound, tone and timing as the previous tracks and it simply exudes a combination of neo-classical and retro synth layers to create a lavish sound. Next up is the delightfully toned, “Fugitive”. The production contains a huge wall-of-sound that slowly echoes to create a massive musical endeavor. A faint drone plays underneath a busy synth lead that reverberates a passion for classical compositions. “La Mort De Swann” is a standout track as it contains various sounds and effects not heard on any other track. From deep synth grumbles to high-pitched vibrato tones, this is a short eclectic piece that is too interesting not to be recorded for the first time in almost a century. The final track on the album is another Madame Swann original entitled “Prière”. This one features more of a dark ambient intro with mesmerizing narrations before diving into some serious medieval synth leads. After a few bars of this beautiful sound, it begins to build and layer with additional leads that play in the same style but toned down a bit, creating a really enthralling and adventurous track.

I really enjoy the concept of Madame Swann and the approach taken on this album was done with with extraordinary attention to detail. Containing two original tracks written by the artist and four tracks written by Jeanne Spitz (almost one hundred years ago) but never musically recorded, Madame Swann have released an amazing album of neo-classical/neo-medieval synth music that shouldn’t be pigeon-holed to just those two genres. From the arrangements, instrumentation, musicianship and production, this album presents an all-around wonderful listening experience. Please support Madame Swann and download this amazing album from the link below.

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Links:

https://madameswann.bandcamp.com/releases

Velvety Synth Leads And Ghoulish Compositions Prevail On Ancient Sword’s ‘Ars Antiqua’

Darkness descending on ominous Dungeon Synth music with a soundtrack-like quality is one of the key elements that I’ve come to love with this genre of music. It’s those artists that continue to push the boundary of songwriting and sound quality without giving up the general aesthetics of the genre is what makes recordings like these sound so great. In this matter, I’m referring to ‘Ars Antiqua’ by Ancient Sword. Featuring eight mesmerizing tracks of elemental Dungeon Synth, this is a beautiful recording of the highest nature.

“Descending The Darkpath” is the perfect album opener with dismal field recordings and evil synth effects to perfectly place the listener in the mood for a harrowing experience. “Hermit’s Dream” begins with a soothing keyboard tone that is soon followed by a clean synth lead that is easy to follow and will have the listener humming the same tune right away. The orchestral elements add a refreshing light to this track as well. “Alabard Song” kicks things off in high gear with a haunting rhythm and portentous drum beats. As layers of synths continue to seep in, it’s obvious that this is a standout track on the album. “A Crowd Of Shades Flitting By Dark Waters” starts as a peculiar synthwave track with bizarre tones and intricate keyboard fills. Around the halfway mark, additional keyboard fills make their presence known as this outlandish track suddenly fades off in the distance. “King’s Farewell” is another sinister sounding track that features many keyboard effects that will please fans of both Medieval Dungeon Synth and retro synthwave as well. The multiple layers of lead synth tracks seems to broaden the spectrum for this song and it takes a beautiful turn toward an orchestral piece toward the end. “Chrysopoeia” features a harmonious keyboard lead that is soon synchronized with swaying synth drones that together, create a wondrous melody that is catchy and memorable. “Night Wanderer” begins with a brooding sound that borders malevolence more than it does the pleasantries of harmonious tones. With soft, percussive sounds and layers of droning synths, this is not only one of the darkest tracks on the album, but it’s also rich in natural composition with a striking arrangement as well. The final track on the album, “Mythical Twilight”, is a somber arrangement with fascinating keyboard tones and layers of congenial synth leads that play out like a magical orchestration until the very end.

Ancient Sword has created an enchanting experience with ‘Ars Antiqua’. Although these eight tracks provide thirty two minutes of listening pleasure, each song is well crafted and diverse in its own right. From ominous tones and sinister sounds to beautiful orchestrations, this album is well diverse and should please fans of all types of synth music in general. I highly recommend checking out this album from the link below and I’m eager to see what this artist has to offer in the very near future.

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Links:

https://ancientsword.bandcamp.com/releases

Dark Ambient & Dungeon Synth Recordings To Enthrall You During The Global Pandemic Continuation

Back in March, I published a playlist of Dark Ambient & Dungeon Synth recordings to help tide you over during the shelter-in-place order. Well – here we are – almost two months later and not much has changed, with the exception of a lot of great music being released. So, whether or not you’re still stuck at home, or have the ability to venture out, please enjoy this personal playlist of Dark Ambient and Dungeon Synth recordings that have been keeping me entertained lately! This is all great stuff so please support these artist and download an album or two!

Dark Ambient Playlist:

https://melanohelios.bandcamp.com/album/the-psychonaut
https://cryochamber.bandcamp.com/album/eternal-drift
https://blackweald.bandcamp.com/album/leonov-2
https://noctilucant.bandcamp.com/album/the-autumnal-end-2
https://roberteggplant.bandcamp.com/album/earth-sinking-into-water

Dungeon Synth Playlist:

https://varkana.bandcamp.com/album/cosmic-terror
https://lordorots.bandcamp.com/album/latzineko-erresumaren-itzulera
https://namelessking.bandcamp.com/album/downfall-of-drangleic
https://wyrmlodge.bandcamp.com/album/the-short-but-touching-tale-of-slime-golem
https://serpentsswordrecords.bandcamp.com/album/perpetual-cruelty

Live Instrumentation And Middle Ages-Themed Atrocities Are The Focal Point of ‘Lux Tenebras’ By Akerius

The Medieval period is one of the most commonly referenced eras in human history. From the Early period of the massive Byzantine Empire and Viking invasions, to the Late period horrors such as religious conflict, war and the Black Death, the Middle Ages contains a massive amount of history, romanticism, and influential subject matter that is perfect for the Dungeon Synth genre. One artist that transcends greatness when dealing with these themes is Akerius, and on the heavy medieval influenced ‘Lux Tenebras’, superior songwriting and frequent use of live instruments catapults this album to a realm all of its own. Although containing only five tracks with about twenty minutes of playing time, these tunes are exquisitely crafted and provide a solid domain for transiting the listener from a modern setting to a dimly lit castle forged high on a mountainside during times of extreme peril.

The felicitous album opener, “Ouverture 1209”, slowly crescendos from an initial deep growl sound effect into a theatrical canticle. The feeling of anticipation and anxiety grows as turmoil sets a grim scene. Beautiful acoustic guitar passages are occasionally accompanied by harsher guitar tones and tribal drum beats. Atmospheric keyboard parts give off a barbaric tone that blends perfectly with the rest of the arrangement. The keyboards in “Tuez-les Tous!” have a 90’s style gothic sound to them that have a dreamy, echo-like effect. As the percussion elements are introduced, the synth notes – with their galloping like quality – are reminiscent of a time when crusades are fought to a bloody death. About halfway through, an alluring acoustic passage plays a peaceful setup to the final valiant march of the crusaders. More distorted guitar tones are added to show power and strength during this trying time. “Mon Âme Sombre” begins with a water-like field recording and a serene narration before drifting into a synth heavy Medieval-style tune that contains robust melodies with grim atmospheric tones. “Melioramentum” has a touch of 70’s prog influence, especially with the acoustic guitar riff and accompanying keyboard sounds. Ancient sounding percussion beats give this track an added archaic influence that ensures its relevance amongst the rest of the songs. The final track on the album, “Lux Tenebras” suns up the overall feel and theme of the album with its long, brooding keyboard notes that are arranged in a melodic way with sparse percussion usage and bell sounds throughout that signify the ending of a specific period or conflict.

Akerius creates a magnificent Medieval period influenced recording that contains some of the most epic songwriting I’ve heard in this genre. With the addition of live instrumentation and percussive elements, ‘Lux Tenebras’ packs a powerful punch that will appease not only fans of Dungeon Synth, but also 90’s symphonic Black Metal and even Goth. This is one artist that I’m really looking forward to hearing more from. I definitely recommend checking out Akerius, so please show your support by downloading ‘Lux Tenebras’ from the link below.

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Links:

https://akerj.bandcamp.com/album/lux-tenebras

Eternalkeys Forge Classical Piano And Neo-Medieval Inspired Songs On The Precise Release, ‘Eternal Rose’

Classical piano compositions are among the most fascinating sounds around. In modern music, beautiful piano arrangements can fit in with just about any genre there is, giving it that clean sense of melody and diversity. One genre where it really stands out though, is medieval synth music, as it provides a particular grace and elegance to a typically dark and gothic sound. One artist that has taken on this musical venture with renewed passion is Eternalkeys, and with his latest EP ‘Eternal Rose’, the cacophonous sounds display a noble balance between classic piano tones and brooding synth music.

The first song, “Eternal Rose”, begins with a somber yet polished piano arrangement that is complimented by sorrowful string effects and an elusive atmosphere. This track makes me imagine a scene back in the Medieval period, where a couple is tragically separated by death, and the survivor is having a hard time coping with heartbreak and loneliness. This song perfectly captures that essence and provides a sense of despair when dealing with tragedy of this nature. The second (and final) track on this EP is “Dragon’s Gate”. This piece has more dark and lamenting elements that are in line with Medieval synth music. Electric piano tones and heavy synth sounds mesh together to create an accent that alludes to a dungeon-esque vibe during nebulous times. This track takes my imagination in a totally different direction, as I envision a domineering kingdom successfully winning battles and standing strong and victorious throughout the land.

Although the music on ‘Eternal Rose’ is a few years old, it has stood the test of time and easily has the stability of maintaining a presence in modern synth music. The two tracks presented on this EP are versatile in that they sound completely different, yet still they represent the same time period for which the imagination holds the story. I hope this is just the beginning for more music of this nature, as Eternalkeys is a very talented artist that needs to provide us with more Medieval listening pleasure. The ‘Eternal Rose’ EP can be streamed from the link below.

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Links:

https://archive.org/details/Eternalkeys_EternalroseHCR2016

Gladden Fields Deliver The Sounds Of Forlorn With ‘Menace Of Despair’

I’m sure that if you’re reading this review – and being a fan of Dungeon Synth – you must be familiar with the Battle Of The Gladden Fields in the third age of the Lord Of The Rings universe. This was a very prominent battle, as Isildur and his escorts were ambushed by a group of Orcs and the Ring of Power was subsequently lost in the river Anduin. Gladden Fields is also the name of a UK-based Dungeon Synth artists that paints a harrowing picture of this great battle with his eerily composed music. The five tracks offered up on his latest effort, ‘Menace Of Despair’ uncannily resembles what the scene must have been like just minutes before that viscous attack by the Orcs, as the calm and soothing arrangements are topped with apprehensive orchestrations and somber melodies. Like the silent attack of the Orcs, these tunes are a mere decoy of an evil presence lurking behind the unknown.

Right from the opening looming soundscapes, the lead off the track, “Menace Of Despair” sets the stage for enemies lurking in vast terrain, as the tranquilizing synths crescendo ever so slightly while crossing into enemy territory is eminent. The slight use of percussion adds a frightening aspect as well. “Winter Sun” has a melancholic tone played throughout, with spots of despondent yet harmonic keys to add the slightest twist of darkness to the mix. “Through Poisoned Waters” has a deep, manic sound and shows restraint in its delivery. As the superbly timed percussive elements play in the background, I imagine an aphotic scene, just before the chaos occurs. The orchestrations in this track are simple, yet written amazingly well. “Helcaraxë” has a very old school, organic dungeon synth feel to it. The key arrangements are layered well and continue to build as the song progresses to the end. The albums final track, “Wall Of Night” begins with a very impending, dark ambient vibe and adds malevolent soundscapes throughout as this is the finale leading to up to the attack of the Orcs. This track represents full-on chaotic darkness with no chance of turning back.

Gladden Field is an extremely impressive Dungeon Synth artist that meticulously tells a story with his music. Although named after one of the great battles in one of the best and most famous stories ever written, Gladden Fields does the name justice by creating a soundtrack-like atmosphere with ‘Menace Of Despair’. If this album doesn’t put you in the mood for a great middle earth adventure, then I don’t know what will. Please support this fascinating artist and downing ‘Menace Of Despair’ from the link below.

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Links:

https://gladdenfields.bandcamp.com/album/menace-of-despair