The mind is a fascinating thing. Full of thought, emotions, intelligence, and memory, we have the power to control more that we can fathom. Unfortunately, there are time where we can decline to a darkened state without a means or a will to escape. In these times, obscurity overshadows our thought process and keeps us in a trance-like state until we are powerful enough to make the return to commonness on our own. The music displayed by Castle Zagyx on ‘The Frozen Moor Of Your Memories’ would be the perfect companion piece to listen to while contemplating a rebound from your own mental asylum. Filled with 80’s style retro synth, this is a soothing EP filled with many magical moments that you’ll not want to end.
Dreamy album opener, “Overture: End Of Summer Season” pulls the listener in with its classical keyboard arrangement and saddened tones before descending down the dark and gloomy path set forth by the rest of the album. “Remembrance I: Carter’s Antarctic Twilight” begins with an introspective sound as if you’re waking up from a cold dream, into an unknown world. As a single keyboard key drones, cold winter synth melodies expand the obscurity of your mind allowing you to meditate beyond the imagination. “Remembrance II: Katabatic Winds” maintains the same dark desires but introduces 80’s synth wave patterns that give the song a chilling sound. Sparse field recordings are compounded in spots for added gloomy textures. While this track successfully preserves its hyperborean effect, it’s easy to drift off to another dimension so that your mind can deal with clearing of the consciousness and lull memories. “Remembrance III: Ittakka” leans heavily on discrepant notes and eccentric harmonies, while light percussion sounds set the pace for something wicked yet to come. The EP’s final track “Remembrance IV: Poulsen Arc/Ice Hole” provides a ghastly conclusion to this overarching story of the hopeless decline of individual thoughts. Inaudible field recordings are a stark reminder of being institutionalized in our own mind, as we deal with our darkness. The keyboard arrangements are melancholic and somber, but seem to end too soon. However, this is the perfect way to rap up such an amazing story.
‘The Frozen Moor Of Your Memories’ is an exceptional EP and it pushes the boundaries of crossover music, diving into winter synth and retro 80’s style synth wave. The overall feel is gloomy and cold and you can easily get mentally lost in each track. My only wish is that this was a full length album, as this is has been an extremely enjoyable experience. I highly recommend this album, especially if you need something to relax and meditate to. Show your support for Castle Zagyx and download this EP from the link below.
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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!
It’s been quite the year for Eldest Gate Records. They’ve released multiple, exemplary albums by Wayfarer & Inoriand and have launched their publishing company, Eldest Gate Books. Earlier this month, they swiftly commenced book sales by releasing ‘Three Eerie Tales Of Vampires’, the first volume of the Bibliotheca Obscuris series. Here at The Dungeon In Deep Space, I’ve had the pleasure of reviewing recent albums by Wayfarer and Inoriand and both are absolute forerunners in the Dungeon Synth genre! With the brand new release of ‘Misty Morning’ by Wayfarer, I’ve had the honor of communicating with the man behind the project to catch insight of the driving force behind this and his many other projects, including the brilliant startup of Eldest Gate Books.
1. First of all, thank you very much for the interview opportunity and for also being the first interview session on The Dungeon In Deep Space site. Wayfarer has been quite busy this year with releasing three brilliant recordings on Eldest Gates Records. What influences you to record such beguiling material?
First, I thank you, for the opportunity! I think it can be said, that I am a newcomer to the DS revival scene, but that doesn’t mean that I have only recently discovered the genre. Back in the early 2000s my friend and I were big fans of such music as Mortiis or his numerous side-projects, the prison albums of Varg Vikernes or his mystical synth tracks on Burzum albums, such as Rundgang Um Die Tranzendentale Säule Der Singularität or Tomhet. We have recorded our own materials in this style and shared it with each other and was very proud of them! But never knew anybody else, who were into this kind of music. We didn’t even have a name for the genre, so we called it “you-know-that-burzumish-dark-ambient-stuff”. And then one day, years later, I happened to find a blog on the Internet, found the name Dungeon Synth and then the Facebook group and suddenly I saw that we are not alone with our love for this kind of music! Here I found many great artists who influenced me, but the one I remember the most from the beginning was Ancient Boreal Forest. Also, I was a big-time RPG enthusiast all my life, mostly a DM as I’m kind of a creator type. And reading, of course, many-many books since I learned how to read! Fantasy, horror, classics, etc. Those things together, mixed with my passion for experimenting become what is Wayfarer today (or my many side-projects).
2. In my recent review of the ‘Ata Amutar’ release, I’ve described the overall texture of your music as “icy cold Dungeon Synth”. Do you feel that is a fair assessment? Also, did you intentionally set out for Wayfarer to become this dark entity in the Dungeon Synth community?
Yes, I think that’s a good description. I tend to see the beauty in darker things. Being dark, melancholic, occasionally atonal or dissonant makes a good way for me to get those listeners more involved, who are interested in this kind of experience. Also, I think the less receptacle the music for the first listening, the more it makes the listener think about it. Dungeon Synth is a great genre because every artist can find themselves in it some ways. Some artists are looking for that medieval feeling, some of them are more fantasy oriented. For me, it’s all about the atmosphere, world-building and to bring the listener into this world and let them make up their own stories in it while they listen to the music.
3. Typically, DS songs are short and to the point, whereas Wayfarer songs tend to be long. For me, this is an advantage for the listener as it challenges the imagination for what story each track may entail. Do you have a particular mindset prior to recording Wayfarer songs or are they improvised?
Most of the time both. Sometimes I start with something improvised and build the track from there, other times it’s the other way around. Improvisation is fun and lets you set your mind free. I also love long tracks that take the listener on a journey and I make music that I would like to listen to. I consider Wayfarer tracks as a kind of landscape painting with sounds. I don’t want to tell a story with them, that’s up to the listener’s imagination.
4. ‘Misty Morning’ is such a calming album title but the music is bleak and dark. What is your own story behind this recording?
I wouldn’t consider it dark, maybe a bit melancholic. Being alone and focusing your thoughts inwards to your self is what I think this album is about. But for someone else, I think it can be a dark tone. I like to believe that it’s not the music that creates the emotions it’s just the medium that brings them to the surface. If that’s true, then something dark and unnerving for someone in a certain moment can be calming or meditative for someone else or even the same person when in another mindset.
5. What can you tell me about your recording studio and the equipment that you use?
I may be unpopular with this, but I have to admit that I use VSTs nearly all of the time. It’s a budget issue on one hand, but VSTs also make me able to experiment with nearly any kind of sounds or tones.
6. For your VST’s, do you have any favorite plugins that you use on a regular basis?
I try out many VSTs and always looking for something new and interesting, but there are a few that I use in nearly all of my projects. One of them is SQ8L, which is modeled after Ensoniq’s SQ80 and it is a wonderful plugin to use! It’s the basis of the characteristic sound of Inoriand, but I use it on nearly all of my albums. The other one I’d like to mention is Dexed, modeled on the Yamaha DX7. It is a real monster! I use it all the time, especially for Wayfarer.
7. Do you also do any field recordings for your albums?
Sometimes I use field recordings, but no, I do not record them myself, I use royalty-free resources from the web.
8. I’d like to shift topics and talk about some of the other projects you are involved in, specifically Eallnulf and Abyssu. These projects are very experimental, yet very relevant to the DS scene, how hard/easy is it to maintain the balance between Wayfarer and your projects that have harsher tones?
It’s easier than you think! As I said, I love experimenting and sometimes these materials are such different from the tone of my main projects that I just start up a new one. I love to keep my stuff somewhat coherent.
9. Do you plan to release any more albums under those pseudonyms?
Maybe. They are not finished officially.
10. Do you have any other projects that you record under?
Yes, some of them are well-kept secrets, while others are known in the community, like Inoriand, La Morte Amoureuse or Zungarak.
11. I suspected that you were behind the Inoriand project just wasn’t quite sure. I also reviewed ‘Silence’ earlier for my site and must say – for me – it’s my DS album of the year. Since you do a lot of improvisations, at what point do you realize, this is a Wayfarer project or an Inoriand project (or some other)?
Wow, thanks! Usually when I start composing I already have an idea in my mind and that already connects the music to one of my projects. Improvisation doesn’t mean being completely random, but letting your creativity wander freely within a certain set of boundaries. Be it a theme, a scale, an emotion, a leitmotif etc., these rules separate improvisation from pure chaos! But I have to admit sometimes things go out of hands or take unexpected turns. That’s the point, where new projects are born.
12. Recently, Eldest Gate Records has ventured into the realm of book publishing and has established Eldest Gate Books. Can you talk a little bit about the decision to add books to the Eldest Gate media market?
As I wrote in the foreword to the book and also mentioned it earlier, we are avid fans of reading. Publishing a book ourselves is a long-time dream come true. We started working on it at the beginning of this year and took a lot of time to get everything together, as we aren’t experienced in the field and had to learn many things, because – as with everything else Eldest Gate produces – we wanted to do ourselves everything we are capable of. Learning about publishing, typesetting, cover design, printing services, copyright law etc. was a long journey, but a real fun all the way!
13. I already love the direction of Victorian Era vampire tales for the first book offering. Do you already have an idea of future releases?
We have a whole series planned out; the Bibliotheca Obscuris and we are already working on the next volume. I hope that people will love these books. We wanted something that isn’t only enjoyable to read, but also a joy to take into your hands or show-off to others, something that is collectable and looks really great when put on the bookshelf. In the future there may be other series, maybe a fantasy-themed, we will see!
14. Will Eldest Gate books be open to providing publishing opportunities for up-and-coming authors in this genre?
I hope so, in the future! We achieved to learn a lot in the past few months about publishing, but there’s still more we need to get through. But there are many creative and talented members of this community and if somebody reaches out to us to publish his or her novel or to help with self-publishing, we would be more than happy to help.
15. Is the idea to stick with physical books or is there a possibility of providing e-books for the Eldest Gate book catalogue in the future?
E-books are cool, but we wanted a real, physical book, that you can hold in your hand. For this series, we aren’t planning e-books, mainly because these stories are in the public domain and already available on the Internet. But if we happen to publish an original work someday, there will definitely be an e-book edition!
16. I really appreciate your time for this interview opportunity; do you have any final words for your fans in the DS community?
The only thing I can think of is “Thank you, all!”. This community is incredible.
Blazing a path of more than just through a realm, Haxan Dreams has created a soundtrack that could accompany any adventure, whether it be through an enchanted forest, an icy cold winter storm, or the grim hollowness of a desolate mountain trail. The music on ‘Path Through The Realm’ is simply stunning and is more or less a cinematic dungeon synth masterpiece. However, this album is so much more than that. As I listen to these arrangements over and over again, I’m quickly reminded of a time when these musical preparations greatly existed as intros, outros, and the occasional filler tune on many black metal albums from the late 80’s and early 90’s.
Album opener, “The Realm” has some great dungeon synth keyboard parts that are accented by low-pitched (and barely audible) spoke word narrations. “Mountain Passage” has a very old-school vibe to it as well as some nice classical arrangements embedded within. The backing ambient track would also be amazing to listen to on its own. “Forest Of Idran” is the first song on the album that has that classic black metal intro vibe to it. The arrangements of the instrumentation is so compelling and dark, as if the composer is writing of a journey to be met with demise. Continuing on with the elements of black metal misery type intro’s, “Love And The Abyss” starts off melancholic but counters that emotion in the end with uplifting keyboard melodies. “Battle Of Twin Mountains” is an ideal spiritual piece that includes some tribal beats and bells. Just as the title suggests, this track seems as if there is an engagement in battle that takes place in the mountainside. “Dance Of The Coven” contains some tribal vocal elements that work well with the crescendo of the music. It’s almost as if a tribe of mountaineers have claimed victory in battle and are then displaying their ritual dance to claim praise to their high lord. Album closer, “To Dwell In Darkness” is an eleven minute long opus that shows a return to the elements of true old school dungeon synth and provides the final gateway to cross into the realm as set forth at the beginning of the album.
Haxan Dreams has created a very mature dungeon synth recording that mixes several elements of other musical genres and ventures into tribal beats with narrations and chanting patterns. Of all of the great DS albums that have been released this year, ‘Path Through The Realm’ is turning out to be one of my favorites so far. Support this wonderful album that is out now on Dungeon Deep Records by clicking the link below.
When I look back over the dungeon synth albums that have been released this year, it is truly impressive on how the genre has grown and the ways the music has branched out into many sub-genre’s. On Woodland Crypt’s latest EP, ‘Gateway To A Forest Forgotten’, the music takes us on a gloomy, deep forest adventures that has a cold, winter synth vibe to it, while maintaining elements of fantasy synth. This is quite an impressive feat for an artist that only has a few releases so far. The six tracks contained on this album are uniquely impressive and push the boundaries of traditional dungeon synth, almost crossing into the realm of post-dungeon synth.
“Sacred Glen” is an excellent choice as the lead off track as it exposes a particular calmness while traversing the gateway to the forest. “The Barbarian (Gûndabar’s Theme)” blasts right into a fantasy keyboard part that shows signs of aggression and commitment for the journey through the forest. The journey begins to slow as “Mausoleum Of Moss” provides a bleak atmosphere with some slight field recordings to give just enough atmospherics to set a gloomy precedence for the next track. “The Green Man” is an eerie song filled with lush keyboard tones and the occasional high-pitched accent that leans more toward traditional dungeon synth music. “Yule Festival” is a hymn filled with melancholy and crackling fire field recordings and contribute to the overwhelming sense of togetherness once reaching the final destination in the forgotten forest. “Return To The Mountains” closes out this astonishing album with an epic display of minimalistic synths and ambient droning.
Woodland Crypt has succeeded in constructing a meticulous album full of forest hymns that fit right in the ever-so-growing dungeon synth community. When a listener can don a pair of headphone, kickback, press play and let the music take them on a soulful journey, then the artist has reached a remarkable status. Although Woodland Crypt has only released two albums so far, they show signs of limitless potential and I’m looking forward to many more releases by this great talent. Join in on the journey and download ‘Gateway To A Forest Forgotten’ today!