It has been a little bit since I reviewed something that was not dungeon synth but I feel the return to something heavier is fitting that it is so gloomy. Tombreach, the first demo since 2016, marks the return of the Maryland based two piece in a time of great uncertainty and dread. “Unprofessionally recorded, rife with mistakes and experimental notes straight from our malignant dwelling to yours. A small respite from the horrid plague-ridden reality that has veiled the globe. Mourn with us and enjoy.” I can not think of a better demo to break the quasi silence form this band than a demo full of lingering sadness and tolling grief. Through its 24 minutes, Funerary Descent showcases a mastery over negative emotions with a demo that is far above the quality purported in the Bandcamp description. Tombreach is a dazzling demo that has the ability to astound and drown in the murk and mire.
This is wonderful. I have always enjoyed the nature of comfy synth even though the niche genre in the larger dungeon synth scene feels like boom that already has passed. Arthel is not a comfy synth artist though the music retains the same brightness and aesthetics just with a few key differences. First and perhaps most important is the embrace of fantasy aesthetics rather than non traditional imagery. While trains, pets, and cookie recipes have all made for fun albums, Ancient Magic of the Forest is just that; a record dedicated to the magic of the woods just cast in noble bright hues and very fitting to the fairy tale tone. It is getting late in the year and dungeon synth continues to put out wonderful records without a care for the calendar year.
This is the second Vale Minstrel release this year and this is the second time I wrote a review on the artist. There is something magical and comforting about the work of Vale Minstrel and their attempt to weave enchantments in mi-fi regal dungeon synth. Vale Minstrel teams up once again with Silvana Massa whose artwork has been a staple among dungeon synth with covers for Sequestered Keep, Pendragon, Keyes of Orthanc, and Argonath. Garden of Spells continues Vale Minstrels quest to spread bardic inspiration among whatever court they choose to attend. For fans of light and pastoral sounds which would be perfect slumbering under the shadow of ruins among a hidden vale.
Yes, I will admit I chuckled a little at the combination of all of these artists. The split between three Fog based dungeon synth artists all from the United States under a split also about Fog lends itself to humorous overlap between aesthetics. I would be laughing more if not for the fact that one artist on this split already has one of the best releases this year and the other is a veteran in the dungeon synth scene. What seems like a jokey team up of the fog superheroes is really one of the most immersive splits this year with three capable and competent dungeon synth musicians that have dedicated themselves tot he hazy atmosphere of middle grey. From the supernatural sounds of Fog Castle to the eerily drone of Foglord and the the mystical twilight of Fogweaver, the combination of all three of these artists leads less to a novelty split and more of fate driven pact of artists crafting their own universe of haze.
This demo is really only a little over 7 minutes though I feel it is just long enough to make its point. Morgued is dedicated to the splatter sounds of old death metal and while that isn’t new territory for a lot of bands, this Boston based two piece comes with the trajectory of a right cross and what the band lacks in length, they make up for in ferocity. This debut demo is dedicated to the scrawled sketches of violent sci fi which aside from being adorned with clips from Starship Troopers, oozes a reverence to gritty futurism that is most likely filled with aliens.
Downfall of Drangleic comes in a group of four new releases from Gondolin Records. I have talked before and even expressed my undying loyalty to a label that not only showcases quality artists but frames each releases with visual cohesion. I know what a Gondolin Record release looks like as I know what a Realm of Sleep record looks like. A visual aesthetic is something I adore as I feel these releases are apart of a family and Nameless King steps out to not only be a strong release from Gondolin records but one of the better releases this year. Mournful yet airy, Downfall of Drangleic carries the burden of a thousand years of grief in a haunting record that is polarized in its emotions. I want to feel relaxed butthere is this lingering sandess which greys out the world around me.
This is fun. I feel it necessary to highlight the fantastic design for the Reliquary of Terror as I am a fan and practitioner of mimicking distressed media covers. This release boasts a pulp book cover and the flair which surrounds this releases is truly outstanding. the design is the first thing which greats the listener which is immediately followed by an ushering into a world of neon horror. The roster for this compilation is a cadre of electronic luminaries mainly from the dungeon synth scene with a wider scope. Cimitir, ElixiR, Erythrite Throne, Vaelastrasz
Casket of Dreams & Xasthur and the The IXth Key all dawn costumes, and sometimes come as themselves, for a compilation of frightful merriment. Dark ambient, synthwave, and things which sound like 70’s horror movie soundtracks all decorate the halls of this castle turning a once grim atmosphere into something more fun and engaging. Halloween is the celebration of all things dark but with a playful atmosphere and the passion of these artists and record label to do a one off compilation with an ensemble befitting of the fanfare.
At this point, I do not have to introduce Dungeon Deep Records as this US(?) label has been one of the more consistent and professional tape labels for dungeon synth in recent memory with a catalog of stellar releases that not only build upon the style’s pas but lay the groundwork for its future. Malfet is another entry into that chapter with their fourth record into what they call “pastoral dungeon synth.” I feel this is a perfect name for a style of dungeon synth that is warm but sweeping in its scope. Rather than relegated to a cottage of cozy fire, Malfet’s music rolls over hills in both sunshine and rain questing towards adventures far away from here. Malfet’s vision and ambition is large leading to theatric music videos which could seen ostentatious if not backed up by some outstanding music which is perhaps one of the better releases this year.
Hammer Crime is strange and wonderful all at once. Resting at a confluence of black, thrash, punk, and groove metal, this Canadian band makes a demo that really just is an ugly brick thrown into your window. Now will I say all of this is refined and perfect? Absolutely not. Is it effective in its window smashing and ability to command attention? Yes. Look at all of this glass. From name, to sound, to just general vibe, Hammer Crime is delinquent in its behavior and probably shouldn’t be trusted around sharp objects or flammable materials.
Amok Weg was something I found just paging through the new pages of dungeon synth releases. It was not on the new and notable page and was somewhat buried under albums with physical releases. Maybe it this had a tape release people would be excited. I know I would. Amok Weg is from Spain which usually isn’t the first 5 places one thinks about when thinking of dungeon synth but it is nowhere near the last. What struck me about Amok Weg was the grey path the artist walked through bleak darkness and illuminated majesty. Cast in shadows yet with definition, the self titled from Amok Weg offers its listeners a range of emotions and atmospheres that does look to depress or sooth rather something else entirely.