Little Spells – The Forest Twigs Are My Wands [US, Dungeon Synth] (2020)

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Lost Armor | 8-3-20

Regardless if this dungeon synth is your style, one has to admit it is popular and perhaps one of the defining milestones of the the last few years in terms of sound. Comfy / mountain / village / nature / quiet / small / tiny or any other adjective to showcase the docile qualities of music that sounds like field mice brewing potions. The Forest Twigs Are My Wands is a compilation of two 2019 demos with a 30 copy tape release that was sold out in a matter of minutes. I enjoy the enthusiasm both from the creator and more importantly the community when it comes to this style of dungeon synth. It is endearing and above all else esoteric.

Celestial Sanctuary – Mass Extinction [UK, Death] (2020)

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Redefining Darkness | 8-28-20

Right now I am going to be talking to the three of you that recognize that this demo was released late year year and is thus not apart of 2020. I know and you know but for the rest of us that missed this short slab of looming riff worship. Aside from having one of the best names in recent memory, Celestial Sanctuary nails the related tags of kneeling at the altar of Benediction and Cancer with a short demo of horror and laid back decay. This demo is seeing another round of promotion on Redefining Darkness with a chance to get their out of print tape that was limited to 25 copies.

Darken Wood – VI [US, Dungeon Synth / Ambient] (2020)

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Self Released | 7-26-20

It is sometimes amusing to go back through a catalog and see that I bought something from an artist and never checked back to see what they were doing. Darken Wood’s debut was released in 2017 to positive reception including myself. That was around the same time i took a hiatus from keeping up to date with new DS. Much to my delight, the artist behind Darken Wood has continued the journey through ambient dungeon synth with a modest release schedule. VI is the first and most likely only release this year and adds another chapter in an ongoing conceptual journey through misty landscapes billowing with mystic fog. I am so grateful that artists continued to release music since now I can work my way through this discography like a series of fantasy novels.

Brahdr’uhz / Lugubris / Cendres de Haine – 666 Fuck You [Switzerland, Raw Black] (2020)

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Self Released | 7-30-20

Well, here we are. It is 2020 and I am writing about a split entitled 666 Fuck You. The embrace of aesthetics is a strange thing as something that seems overwrought and oppressive could work towards its ultimate success. The Swiss trio of Brahdr’uhz, Lugubris, and Cendres de Haine is a Swiss trio of acts that is perhaps apart of the same scene or just a connected group of musicians. There seems to be no common origin point for all three so we are just going to assume that the glue which holds all of these bands together is raw noise and a tendency to be dramatic with their darkness. The 666 Fuck You split is a showcase of three bands and an above average take on raw black as the sound is fierce and grating while always be entertaining. All Together you have 45 minutes of raw Swiss black mwetal that you might not even know that you needed until this very moment. Embrace aesthetics and fuck the world.

Keys of Orthanc – Unfinished Conquests [Canada, Dungeon Synth] (2020)

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Naturmacht Productions | 7-24-20

“While working on a new Lord of the Rings themed black metal album, “Unfinished Conquest” is a Dungeon Synth ode to all heroes who marched to, fought and died on glorious quests and adventures.” I enjoy when dungeon synth comes out of an intense desire to wade into the knee deep waters of atmosphere. Dungeon synth was birthed from black metal ans has since taken on a unique sound and presence in the musical world. While there are better examples of black metal and dungeon synth hybrids, Keys of Orthanc resides in the melodic side with almost no harsh qualities. Perhaps this is better as Unfinished Conquests boasts moody synth journeys through dark mountain passages with an album full of exploration of not just sound but spirit.

ABREACTION – Puer Aeternity [US, Death] (2020)

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Aggressively Uninterested } 7-30-20

This is so funny and amazing and only for a few people to enjoy. I do not know where to start. Perhaps the comedic nihilism with the label name or the fact the cover looks like a shirt or the fact this demo? is so arrogant in its raw disgust that it’s imperfections are at the core of its charm. ABREACTION is apart of a label/ collective that seems to be hellbent on crushing the idea of beauty between its slimy claws. Ostentatious and presumptuous, this is death metal that has crawled its way out of a hole and now is coming in and tackling people in broad daylight.

Barbarian King – Barbarian King [Sweden, Dungeon Synth] (2020)

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Ironmaster Productions | 7-12-20

Barbarian King could be considered in a league of its own when it comes to dungeon synth. Yes, this release is a fantasy bedroom production yet unlike the majority of dungeon synth, its scope is so much larger than the limits of its production. The sweeping melodies and narrative paths of this 2020 debut owes much of its ambition to 80’s sword and sorcery soundtracks which coupled with the lo ceiling of the sound, gives the whole production a worn and warm tone. This is dungeon synth at its most bright essence, a vehicle for escapism no matter the starting position. Barbarian King soars above the warped mountains and faded technicolor of its screen with a release that is as effective as is it is surprising.

Question – Reflections of the Void [Mexico, Death] (2020)

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Chaos Records | 7-31-20

Bright psychedelic covers be dammed, this is some decent stuff. Question was a surprise a few years ago with the release of their 2018 self titled EP. The twisting death metal sound which sounded like non euclidean staircases was a surprise and part and parcel for Caligari Records. Reflections of the Void brings back this band I almost forgot about with full mind bending horror that uses riffs and grooves as instruments of destruction with a sound that is commanding much like the festooned album cover.

Húrin – Lord of Waters [US, Dungeon Synth] (2020)

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Self Released | 7-17-20

I do listen to many releases that are sent to my email. I usually listen to more dungeon synth than metal but that is only because there are less dungeon synth promo rings emailing me everyday. Most of the time is when the artist sends me a message and I get to listen to an spectacular album I may not have found on my daily searches. Húrin is a US based composer who has taken the very familiar path of Tolkien themed dungeon synth. While this sounds like other releases, Lord of Waters separates itself from the pack with a record of minimal synth that is apart of the dungeon synth world but with portals opened to other avant dimensions. Ruminating, artsy, and escapist, Lord of Waters beckons its listener into the cold and dark palaces at the bottom of Ekkaia.

AstralSide – Vacío Final [Chile, Black] (2020)

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Self Released | 7-20-20

I have tagged this release as raw black though I feel it is just black metal fueled with crude oil rather than anything refined. Vacío Final is the second demo this year by Chilean project AstralSlide and continues the act’s short legacy in making black metal that feels and tastes like acrid smoke. Brazen, arrogant, and unsympathetic, Vacío Final is a demo that cares little about the thoughts and feelings of others and will gladly swing around an unpolished demo just at a dangerous speed. This is something only a few people will enjoy but I feel it will be clawed at with insane fervor.