Malfet – Alban Arthan [US, Dungeon Synth] (2020)

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Dungeon Deep Records | 10-2-20

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 – MMXX [Canada, Black / Thrash / Punk] (2020)

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Self Released | 10-16-20

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 – Amok Weg [Spain, Dungeon Synth] (2020)

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Self Released | 10-8-20

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.

Dust Drinker – Sky Burial [US, Ritual Ambient / Noise] (2020)

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Self Released | 10-7-20

This fits in both camps for this blog and possibly neither. I do not know if this album is correctly tagged as ritual ambient but the Bandcamp used the tag “ritual” and I am going to run with it. Ritual ambient has been an interest for me partially due to its nebulous nature. Caught between drone, noise, and dark ambient, the style has been noted for its spiritual undercroft combed with a pageantry for the bizarre and supernatural. I have no way of knowing if Dust Drinker’s Sky Burial possesses these qualities but its songs regarding death and passage is certainly in the correct unsettling ballpark. With a churning drones and a rattling cacophony, Sky Burial is less an album and more of a call from the ether. I do not know if this possesses the spiritual natural akin to most ritual ambient but it certainly is possessed.

DIM – Compendium III [Canada, Dungeon Synth / Medieval] (2020)

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Self Released | 10-5-20

I can remember in 2017 when the first Compendium was released and I was flabbergasted at the quality of the work. DIM was truly monumental in its craft for medieval folk and fantasy ambient. I almost feel silly forgetting about this artist until someone told me about the third compendium and the addition of tapes for all three volumes. What I expected was another romp in the meadows of dungeon synth that was no more challenging than a light breeze carrying the smell of lilacs. What I got instead was a journey under the mountains with a release that is akin to quests in the underdark encountering strange nd mystical sounds of genres which lay dormant. If one would like to experience the journey in its full scope, the passage between the three compendiums is astounding with the third volume the most grand in its scope. Folk beats, new age tendencies, and electronic fetishes roil from dark caverns allows Compendium III to be a declarative statement on the future of medieval synth. I have no idea where this sound is going and I am keeping close to the composer as they lead me through the passages under the mountain.

Taurwen – A Wind Blows from the Mountain of Death [Turkey, Dungeon Synth] (2020)

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Self Released | 7-5-20

I usually do not like to include geographical location when discussing dungeon synth at least in the fact of it being novel. Dungeon Synth, I feel transcends regional locations to a place far away from wherever one would be born. Taurwen’s distinction of being from Turkey is a fact but is heighted by their claim of being the only composer of dungeon synth in the country. Upon looking into it, it seems the other composer, Tir, was originally from Turkey but since moved to Australia. In fact, it would be fitting to know the two know each other and Tir mastered this record. Dungeon synth’s strength among the community is egalitarian access to not only the music but music to fans and the fat the music is making its way to places not originally known for bedroom synth is impressive.

It would be odd for me to praise the composers background and say little about the music. In fact it would be strange for this album’s only strength being the composers country of origin. A Wind Blows from the Mountain of Death is not only a strong debut, it is one of the better releases in recent memory with both an air of sadness which creeps along rolling hills in fog ridden mornings. The Mountain of Death feels distance and its wind which blows is not oppressive rather it hangs in the air as a constant reminder of its melancholy. Country of origin aside, this is a stellar debut for fans of classic dungeon synth in the vein of Wongraven, Mortiis, and Depressive Silence. Fantastic work from an artist that can honestly claim “the best dungeon synth artists from Turkey” by odd circumstance.

Gorephilia – In the Eye of Nothing [Finland, Death] (2020)

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Me Saco un Ojo Records | 10-2-20

It is difficult not to get excited about this sort of thing. Death metal has been through its trails and tribulations for years with subtle niches and styles for any discerning listener. In fact, if one would like to hear a spectrum of death from the very bloody to the more abstract, they need not look far. Gorephilia, despite its name sake, resides in the middle of this spectrum with traditional death metal that is here for the sole purpose of playing riffs into the void. In the Eye of Nothing is the bands third release and despite some minor recognition at on end of year lists by internet users, the band has yet to break into the the larger public sphere. Perhaps this record, which is full of looming horror will do the trick. I am certain it has for me.

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ElixiR – Le conte des trois faunes [France, Dungeon Synth] (2020)

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Self Released | 9-30-20

I was surprised to ElixiR in the new release feed as I thought this project was disbanded. This is entirely my fault as I was misremembering an incident in 2017 regarding artwork and the Bandcamp for this page being deleted for a brief moment before being brought online. This seems like ancient history as I was surprised to learn of releases which spanned that moment to today. The only person who is confused here is me. Le conte des trois faunes is the second release this year for Elixir aside from a Burzum tribute a few months back. Le conte des trois faunes is worth anyone’s time that seeks medieval style dungeon synth with an air of melancholy and clear production. My own memory can be hazy at times so I am glad I haven’t forgotten abut this artist as they still seem to be releasing stellar work.

Diabhal – M M X X [US, Death] (2020)

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Self Released | 8-1-20

All hail the bulldozer. When discussing death metal from the last few years, there is a certain strain of hip rough edge death metal that relies mostly on riffs and gross looking album covers. This is wonderful death metal but has become apart of an aesthetic that bands can easily subscribe. Diabhal eschews this tradition with a more vintage style of death metal which crushes its listener with a steamroller. Instead of an album cover with two colors and a JCard layout, M M X X appears as if it came from 1995 from a semi mainstream label. Being from NYC, I had a preconception this band was going to be older and possibly with one or two shaved heads. Much to my surprise, the group appears to be young and spry and just into covering songs by Baphomet. Let’s hang out and get crushed by heavy machinery together.

Geldurum – Medieval Campfire Tales [Sweden, Dungeon Synth] (2020)

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Ancient Meadow Records | 9-21-20

“Gather around and have a moment of peace.”

First of all, if you enjoy the sound of this record and would like a Name Your Price copy, you can head on over to the artists Bandcamp to support. If you would like a copy of one of the better dungeon synth / medieval ambient records, then ask Ancient Meadow records if they have any copies left. They probably do not. Medieval Campfire Tales was something I was not expecting as I think I missed its first run earlier this year. It was not until I was picking up other tapes from Ancient Meadow that I stumbled headlong into a would of festooned magic and orchestrated wonder with a record that is fanciful and engaging. I am eternally grateful to tape labels that care enough to showcase artists like this as I can not imagine my life without finding these types of releases.