Even though it is 2020, I do believe we are still getting records that define the mythology of dungeon synth. Binding Branches is the second EP from Welsh composer Sunken Grove. The tone and timbre of this release is so quiet and contemplative that it is immediately makes its way into the minds and hearts of listeners. Add to that, the charming home made aesthetic of its cover and general Bandcamp page, and one has a record that feels like an unassuming classic in a genre that seems to still be growing.
With a name and cover like Sarin Bath, one is going to have ready themselves for distilled emotion in the form of black tar. Similar to bands like Thou and to a lesser extent Couch, Sarin Bath delivers a torrent of raw blackened sludge which unlike the two bands listed, comes without any filter of production. This is just the listener and the band in a room together and one of them is waving a knife. It may take a bit but after a some time spent in the depths of madness, this whole affair becomes oddly desirable.
This release is actually from late 2019 but now is seeing a wider distribution via a Russian tape label called Shum Derevyev Records. I am not familiar of the other releases on this label save for the fact that if they are the same quality as Olshanoe, then I can be eternally excited. Olshanoe is not traditional dungeon synth rather a marriage between neoclassical, ambient, folk, and a variety of nature based instrumentals dedicated to the breathing world. Shum Derevyev Records supports this with a small batch release of Russian(?) artists dedicated to myth, lore, and new age devoted synth. If shipping wasn’t so expensive from Russian, I would own more tapes, but Olshanoe should keep me entertained for a while.
I have unfairly been critical to Russian black for a while due to various circumstances. I feel this is because black metal, for me, has been cast aside for other forms of heavy metal. This does not mean I ignore interesting releases, especially when it rains down in heavy drops of blood. IIIXK is a brand new act and the Demo 2020 is the introduction to a world carved with angst and a penchant for noise. Rather than surrendering to raw black, IIIXK manages to dance around dissonance with a release that echoes with sonic disdain.
The Sorcerer is a project which continues to remind me why I enjoy this genre. Memories of the Old Academy is the fourth release in 2020 dedicated to the general magic and lore of fantasy. Adorned with artwork from 90’s CCG and festooned with rich escapist tropes, The Sorcerer is a wild embrace of the genre that doesn’t merely intend to imitate rather express oneself in the realms of the magical. I say this while accepting the bedroom qualities of the music as I feel the tone and composition of these tracks are part and parcel to a solo composer making music for dreams.
I would like to mention that the name and album title of this release sounds like an angular death metal demo rather than a dungeon synth release. It helps that Execration Chamber presents a suffocating brand of dungeon synth and Cathedral of Unbeing is an existential wasteland of dying thoughts and feelings. If dungeon synth was a civilization, Cathedral of Unbeing would be the scattered remnants of civilization striving for survival on the frontiers of desolation after the fall of humanity. This tone and approach to dungeon synth is refreshing even though it is post apocalyptic.
I am going to give it to Vampyric, this whole production works very well. Admittedly, I might be a fan of raw black and also when an artist throws themselves into a sound. Where No Light Reaches submerges itself int he raw black demo sound with dark themes and harsh sounds. The dense yet approachable tone of the music is surprisingly accessible which dances hand and hand with songs about satanic rituals and lycanthropic transformations. This looks like a goofy black metal demo but after allowing it into your heart is a well constructed demo that is running around the woods in a cloak.
“A collection of cues and soundscapes composed as an audio companion to the Dennis Wheatley Novel
‘THE DEVIL RIDES OUT”
Oh this is absolutely dreamy. The Devil Rides Out is a 1934 novel about black magic and the occult which was later turned into a 1968 film by Hammer Film Productions. the legacy of pulp and horror are running through the very core of this record that conjures the spirits of dungeon synth, synthwave, dark ambient, and film scores in a record that is dazzling and mind bending. For someone that loves the marriage between books and records as a communal experience, this record not only has given me purpose but also a quest to find other releases dedicated to novels.
So the way I found this record was first finding the band’s 2019 demo and being upset that such a great sound went missed int he year it was released. I was then shown a dark light which led me to the band’s 2020 full length from Sentient Ruin which is now allowing me to drown in a sea of ghosts. Diabolic Oath is the extension of Shroud of the Heretic, an Oregon based death metal act that has their noses in grimoires. Diabolic Path continues that obsession with a sound that is both polished but ragged with rough edges. Black, death, and doom swirl around this release much like its cover in a declaration of spectral malice.
Quest Master is new to me and I believe that is because it came in the dark period when I was not checking into new DS releases. This is a shame since The Twelve Castles seems to be the third release from a magical lo fi world that I very much want to be apart of. Melancholic and magical, this release from this artist that will be out on tape from Out of Season is something that I am glad I came back for.