Self Released | 5-12-20
This release is good. This release is real good. This release is also visually unremarkable compared to the sea of other dungeon synth records. Classical painting, medieval font, centered on a flat frame is something that is almost part and parcel for this genre. I do not mean to disparage the formula as I feel it plays into the genre rather I hope that this release does not get lost in the sea of other dungeon synth due to its brilliance and effective landscapes that are filled with adventure tinged with melancholy. Treasure Seeker’s music calls back to the sounds and feelings captured by modern artists such as Hedge Wizard which take lo fi soundscapes and make kingdoms out it. As I write this, I think this might be one of the best releases this year and here I am talking about its cover.
Skventhrone | 5-11-20
Skaventhrone is a label that is presumably based in New Zeland ans also presumably the landing zone for a bunch of fringe dungeon synth, noise, and ambient musicians. Looking through past releases, I noticed a few familiar names and a bunch more I did not. Polar Keep is the debut release from one of the composers from Shrouded Gate. Where Shrouded Gate created lofi kingdoms on their releases, Polar Keep travels to barren ice wastes foe a chilling record of winter synth. I actually do not know if that is even a tag people use anymore but this is dungeon synth dedicated to empires of desolate ice and snow where the most oppressive thing is the synth which burns your face and fingers with cold.
Swallowed Key Productions | 5-8-20
I had to put my headphones on for this one and I suggest you do the same. Swallowed Key productions is an odd label. With an array of releases in 2019, it has quietly established itself as a dealer in weirdo oddities ranging from noise to drone to ambient dungeon synth that I am almost positive is from the same person. With the arcane permission for supporters to dub these releases onto tape (?), Swallowed Key is the strange guy in the corner with the pointy hat and unsettling smile. Flowermage’s release is the first for Swallowed Key in 2020 and is a short but effective slab of dark ambient which carries dungeon synth above the ghostly treeline. Never-mind the quasi religious text which accompanies the Bandcamp, this release is for a few people who want to befriend the strange guy in the pointy hat.
Self Released | 4-20-20
Dungeon noise was a foreseeable branch to come out of the great modern DS wave of the mid 10’s. When one has a group of bedroom producers, experimentation is a natural progression on any genre and noise/dark ambient/harsh experimentation in a genre whose roots go back to black metal was a logical step. Dungeon noise in the mid 10’s however was met with a polarized response which led to scene bickering and even a weird flirtation with NS themes. I hate to precede a review for Grimwin’s Forge with history but I feel it is important that the Dungeon noise scene, at its very core is a remarkable genre that just got assaulted with extra baggage. Grimwin’s Forge III, I feel is a suitable meeting point between the desire for experimentation and the need for accessibility. While noisy and full of atmosphere, the music on Grimwin’s Forge III is still narrative between the rough and burnt edges. This artist also seems to be behind Ancient Iron and both projects have a knack for extremely limited cassettes that are split between commercial products and art projects.
The Obsidian Order | 5-6-20
I am going to give it to Lord Orots. This is quite alright. It takes a lot of confidence to put yourself in a cloak and a Halloween mask on the cover of your 25 edition tape. It takes a lot of confidence and trust in your audience to ignore any criticism and just go with the music. Mors Solum Initium goes with the music with an EP of old school dungeon synth that aside from being slightly repetitive, achieves the mood and atmosphere desired by so many cloaked devotees. The Obsidian Order is a US based tape label that seems to be going for the strange and wild with a roster full of dark ambient and noise releases that when put side by side, makes Mors Solum Initium perhaps the most melodic. I am going to give it to Lord Orots, this is quite alright.
Self Released | 5-4-20
I have no idea of the title of this release is in relation to the location in Skyrim, but I am going to guess it is. I have no idea since the rest of track titles are in German and do not directly point to video games for inspiration. This is all okay since Walther (Bard’s Leap) gives us a full release of light classical dungeon synth which wafts through open windows in stately manors. I would be hesitant to put this under the same sort of court music that is a favored style among other musicians as Songs from Windhelm is narcotic and enticing but interesting enough to keep one from falling asleep. This is the first release from Bard’s Leap and I am hoping for more to come out of this palatial estate of dreams.
Self Released | 5-3-20
I did it! I found a release that is almost 50/50 split between dungeon synth and black metal which will go great on this site since that is what I do. Celestial Conjuration was found through dungeon synth channels though by all rights, this is an atmospheric black record that is draped in the heavy cloaked of astral synth. In fact, one of the tags for this record is “astral depression” which I never knew I needed until now. Yes, this record is far from produced and perhaps only speaks to like 4 people who will enjoy it but those four people (myself included) are on a shamanistic journey of absolute melancholy.
Cosmic Ocean | 5-1-20
I think it was listening to the track “Scrying at The Clear Fountain,” that I went from mildly pleased with The Scarlet Kingdom to purchasing the tape and getting really excited over this act. Imagine my surprise to learn that this is the second tape this year for Runecaster as it continues the jaunty synthscapes of the debut but in a more mellow dreamlike kingdom. In fact, Runecaster’s grip on lo-fi lullabies transform The Scarlet Kingdom from a decent idiosyncratic fantasy synth record to one of the better releases of the year. This came out of nowhere and I am trying to stay calm.
Self Released | 4-30-19
I want you to be prepped for ambient noise and a sense of windy unease. AMON OBEL has made a dungeon synth record dedicated and based around the lore of Tolkien. That in of itself is not unique nor even a surprise in a genre steeped in fantasy. What is unique and striking about The Night-fearer’s Funeral is the anxious presentation that mixes dreamy soundscapes with roots of hidden horror. I do not know if it was intended to create a record with Tolkien lore titles and marry them with ghoulish organ synth and wrap it up with a chilly album cover that seeps any warmth from the atmosphere but I will be the first to say, it works and I am ravenous for more.
Forgotten Castle Records | 4-28-20
Dungeon synth is dark and sometimes I forget where the genre came from. Dungeon synth in 2020 is whatever the creator wants it to be with an array of styles from the light and airy to the dark and slightly damp. Execration Chamber pays tribute t the spirits of old with a release of plodding dungeon crawlers with hints of majesty. If the spectral cover was not enough indication, Execration Chamber is going to be filled with ghosts, grief, and the memories of a past long gone.