moss witch – spells from the ground and the dirt [US, Dungeon Synth] (2020)

Standard

Self Released | 8-12-20

“hand-dubbed, low quality small run of 5 tapes. a portion of proceeds will be donated to mutual aid funds. includes a bonus track. only shipping within the united states for now. really sorry about that – if you order from somewhere else, I’ll refund the money.”

Everything about this is charming. Moss Witch most certainly sold out to the 5 people who were lucky enough to get it and perhaps this will be one of the legendary tapes that circulate the DS market. Even in digital form, the debut demo from Moss Witch is a charming lo-fi stroll through blurred gardens that has all of its rough edges on display for people to marvel. From the obvious hand made quality of its physical medium to the sound of the composer hitting stop on the recording, Spells From The Ground and the Dirt is a 7 and a half minute view into a hazy greenhouse tended by a crone or hermit who loves their plants. I humorously enjoy the times when DS has small batch tapes but the charm of Moss Witch transcends any jokes I can make about 5 hand dubbed cassettes since the music is so magical and comforting.

Maiden Hair – Yonder [UK, Dungeon Synth] (2020)

Standard

Self Released | 8-15-20

One would think this Maiden Hair release would be something along the lines of traditional dungeon synth what with the cover and the grim looking Bandcamp page. One would not expect wild Yamaha PSS-270 sounds to assail them from vintage treetops. Maiden Hair for all its subterfuge is a near irreverent composer more along the lines of countryside prankster who dedicated each releases, and subsequent style, to whatever instrument they choose for composition. Earlier this year the demo MMXX was based around the quiet and mournful sounds of the the Daewoo EX-Z Plus Digital piano. All of this esoteric gear discussion may sound odd but at the core of each these records is a love for equipment and the wild and flagrant experimentation that comes with it. Maiden Hair is not bound to any sound nor to this realm of existence as the composer could be some otherworldly entity sent to this world to confuse and entertain.

Poodle Knight – Brave The Darkness [US, Dungeon Synth] (2020)

Standard

Self Released | 8-13-20

Stop it Crypt Hop. Stop trying being a thing. If you keep trying, you are going to end up making a decent release. I have been wary of a new tag that has been affixed to releases Crypt Hop is the purported marriage between hip hop beats and the morose atmosphere of dungeon synth. For any people who remember and currently come into contact with dungeon rap, this combination isn’t the most intuitive. This is why I was wary about Poodle Knight and why I am ultimately reserving judgement for the whole style until more decent releases, like Brave The Darkness, are recorded. Does this release work? Yes. Why? I don’t know. If I would to hazard a guess it is first and foremost the irreverent aesthetic that comes emblazoned on the cover. Somewhere between camp and immersive fantasy is the tale of Poodle Knight, Slayer of the Wicked, and Protector of the Realm of Lzar and their quest to rid the land of evil. Brave The Darkness works as a experiment of itself with its sounds opposed to each other yet keeping the structure in place. It is an odd sounds that shouldnt work but for right now the tales of Poodle Knight sing through the technicolor darkness.

Uilos – I: Dark Night Of The Soul [Canada, Dungeon Synth / Ambient] (2020)

Standard

So Called Hell | 9-18-20

“Named for star-like flowers found growing on graves around the Gate Of Silver during the journey into Gondolin, the project’s inaugural volume threads 37 minutes of mystic, mournful instrumentals into a shimmering saga of hidden hermits, enticing dragons, and headless knights.”

Even though I am writing this review, I would like to highlight successful attempts at enticing me to listen to records. I reviewed So Called Hell’s previous ritual ambient release and Ulios was next in the queue. I melted when seeing this line as it captures the middleground between high fantasy lore and morbid mysticism. Perhaps this is why I enjoyed Uilos so much as the album pitch crystallizes music that is a landscape of magical gloom with immersive ambient that pulls from the gods of Kosmische Musik as much as it does the heroes of dungeon synth. I: Dark Night Of The Soul is the purported first chapter of a series and if this is the sound of the beginning, I am almost paralyzed with anticipation which has me stuck in a world the is eternally dusk — illuminated only by fireflies and wandering ghosts.

Hasufel – Lamentations Of The Foul High Priest [US, Ritual Ambient] (2020)

Standard

So Called Hell | 9-18-20

Ritual Ambient is something I have always admired even if I do not actively seek it out. Ritual ambient is a specter that sometimes crosses my path and am forced to confront. So Called Hell is a newish US based tape label that specializes in, according to their Bandcamp Page, lower path sounds. Dungeon Synth and Dark Ambient seem to be the focus for this label and by the looks of the three releases thus far, they are succeeding in all aspects of crafting an image. From sight to sound to general eerie presence, So Called Hell is like that specter I just mentioned that keeps following you in the woods. Lamentations Of The Foul High Priest is perhaps the most unsettling of releases from So Called Hell with a tapestry of otherworldly sounds and ritualistic devotions. While ritual ambient can ride far on its aesthetic, Hasufel manages to weave engaging sounds that are both intoxicating and disembodied leaning on the ambient side rather than the noisy. Hasufel is dedicated to the fans of wandering the dreamlands between the realm of life and to the seekers of ancient temples beyond the wall of sleep.

Vegard – From The Crypt of The Elders Volume One [UK, Dungeon Synth] (2020)

Standard

Self Released | 8-3-20

“Limited edition VHS style cassette with numbered membership card. Comes with an A3 poster and signed A4 card. Limited to 100 copies.” — SOLD OUT. this is delightful. Aside from physical copies of Ds records selling out in matter of minutes, I appreciate the fact there are black metal bands still making DS side projects. Vegard is a UK black metal band that has a 2020 demo available on their Bandcamp. From The Crypt of The Elders Volume One is a side project by Count Vornok detailing the “mystical land of Elvhenan.” Vegard steps inline with Ds’s history with black metal and leaves the raw atmospehric black lands for something more cozy and nostalgic. Packaged in a retro aesthetic, From The Crypt of The Elders Volume One is a fun romp through the lands of DS that is as playful as it is delightful.

Thermokarst – Demo [Canada, Black] (2020)

Standard

FOOD FOR DOGS PRODUCTIONS | 8-3-20

Reverence is a power toxin when making music. Having a goal or style one wants to recreate and call their home is an easy direction for bands as it gives them a goal. Thermokarst is dedicated to the sound of second wave black metal even dedicating their opening track to a familiar phrase. But this is where expectations end as aside from treading familiar ground, Thermokarst debut demo goes beyond the call of worship and offers something much more fierce and caustic. Three tracks of blistering black metal that is balanced and unhinged is excatly what most people desire. Thermokarst offers abandon in darkness and though the band breathes raw smoke, they seem fully competent on what they are doing and how to handle axes.

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

Standard

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)

Standard

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.

Of Antler And Oak – Midsummer [Canada, Dungeon Synth] (2020)

Standard

Realm of Sleep Records | 6-21-20

This review is going to encompass all of the Realm of Sleep catalog even though I am focusing on just one release. I might not like every releases from this label (which is really just one artist) but I support the idea of using a tape label as a hub for creativity. Realm of Sleep is a creation of J. Browne who uses various avatars to create music from the woozy melodies from Of Oak and Ash to the raw noise of Hermit Of The Black Wood. Even though most of the tapes are already sold out, the limited quantity of these releases fits the aesthetic of an intimate spellcaster doing cantrips in the woods. Midsummer is Browne’s dedication to the solstice and the pagan overtones are as narcotic and dreamy as the music itself.

Continue reading