Villein – Splendor Solis [UK, Dungeon Synth] (2020)

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Self Released | 9-12-20

Villein’s debut was a surprise back in the halcyon days of June 2020. Not only was this a competent dungeon synth release swathed in lush layers but it was also somewhat overlooked by the larger community. This is funny since there was a 25 edition tape that accompanied the release which was sold out in minutes through Vicious Mockery. Still even with the tape release and the lush sound, I expected Villein to command more attention at least to the level of quality from these releases. This is okay since we still have time for Villein to enchant strangers with music that is intoxicating in its depth and majestic in its sound. Splendor Spoils is the second release in a few short months which if this final record for 2020, then it s a tremendous introduction to an artist that has come out of nowhere. Villeins music, as well as visual presence, is a wonderful gem for anyone who might have missed it and another chapter in a book I never thought I would enjoy reading so much.

Orcus – Altar of Necropolis [UK, Dungeon Synth] (2020)

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Realm and Ritual | 9-11-20

I am including the link to the Realm ad Ritual release for this album even though the edition of tapes sold out. Altar of Necropolis was self released in May of this year but has since been picked up by the wonderful Realm and Ritual label. Orcus is a UK based artist who seems to live in two different realms with one being the contemporary and the other traditional. While the sound of Altar of Necropolis is exploratory in its sound with a balanced production, there is an air of somber haze which unites the sound with a release which pays tribute to the traditional dungeon synth of yesterday. Altar of Necropolis, as well as its creator, is both joyous and melancholic with a release that transcends time and emotion.

Village of Dorlech – Seeds of Change [UK, Dungeon Synth] (2020)

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Self Released | 8-25-20

“Plant based Dungeon Synth.” I love these types of descriptions. I love these types of descriptions as selling points rather than invented genres. Actually, who knows, maybe horticulture inspired dungeon synth will be a thing in a few years. Seeds of Change is dedicated to the quiet ambiance of plants growing which is nurtured by the waves of old school dungeon synth but without the oppressive ruminations of dark corridors. There is certainly a level of melancholy which hangs in the air yet the lamentations feel like the decaying of fallen trees as it beings its cycle of rejuvenation. This is a release which sounds as the way loam smells as its pungent qualities fills your senses but ultimately is neither noxious nor sweet.

Scenic Railway – Scenic Railway [UK, Dungeon Synth] (2020)

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Self Released | 8-19-20

Train Synth. Ha, I joke but seriously. I have been holding the entire comfy synth scene at bay until I had a chance to wrap my head around it but it was Scenic Railway and its embrace of everything lo fi that made me realize this genre is perhaps to nebulous for one genre. In this record one is given a kaleidoscope or dungeon synth, lo fi beats, and sleepy ambient wrapped around a vague idea of getting on a vintage railway and traveling the land. I can not think of the last time I was this confused and excited for an idea but Scenic Railways inclusiveness of genres and all passengers is certainly inviting. Scenic Railway fits the comfy synth genre though I feel comfy synth is more of a mindset as the theme for Scenic Railway is the yesteryear of rail travel and the subsequent falling sleeping in its plush chairs.

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

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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.

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

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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.

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.

Sunken Grove – Binding Branches [Wales, Dungeon Synth] (2020)

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Self Released | 8-3-20

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.

Eternal Rot – Putridarium [UK / Poland, Doom / Death] (2020)

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Self Released | 7-6-20

Let the filth rain. If the stark black and white near cartoon cover was not enough indication, Eternal Rot’s second release is going to be akin to reading a horror comic with black and white gore strewn among its pages. Eternal Rot is a cross country collaboration between Polish and English musicians who have found a common language if filthy riffs. Putridarium is the second full length from this act even though their full lengths are only a few long tracks. There is no time down here in the torture chamber of eternity.

The Shakespearean Frog – Toilet Soap is Perfectly Pure [UK, Dungeon Synth] (2020)

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Self Released | 6-23-20

I would like toi note that I am baffled by these releases since there are a lot of forces that are at odds with each other. I truly believe that some of the magic with The Shakespearean Frog is its surreal ambiance of idiosyncratic charm. From the obsession with soap, to the melodious sounds of comfy synth, to the tendency to go into a jaunty rhythm, The Shakespearean Frog is less a dungeon synth artist and more a Idyllic Victorian Countryside Synth artist but that later makes little sense. What does make sense is the third release from this melodic prankster is even more fascinating when taken into account their whole existence in this world.

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