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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Zundmarazkhulshilkîn – Izremabrusây ra Shâkalmamakhhul [UK, Dungeon Synth] (2020)

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Self Released | 6-17-20

“Izremabrusây ra Shâkalmamakhhul translates from the dwarvish as Flotsam and Jetsam, the title of the ninth chapter in the Two Towers. It also describes the manner of tracks that feature on this album. Although I have fit them into a narrative most started life as one-offs, pieces that drifted here from elsewhere, either tracks for compilations, tunes I worked on under a previous project or works that have sat, semi-completed on my hard drive waiting to find a home.”

SO I am guessing that this is a compilation of sorts from an artist I have never heard of before today. Outside of a successful 2018 debut, Zundmarazkhulshilkîn has been drifting in and out of collaboration and split projects before resting on Izremabrusây ra Shâkalmamakhhul which by the description makes it seem ancillary rather than what it really is — magical hypnosis. Disguised as raw bedroom DIY, Zundmarazkhulshilkîn presents tender and melodious synth that despite their preamble feel complete as soundtracks to a fantasy land I desperate want to be apart of.

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Amn – Lands of Intrigue [UK, Electronic / Dungeon Synth] (2020)

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Mystic Timbre | 9-2-20

This release once against comes from Mystic Timbre, a place that I recently stumbled on and have not yet left. This label has been a boon for not only traditional dungeon synth but for progressive and left field electronic. The best is when the two combine and Amn’s Land of Intrigue is a perfect marriage between the classic sounds of dungeon synth and the cosmic scrying of Kosmische Music. Though not everything will be harmonious or even comforting, the far out visions generated by this release are enough to allow one to see into the future.

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Axis of Light – Axis of Light [UK, Black] (2020)

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Self Released | 6-1-20

I remember first hearing Axis of Light on the Fallen Empire/SVN OKKLT compilation in 2013. Incidentally that was my first exposure to the type of raw black that I still appreciate today. The first three songs on that compilation were a shredding combination of Axis of Light, Witch in Her Tomb, and Death Fortress. Almost ten years old, Fallen Empire and the rest of its roster has moved on to other things with some of them being tremendous. Axis of Light’s newest EP gives me the same type of feeling I had in 2013 even though it is a new decade and we have both seen so much. With only one song shared, the harsh veil of noise is still present though with melodic and almost post black (?) hooks hiding in the back. The band’s page is directing all proceeds to charity and all signs are pointing to a great EP that is going to cast a net of nostalgic noise.

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Runecaster – The Scarlet Kingdom [UK(?), Dungeon Synth] (2020)

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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.

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Abduction – Cyclopean Thunderbolt [UK, Black] (2020)

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Goatprayer Recordalbum s | 5-20-20

I remember being absolutely smitten with Abduction’s 2019 All Pain as All Pain as Penance a cathartic dive into noisy black metal. Now, without much preamble comes a blinding demo with perhaps the coolest name all year. Cyclopean Thunderbolt is a mess of ruminating atmosphere and a production that sounds like a witch loosely chained to the walls of a cellar. I say loosely as the bonds which bind her are breaking and the threat is becoming more of a reality. these are the things I think about when enveloped in throaty vocals and towering guitar lines. This is everything I need at the moment.

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The Shakespearean Frog – Handkerchief Soap [UK, Dungeon Synth] (2020)

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Self Released | 4-13-20

Comfy Synth was a small micro genre in an already micro genre and consisted of artists embracing a light yet intimate sound for their releases. The aesthetic was pointed to a pastoral/cottage setting and invoked scenes of nurture and and comfort. Most of it was less than average production put out at the same rate as most dungeon synth which was a lot. Dungeon synth has a tendency to embrace and run with titles and comfy synth can certainly act as a style within a genre much like winter synth, forest ambient, dark ambient, chip synth, and dungeon noise. The Shakespearean Frog used the tag comfy synth which made me dump a diatribe but outside of any assumptions, Handkerchief Soap is a wonderful vintage style string album that is just as magical as any other dungeon synth. Handkerchief Soap was released in the same month as its followup Elite Toilet Soap which despite its odd name is just as warm and inviting as the first. Come get a blanket and sit by the fire.

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Sunken Grove – Precious Solitude [Wales, Dungeon Synth] (2020)

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Self Released | 4-10-20

I feel if we are going to take away anything from dungeon synth, it is the resurgence of hand drawn covers. Precious Solitude is the first offering from a Welsh (?) composer who is using this time to make a very quiet introduction. The cover is indicative of a release that is teeming with intimate moments a wash with dreamy lo fi synth. The tags for this release range from “forest ambient” to “winter synth” to “minimalist” and for once, I feel all of these descriptions are accurate for a record that is introspective and escapist for the artist and their audience.

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Hexivoid – Disdain From A Burning Cosmos [UK, Black] (2019)

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AHPN Records | 2-19-19

Alright, lets get fucking weird. It takes a special album to break my visual obsession with black and white JCard covers that feature rotting corpses. It also takes a special album that is going to rip my attention away from rotting death metal that sounds like it shoveled from the floor of an abattoir. This is it. One of the weirdest things I have heard all month and it is not just noise or left field black rather something that just pulses oddities from the cover to the bedroom style laboratory which makes up the bulk of its music. Disdain From A Burning Cosmos is a journey and one that can be enjoyed by a majority of people if they leave a few things at the floor. In here, production is meaningless, band members play everything, and all pageantry when it comes to visual design melts in a peyote vision quest. Fuck it all, lets get fucking weird.

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Torso – Demonic Vomiting [UK, Death / Black] (2019)

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Me Saco Un Ojo Records | 2-21-19

This is so fucking gross. I do not even know where this band is from or if they are from 2019 or if there is any black metal in this tornado of filth that is devastating everything in front of it. Demonic Vomiting may only interest the few who can stomach gross imagery but what separates Torso from the other depraved brutal death metal bands is a knack for filling their atmosphere with killer riffs and having a general attitude which is cool rather than twisted and edgy. It maybe a line that is not necessary for others but those who want that vile downpour but can stand the sound of brutal death, maybe interested more in this demo.

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