Fen Walker – Sojourns in the Realm of the Undermoon [US, Dungeon Synth] (2020)

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Self Released | 5-20-20

Fen Walker was an artist that I missed during my sabbatical from dungeon synth. 2019’s The Totem Wilds Call Thy Name was an intense journey into the lands that lay beyond dungeon synth which was more like a psychedelic walkabout than a record. The sharp synths and progressive nature of Fen Walker’s music fits the motif of shamanistic visions and strange spirit quests. Sojourns in the Realm of the Undermoon continues this theme with another record poised with pulp adventure befitting of a faded paperback cover. This release concludes a loose trilogy of records that I may not have been around for the beginning but am sure glad was here for the end.

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Black Candle Wax – Crematorium [US, Raw Black] (2020)

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Self Released | 5-27-20

Here is a release that is actively trying to get you not to listen to it. I love the cult aesthetic on some of these releases. From having a tape only exclusive, to only releasing a title-less sample, to even pricing your sample at the mythical 666$, Black Candle Wax takes no qualms in saying you probably do not need this in your life. It is funny I am more intrigued to a release like this. For all of the fanfare that precedes this demo, Crematorium rips through the air like an angry ghost with 3 minutes of violent nightmares.

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bomBARDed – OST V [US, Soundtrack / Dungeon Synth] (2020)

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Self Released | 5-19-20

There really inst a good genre for this since this is not truly dungeon synth. If I would throw out a few genres I would have to put them with caveats. This is Video Game Music but its not from a video game. This is a soundtrack but it is not from a movie. This is dungeon synth only in spirit. This is music from a podcast that is about D&D adventures and it is absolutely wonderful. bomBARDed is a D&D podcast whose background music is composed by a Texas band called Lindby. I am not sure if the members are playing the game but the podcast is what you can expect from a D&D podcast. The music in the podcasts is situated in the background and would not be so remarkable if it were not showcased on this record. OST V is ostensibly the 5th release from this series and for all intents and purposes and for all of its caveats brings a sense of escapist wonder with tidbits of magic and wonder.

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Snowspire – A Spire Enshrouded [US, Dungeon Synth] (2020)

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Self Released | 5-13-20

When the term winter synth first started to be used, I thought it was a needless exercise in dividing up an already niche genre. This coincided with the term forest synth or forest ambient. While I think the division of sound in a small genre is sort of micromanaging a sound, devoting oneself to the chilling sounds of winter is sort of fun. A Spire Enshrouded is a soft and delightful album that steps away from the cold and informal aesthetics of other winter synth. Here beyond the crisp night are glowing lights coming from small homes which are domed with fresh snow. This is a cozy record that is full of love and warmth and is something that I would like to live in forever.

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Polar Keep – Polar Keep [US?, Dungeon Synth / Ambient] (2020)

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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.

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Ritual Mass – Abhorred in the Eyes of God [US, Death] (2020)

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Caligari Records | 6-19-20

I have said it before, and Ill say it again — If any record label could have a blind subscription where I would pay X amount of money to be sent new tapes monthly, I think Caligari would be the my first choice. Over the years, this label has consistently dredged up some of the grossest and sustainably death/black/? in recent memory. They have become so consistent that sharing Caligari links to friends sort of becomes expected as the hyperlink is usually a signpost to something vile and riffy. Ritual Mass is no different with a makeover of their 2019 EP in resdesigned tape artwork and presentation. I know this came out in 2019 but most of us are hearing it for the first time so we are just going to let that slide down some slimy catacomb where devils devour the dead.

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Grimwin’s Forge – Grimwin’s Forge III [US, Dungeon Noise] (2020)

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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.

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Lord Orots – Mors Solum Initium [US, Dungeon Synth] (2020)

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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.

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Ænigmatum – Adorned in Wrath [US, Black / Death] (2020)

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Self Released | 5-22-20

There is something about the palette of grey, black and blue that makes a cover so enticing. Even before listening to the newest demo from Ænigmatum, one knows what they are in for. Rather than a blistering black-white-red palette of black/death, one is treated to the twisting catacombs of an alien landscapes where walls breathe and the floors arrest your movement. Adorned in Wrath manages to build a non euclidean temple on the border between accessibility and harshness with melody, hooks that dance in macabre circles with dissonant elements and angular songwriting.

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Writhing Shadows – Demo [US, Death] (2020)

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Self Released | 4-20-20

Its funny that the idea of knuckledragging death has become a term or idea of affection that the dumber and ruder the riffs are the better quality the music. I do not know what lies on the otherside of kuckledragging death but for now, we are going to roll with the hairy punches and embrace the primitive or death metal with zero table manners since at the end of the day, the riffs on Writhing Shadows are obscene and the experience is rude and fascinating.

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