Fog Castle/Foglord/Fogweaver – In the Kingdom of Fog [US, Dungeon Synth]

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Self Released 11-1-20

Yes, I will admit I chuckled a little at the combination of all of these artists. The split between three Fog based dungeon synth artists all from the United States under a split also about Fog lends itself to humorous overlap between aesthetics. I would be laughing more if not for the fact that one artist on this split already has one of the best releases this year and the other is a veteran in the dungeon synth scene. What seems like a jokey team up of the fog superheroes is really one of the most immersive splits this year with three capable and competent dungeon synth musicians that have dedicated themselves tot he hazy atmosphere of middle grey. From the supernatural sounds of Fog Castle to the eerily drone of Foglord and the the mystical twilight of Fogweaver, the combination of all three of these artists leads less to a novelty split and more of fate driven pact of artists crafting their own universe of haze.

Morgued – Demo [US, Death] (2020)

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Self Released | 11-2-20

This demo is really only a little over 7 minutes though I feel it is just long enough to make its point. Morgued is dedicated to the splatter sounds of old death metal and while that isn’t new territory for a lot of bands, this Boston based two piece comes with the trajectory of a right cross and what the band lacks in length, they make up for in ferocity. This debut demo is dedicated to the scrawled sketches of violent sci fi which aside from being adorned with clips from Starship Troopers, oozes a reverence to gritty futurism that is most likely filled with aliens.

Nameless King – Downfall Of Drangleic [US, Dungeon Synth] (2020)

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Gondolin Records | 10-27-20

Downfall of Drangleic comes in a group of four new releases from Gondolin Records. I have talked before and even expressed my undying loyalty to a label that not only showcases quality artists but frames each releases with visual cohesion. I know what a Gondolin Record release looks like as I know what a Realm of Sleep record looks like. A visual aesthetic is something I adore as I feel these releases are apart of a family and Nameless King steps out to not only be a strong release from Gondolin records but one of the better releases this year. Mournful yet airy, Downfall of Drangleic carries the burden of a thousand years of grief in a haunting record that is polarized in its emotions. I want to feel relaxed butthere is this lingering sandess which greys out the world around me.

Various Artists – The Reliquary of Terror [International, Dungeon Synth] (2020 )

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Wrought Records | 10-24-20

This is fun. I feel it necessary to highlight the fantastic design for the Reliquary of Terror as I am a fan and practitioner of mimicking distressed media covers. This release boasts a pulp book cover and the flair which surrounds this releases is truly outstanding. the design is the first thing which greats the listener which is immediately followed by an ushering into a world of neon horror. The roster for this compilation is a cadre of electronic luminaries mainly from the dungeon synth scene with a wider scope. Cimitir, ElixiR, Erythrite Throne, Vaelastrasz
Casket of Dreams & Xasthur and the The IXth Key all dawn costumes, and sometimes come as themselves, for a compilation of frightful merriment. Dark ambient, synthwave, and things which sound like 70’s horror movie soundtracks all decorate the halls of this castle turning a once grim atmosphere into something more fun and engaging. Halloween is the celebration of all things dark but with a playful atmosphere and the passion of these artists and record label to do a one off compilation with an ensemble befitting of the fanfare.

Malfet – Alban Arthan [US, Dungeon Synth] (2020)

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Dungeon Deep Records | 10-2-20

At this point, I do not have to introduce Dungeon Deep Records as this US(?) label has been one of the more consistent and professional tape labels for dungeon synth in recent memory with a catalog of stellar releases that not only build upon the style’s pas but lay the groundwork for its future. Malfet is another entry into that chapter with their fourth record into what they call “pastoral dungeon synth.” I feel this is a perfect name for a style of dungeon synth that is warm but sweeping in its scope. Rather than relegated to a cottage of cozy fire, Malfet’s music rolls over hills in both sunshine and rain questing towards adventures far away from here. Malfet’s vision and ambition is large leading to theatric music videos which could seen ostentatious if not backed up by some outstanding music which is perhaps one of the better releases this year.

Diabhal – M M X X [US, Death] (2020)

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Self Released | 8-1-20

All hail the bulldozer. When discussing death metal from the last few years, there is a certain strain of hip rough edge death metal that relies mostly on riffs and gross looking album covers. This is wonderful death metal but has become apart of an aesthetic that bands can easily subscribe. Diabhal eschews this tradition with a more vintage style of death metal which crushes its listener with a steamroller. Instead of an album cover with two colors and a JCard layout, M M X X appears as if it came from 1995 from a semi mainstream label. Being from NYC, I had a preconception this band was going to be older and possibly with one or two shaved heads. Much to my surprise, the group appears to be young and spry and just into covering songs by Baphomet. Let’s hang out and get crushed by heavy machinery together.

Alkilith – Tales of The Wandering Mage [US, Dungeon Synth] (2020)

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Realm And Ritual | 10-16-20

Release Date/Info: Pre-order October 16th on the Realm and Ritual bandcamp. Limited to 30 cassette copies.

this is one of the first prerelease tapes I get to review which is an exciting step in getting ahead of the limited release tapes that always seem to elude me. Alkilith is a US based composer who has already had a well received release this year. In fact, Blade of Morndinsamman was released in September, of this month, and already the composer is setting up for another release in October. If you are not familiar with the lonesome minimalism of Alkilith, then please see yourself to the nearest lonely mountain for a journey through the blistering cold of northern winds as it whips from the glacier. I make mention of the cold atmosphere but Tales of the Wandering Mage is a campfire set up in the shelter of rock ledges as it burns throughout the night. The sparse atmosphere combined with the undertones of solitude and emotional journey cast in lofi hues is something that can only be experienced by oneself in the shadow of great mystery and adventure. Realm and Ritual has already released fantastic tapes this year and Tales of the Wandering Mage is another chapter in a tome that is slung on the back of a traveling wizard.

Demon Goat – Messenger of Doom [US, Black] (2020)

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Self Released | 9-11-20

I want you to forget a few things. I want you to forget the tags on this Bandcamp page. I want you to forget the fact that this creator played in Khemmis for a spell. I want you to forget the fact that Demon Goat has a dizzying amount of releases since 2016. I want you to forget about the name Demon Goat. I urge you to forget all of these things and take Messenger of Doom for what it is minus everything that it is attached to. With that you are given an entry into a world of depressive black/doom which is a deluge of catharsis and maligned emotions. I do not want to discount past work or any connection with other bands rather I feel Demon Goat works the best when given a chance to speak and shriek its way into the fabric on your soul.

Xard – Dreams of the Strange Tower [US, Dungeon Synth / Dark Ambient] (2020)

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Self Released | 8-28-20

Somewhere between the realm of waking and sleep likes Xard and their dreams of the strange tower. Somewhere between the sound of dungeon synth and the haunting of dark ambient is Xard and their dreams of the strange tower. Xard is an odd entity as it the debut for the composer who goes by the name of the main human antagonist on the 1957 film Night of the Demon.” Dreams of the Strnage Tower is also dedicated to the memory of recently decreased Power Trip member Riley Gale. With a traditional DS sound combined with a hip low brow visual aesthetic, Xard exists in many realms at the same time and Dreams of the Strange Tower is a dungeon synth record that exists on the edge of many different scenes. For all of its transitive properties, the sound of Xard is fitting as it floats in the aether of emissions with its spectral sound and haze of ambiance.

Snuggle Oscar – Sunday Snoozin’ [US, Dungeon Synth] (2020)

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Self Released | 8-22-20

I feel the more I listen to comfy synth, the less critical I am of its presence. This helps when the music being released is of decent quality and elicits a certain aesthetic. The aesthetic of comforting and warm synth music that is inviting to all listeners. Snuggle Oscar is perhaps one of the most sugary synth records I have heard even considering the Grandma’s Cottage record that came with recipes in its download. Sunday Snoozing is dedicated and inspired to cuddling with your dog specifically a 5lb yorkie. When one looks at the grand scope of DS and its origins and resurgence and typical themes, the existence of comfy synth feels antagonistic to its serious fantasy aesthetic though also apart of the same quest for escapism. Whether or not it s a dark wood, a castle far off into the distant or on the couch with your 5lb yorkie, ambient synth can be for everyone and I am glad in 2020, e are getting releases like this since they are both hilarious and endearing.