Skadalv – Demo II [US, Raw Black] (2021)

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Self Released | 5-4-21

In an effort to get focus on the the most horrid of black and death metal, I seek music that could come from the astral plane. Skadalv is from the US and with only two demos from the past few years, this act only has a few sold out cassette demos to their name. With the release of the second Demo, Skadalv continues to write a chapter in an apocalyptical book which is full of spectral hauntings and psychic ruin. Though the demo only totals about 11 minutes, that time spent with Skadalv is one that is oppressive with its noise and exhilarating with the energy. Not a lot of information is available regarding this band outside of Metal Archives page which lists the lyrical themes as “Death, Mysticism and Reincarnation.” I feel the elusive nature of the band combined with the abstract lyrical themes allows this release to be something special for some very weird listeners. It is a sound which is not for everyone but those of us who are here to worship at the alter of death couldn’t ask for anything more.

La Ballade des Rats – Rattus Furax [France, Black] (2021)

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Self Released | 4-21-21

We are going to mention this album, which is the second full length from La Ballade des Rats came out last year in May. The band though decided to tag this as a 2021 release on Bandcamp so who am I to argue? It is okay since we get to include La Ballade des Rats in 2021 and the creators opus on misery and rat infestation. La Ballade des Rats is the work of a few French musicians who seems to be operating in the tunnels which snake under the city of Toulon. If Rattus Furax sounds like anything then it is the half flooded underground passages which sport all matter of disease and the denizens which inhabits its kingdom. Vermin, disease, and decay are the aesthetics of this release and La Ballade des Rats is its pestilent bard.

źmiarćvieły – čornaje połymia [?, Black] (2021)

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Caligari Records | 5-21-21

Caligari always comes through in terms of pulling me back into a world of rot and despair. At this time of writing this review, this band has no Metal Archives entry, nor any other Bandcamp page, nor anything on the internet about its existence. This band exists only as an ugly six minute black metal track which feels like it was birthed in a witches hut and now is running towards the nearest town gibbering unholy speech. This preview track is a grotesques sound and the tone of the raw production combined with the lack of information gives this release the amount of excitement and potential dismay it deserves. I thank Caligari for being there for me reaching a hand in a cauldron and pulling out something that should never had existed.

KNIFE WRAITH – Into the Undercity Dungeons [Germany, Dungeon Synth] (2021)

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Self Released | 3-25-21

Listen, I understand this is hard to look at. It is nauseating and I feel this is the perfect place to start. Knife Wraith is a German artist whose love and devotion to old Dungeons and Dragons modules as well as the 8-bit sounds of yesteryear collide in a stereoscopic dream of nostalgia and idiosyncratic joy. One can almost feel being baked in the glow of a living room television sitting on the carpet while sending your adventure through dark caves in search of magical artifacts. The monsters in vivid flat colors emerge from shaded shadow to inflict terror and health damage upon your character. These are the sounds of your quest and your eventual victory over the pixelated evils of the world.

Effluvium – Symphony No. 2 [US, Dungeon Synth / Experimental] (2021)

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Moonworshipper Records | 1-1-21

I do not think Effuvium ever intended to make dungeon synth but got caught running around with contemporary classical and noise music to really care what time curfew was. Symphony #1 is dedicated to Dimitri Shostakovich with a quote the feels like it is attributed to the Russian pianist but is another false flag in a theater of odd red herrings. Walking a line of experimental and apocalyptic sounds, Effluvium makes music much in the same way people wake up from night terrors.

This was a review I did of Effluvium’s 2017 release Symphony #1. This was also the release which solidified my love for dungeon synth which had trouble hiding its weirdness. In fact, it was a closing entry in a short lived Best of the Weird collection for 2017. Effluvium was something special for me and recently I heard my reviews were something special for its creator. It was only this year I learned of the passing of Jake Dunwoody (J. R. D.) and Symphony No. 2 was a posthumous construction of the last piece he composing. Even outside this personal connection for me, Effluvium has always represented an avatar of weird in this genre and urges listeners to be as strange as they want to be. Without limits or bounds, Symphony No. 2 is an overture to the frightening freedom of chaos, a procession for all of the idiosyncrasies and predilections one possesses but never shares. IT is a march of the strange and for J. R. D., it is a coda to a wonderful life. I thank everyone involved in this process for I know it means the world to to those who knew him and oddly those many who just knew him in music.

Howling Nightwinds – Demo II [Austrilia, Raw Black] (2021)

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Self Released | 3-15-21

I absolutely love that most of these songs just start out with the listeners falling down a hill marred with jagged rocks. Howling Nightwinds is new and with two demos full of raw violence that doesn’t seem to care about proper etiquette. In the span of around 15 minutes, Howling Nightwinds makes a grand declaration of uncaring with a demo full of black metal mixed with punk and also dungeon synth for bookends. This is a demo which is crude and unpolished and perhaps will never be invited for a formal dinner. It is perfect for basements and graveyards and perhaps other haunted places of dismay.

Wizard Tower Studios – Beyond the Lost Realm [UK, Dungeon Synth] (2021)

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Self Released | 3-4-21

“Our hope lies on a solitary hero – who’s destiny is unclear even to the wisest mystiks. Through the forests they must go, beyond the Lost Realm…” This is the line that could be on the back of an adventure RPG Nintendo box somewhere in the late 80’s. Everything about this release is amazing, from the melodies to the aesthetic to the general carefree attitude when it comes to blurring dungeon synth and video game music. The worlds of dungeon synth and games is separated by perhaps a small river which man people have found ways to traverse or build bridges between. Beyond The Lost Realm is a love letter to 8 bit music soundtracks which invoke the spirit of nostalgia that flickers on the screen of a warm television.

Uranium – An Exacting Punishment [US, Black / Death / Industrial] (2021)

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Self Released | 3-21-21

Yes, I am unsure about that band name as well at the logo. there are many things which make me wary to approach this US band first and foremost should be the rusty chains which drag behind this behemoth of a record. I say I am wary to approach this since the music and general disposition of Uranium is so caustic in nature I fear I will contract a disease or some sort of radiation burn. An Exacting Punishment is a grand display of torture through sound with black death drug through industrial soundscapes which is closer to noise than it is anything resembling dance. The band’s name and logo seem secondary to a world of nightmares which blink like strobe lights in dark warehouses. This is something that is horrifying and I am so glad is stalking me as the specter of industrial music should want to do.

Ithildin – A Long​-​Expected Party [Canada, Dungeon Synth] (2021)

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Self Released | 2-15-21

I was floored by this release. I was amazed by this release despite it dealing with one of the most common topics for dungeon synth. Tolkien and dungeon synth have been companions since some of the first iterations as the lore surrounding the collected works of the author have been interwoven in the fabric of not only dungeon synth but heavy metal. A Long Expected Party takes inspiration and also track names off of Fellowship of the Ring. This again is not new territory yet the melodies and craftsmanship that lies at the foundation of this record is undeniable. Invoking both humble production and elaborate soundscapes, Ithildin (Mithril that only the most experienced craftsmen of the Noldor could learn how to make and pass on to others) weaves arcane sorcery to create an enriching record that may look ordinary from first glance but is steeped in decades, if not centuries, of quality.

Antikythaera – Untitled [?, Atmospheric Black] (2021)

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Self Released | 3-1-21

At this moment, I enjoy the aesthetic. Untitled release from a black metal act that has no country listed nor is there anything on the internet regarding this release. Anonymity does not substitute for quality but an already interesting release is certainly helped by a lack of information. It feels this release skirts the definition of existence and could disappear tomorrow (has happened before). Antikythaera is here, right now in this moment, making haunted music which is cast like shadows against bleak walls. This demo (?) is less of a release than it is a proof of concept that an entity making this music actually exists. I do not expect this release to be shrouded forever, but at this moment it adds to the enjoyment.