All hail rock and roll. Well, parts of this. Bokkerijders is a black metal band with only one demo released in 2022. Silver Dust and Swords Of Gold is probably a demo but it was released two days ago and their Metal Archives page hasn’t been updated. This feels like a demo or even EP with the two tracks with the title of the release. Regardless of the brevity of material songs like “Silver Dust” reach into the 9 minute territory with a full black thrash track being extended into a dark ambient / dungeon synth conclusion. “Swords of Gold”continues this theme by segmenting a black thrash song with a psychedelic intermission which is both unique and exquisite. I enjoy releases which are utilitarian in their title and Silver Dust and Swords Of Gold is both accessible and blistering. All hail the club in the seventh circle of Hell.
If nothing else I can always count on Grimestone for making weird music. enchantedwoods333 and October 32nd are two artists who do not have many things around the internet regarding any further information. Faeries Are Real is the only release from Grimstone which makes this one instance the only place where these two artists exist. This esoteric gathering is common for some dungeon synth artists and for most of Grimestone’s roster, it is the way they all operate. This makes the unique and left field style of music even more special as it is memorable for people to travel all of this way. With enchantedwoods333 you are getting lofi dungeon synth with distant black metal vocals which stalks its way through the melodies. With October 32nd you are given a perplexing combination of chiptune, instrumental synthpop, and industrial techno which feels like boss music form some weird ass indie game everyone is playing at the moment. This split is truly odd and utterly delightful for anyone who is ready to inhale the weird vapors of the moment.
“Quest music and OST’s from a host of fully-imagined adventure games from the late 80’s/Early 90s.” Yes, this is everything I love. Dungeon synth and CRPG music have many things in common and the idea of creating fictionalized OSTs for games that could have existed has been done in the past and it is always a fun aesthetic. Skeletronomicon IV: The Quest for Daelgron is the debut release from the project Elvenverse but in the imaged lore it is the fourth installment in the Skeletronomicon game series. While no date is given for Skeletronomicon IV: The Quest for Daelgron one could assume early 90’s given the predecessor Skeletronomicon III: Necroforge was fictionally released in 1989. this would mean Skeletronomicon IV would have the same visual and processing power as Lands of Lore: The Throne of Chaos (1993), Betrayal at Krondor (1993), or even The Elder Scrolls 2: Daggerfall (1996). Spending time imagining the graphics and mechanics of this game is half of the fun especially given the time spent giving plot summaries of the game.
Four years have passed since the vanquishing of Lord Xarguul, the conquest of the Necroforge and your safe return home. It is the eve of Moonfire once more, and, as you slumber at your desk, the book of Skeletronomicon turns itself open, upon an icy breeze, again to the black page… Pulling you through the portal and into the lost realm for the fourth time. As you cross the Skytower, you realise these lands are not quite as you remember. The Warlock Daelgron, your oldest ally, exiled and missing… The Hero’s keep burned and baring a charred, empty, throne…Nothingness. Save a strangely discarded map pointing to the forbidden roads.
This is the text which greets you as you preview the sample track “Fortstormer.” The sounds are bouncing chiptunes which begs you to think of either a title screen or an overworld map showing your location in the fictional land. there is something I respect about an idea which is pushed to its logical limits. Elvenverse is not just creating a Chiptune / DS record rather they are magically wishing something that does not exists to be an object of this reality. Skeletronomicon IV: The Quest for Daelgron is a game which came out in 1993 and from what I remember it is a game I still like to pick up from time to time and do another play through. Additionaly the soundtrack was pretty great from what I remember.
As per usual, this is tagged as dungeon synth but it really is something else entirely. Adam Matlock is the creator of project that around the mid to late 2010’s people would recognize including Conqueror’s Mourn, Pendragon, and of course Nahadoth. Matlock’s project include a penchant for esoteric instruments and handdrawn album designs and packaging. For the past couple of years things have been quiet with only a few releases from the projects until yesterday. Walking Tunes of the Valley Mourners is the first release of 2023 an entire year since the last full length and whether or not this is the start of more material we shall see but for now we have an entire full length of dungeon synth adjacent music.
Walking Tunes of the Valley Mourners is a conversation between an accordion and lyre. The first provides the long drones which fill the landscape with large strokes while the second provides its highlights. The result is something which feels both traditional and unconventional for the genre of music. There is an inherent sadness which comes with these instruments and the choice to use them only reflects a desire to express melancholy. In fact, Walking Tunes of the Valley Mourners comes with a lengthy piece of text which feels allegorical and only fully known to its creator.
Nahadoth is no stranger to more common sounding dungeon synth as their past catalog would prove yet this body of work would also show someone who isn’t really apart of any sound. Matlock is a composer of many things and dungeon synth was a style in which they participated in and had much success. Walking Tunes of the Valley Mourners is something else entirely but starting at dungeon synth perhaps makes the most sense for now.
Abjectress is a project by Lolth, a black metal and sometimes synth musician who also runs a label called Cult of Oblivion. Cult of Oblivion is new and Cryptic Incantations seems to be the first demo from the entity. You can only stream on of the songs and if you wanted to hear the rest of this release you can contact the makers for trade / purchase as Cult of oblivion seems to be mostly analog in its making. The label / collective also engages in a lot of pageantry when it comes to names and titles embracing the black metal aesthetic of circles and cults. This might be perfect for people who love a level of mystery when it comes to engaging in acquiring unique metal artifacts. For those who are not, Abjectress and its brand of “improvised atmospheric black metal” is interesting enough on its own. The one streamed track “Ceremonial Bloodthirst” is a howling gust of icy wind which broke through shuttered windows. New labels however small are interesting to watch as they develop their identity and Cult of Oblivion seems to be off to a great start in making me contact them for a tape.
Allow the noise to wash over me. Ithildin Tape Production has existed since 2022 as a repository for many projects made by US based musician Elminster. Enchanted Mail could be another Elminster project but at this moment it is going to take dedicated research as the roster and releases from Ithildin are many. I am just going to say it is probably another Elminster project. I do not want to disparage the work of Ithildin as for as many releases in their repertoire (60 thus far in 2023), it might not be possible to listen to everything. Ithildin embodies experimentation and with the amount of releases they do, this label / collective / artist pushes the boundaries of dungeon synth. I is the full length from Enchanted Mail which is described as a “Naïve dungeon synth inspired by pen and paper RPGs.” While the subject matter and approach might not be entirely novel, Enchanted Mail’s embrace of decaying noise and corrosive percussion is an interesting addition to the already expanse of sound for the style. The eponymous track “Enchanted Mail” sees the a lush soundscape of dungeon synth fed through a paper shredder and then transcribed through fax machine. Ithildin and their ilk deconstructs the sound of dungeon synth and through many variations and permutations works with the sound as an alchemist would drinking possible poisonous materials.
El Santo is the name of a seemingly one off project from the musician Grimdor. Grimdor makes music under many names and Dark Sorcery Records seems to be a haven for all of the strange magic they do. This releases is inspired and dedicated to Rodolfo Guzmán Huerta, known professionally as El Santo, who was one of the, if not the, most famous Mexican luchadors / actors of all time. El Enmascarado de Plata takes its title from the 1954 horror movie of the same which sees El Santo as “a crime-fighting duo known as El Enmascadero de la Plata, ( The Silver Mask), and his adolescent sidekick Pecas (Freckles), as they take on a murderous Mad Doctor and an evil gang-leader called El Lobo,(The Wolf).” This is usually not the territory of dungeon synth but the care and adoration makes the very broken lofi sounds of the synth come alive with charm and wit. El Enmascarado de Plata might be a one time project unless there is a larger interest in lofi DS venerating wrestling stars of the 50’s and 60s. If that time comes I would be the first in line to buy a ticket.
This is a Swedish act with the same name as the Canadian Antediluvian on NWN. Bands can do whatever they want but I feel the market for black / death with the name Antediluvian is already crowded. Vengeance Marches in Sacred Flames... is the debut demo from the act which has yet to have any information on Metal Archives. What we are given is three tracks which are decent in length are powerful in ferocity. Black / death can be a overbearing at times where you wake up from a haze and ask yourself just how long you have been listening to this wall of noise. Antediluvian manages to break up that monotony with some flair befitting the style. Deep drums, flashy guitar, and of course the vocals which sound like they are echoing from an abyss. This is music for the court of Satan.