Gravkväde – Grav | Ruin [Sweden, Black / Funeral Doom] (2020)

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Self Released | 11-20-20

Going to be real honest in saying, it took me forever to spell this band’s name. Perhaps it was the crushing weight of emotion which comes with this release. The below link to the Bandcamp page goes to the Transylvanian Tapes site which is producing the 2021 tape run for this 2020 release. Funeral Doom is a very distinct genre yet its scene, outside of the founder and a few disparate releases, is not as fertile as lets say black or death metal. This could be due to many things but hearing Grav | Ruin was a dark joy as the band combines the ferocity of black metal into the monolithic template of funeral doom. This makes songs like “Begravningskör” at 18minutes not feel like an eternity spent in darkness. While the previous description sounds wonderful, it is the variation which Gravkväde shines. In the landscape of ruin and despair, Grav | Ruin offers both passive mourning as well as more active despair which manifests itself into an extended stay in purgatory with only mixed emotions for reflection.

~*Faerie Cross Grotto*~ – Crystal Majesty [US, Dungeon Synth] (2020)

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Self Released | 12-1-20

“For my love of places often forgotten.” I do not know why I am so drawn to that phrase. Perhaps it sums up my love for this music in an invocation for the gods of hazy escapism and memory. Crystal Majesty is ~*Faerie Cross Grotto*~ ‘s debut release and by the sound of the first track, the listener is blanketed in sometimes oppressive magic and serenity. I absolutely love the heavy use use of sound where the melodies feel sweet and benevolent but their weight is like drowning in the light. I think I was passing around the Bandcamp picture of the artist with glowing rock and chain mail as something I found humorous but despite all of this, Crystal Majesty climbs to be one of more effective releases of the year with a nobly bright record that can cleanse with its searing brilliance.

Vultures Ov Veles – Demo 2020 [US, Raw Black / Noise] (2020)

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Self Released | 12-3-20

All I want in life is to listen to ear shattering noises at 8:46 in the morning with a cup of black coffee and an overcast sky. I have no idea who Vultures Ov Veles is or why they decided to add anxious noise into their already caustic black metal but this declaration of ruin is everything I want right now. Demo 2020 perhaps will not reach many people as that initial welcome of noise is enough to send any sensible person in the other direction. For the weirdos that are still here however, Vultures Ov Veles is a sound that keeps people honest in their weirdness and allows everyone to revel in the pitch black.

Old Wizard – Old Wizard [Italy, Dungeon Synth] (2020)

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Self Released | 11-25-20

At this moment, I am just going to assume that fantastic dungeon synth is going to be released throughout the year and there will be no stopping point between the end of the year and the beginning of the next. It is okay, this just means that no matter where you are in the year, you can be sure there are great releases just around the corner. Old Wizard is a new name with only one full release in addition to a single. Even with the a small beginning, the visual aesthetic for the album covers promises that future releases will be congruous with the previous installments, This uniform nature to the music is pleasing not only for the eyes but also the mind as one starts to experience the self title debut as the first chapter in a possible book by the artist and each track being a continual journey. old Wizard is dedicated to escapisms with the melodies and music a vehicle for all dreamers alike. If one is interested in this sound an would enjoy something even more medieval, the composer is also the head of Reifenstein whose release Mittelalterliche Hofmusik is just as magical as Old Wizard.

Funerary Decent – Tombreach [US, Black / Doom] (2020)

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Self Released | 11-28-20

It has been a little bit since I reviewed something that was not dungeon synth but I feel the return to something heavier is fitting that it is so gloomy. Tombreach, the first demo since 2016, marks the return of the Maryland based two piece in a time of great uncertainty and dread. “Unprofessionally recorded, rife with mistakes and experimental notes straight from our malignant dwelling to yours. A small respite from the horrid plague-ridden reality that has veiled the globe. Mourn with us and enjoy.” I can not think of a better demo to break the quasi silence form this band than a demo full of lingering sadness and tolling grief. Through its 24 minutes, Funerary Descent showcases a mastery over negative emotions with a demo that is far above the quality purported in the Bandcamp description. Tombreach is a dazzling demo that has the ability to astound and drown in the murk and mire.

Arthel – Ancient Magic of the Forest [Canada, Dungeon Synth] (2020)

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Serpent Swords Records | 11-21-20

This is wonderful. I have always enjoyed the nature of comfy synth even though the niche genre in the larger dungeon synth scene feels like boom that already has passed. Arthel is not a comfy synth artist though the music retains the same brightness and aesthetics just with a few key differences. First and perhaps most important is the embrace of fantasy aesthetics rather than non traditional imagery. While trains, pets, and cookie recipes have all made for fun albums, Ancient Magic of the Forest is just that; a record dedicated to the magic of the woods just cast in noble bright hues and very fitting to the fairy tale tone. It is getting late in the year and dungeon synth continues to put out wonderful records without a care for the calendar year.

Vale Minstrel – Garden of Spells [US, Dungeon Synth] (2020)

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Self Released | 11-14-20

This is the second Vale Minstrel release this year and this is the second time I wrote a review on the artist. There is something magical and comforting about the work of Vale Minstrel and their attempt to weave enchantments in mi-fi regal dungeon synth. Vale Minstrel teams up once again with Silvana Massa whose artwork has been a staple among dungeon synth with covers for Sequestered Keep, Pendragon, Keyes of Orthanc, and Argonath. Garden of Spells continues Vale Minstrels quest to spread bardic inspiration among whatever court they choose to attend. For fans of light and pastoral sounds which would be perfect slumbering under the shadow of ruins among a hidden vale.

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.