Grandpas House Near the Sea – Sunny Weekend​/​Mourning Weekend [France, Dungeon Synth] (2020)

Standard

Vicious Mockery | 12-4-20

For as rudimentary as comfy synth can seem, the micro genre within an already micro genre has the ability to evoke powerful emotions. Its sense of nostalgia and sentimentality is not unlike the whole of dungeon synth just without the fantastic framework. Sunny Weekend​ and ​Mourning Weekend were two EPs released by Ancient Void Music, a ritual / ambient music label based in France. While I think both EPs fit in a catalog of ritual ambient and experimental music, Grandpas House Near the Sea’s, an act that seems entirely dedicated to this tale, fits most at home at Vicious Mockery and especially on a physical tape. Broken into two acts, Sunny Weekend​/​Mourning Weekend weaves the tale of childhood fantasy along with the inevitable unraveling of mortality and memories which go into both. The track titles and approach can feel frank and without poetry yet the forthright honesty which comes with these EPs is something that feels cathartic for a style of dungeon synth that is suppose to be be cozy. There is a space for cozy emotions as well as natural sadness which is apart of the march of time.

Lord Lovidicus – Midsummer [US, Dungeon Synth] (2020)

Standard

Self Released | 9-5-20

This was released back in August of 2020 but I am finally writing about it since Dungeons Deep released a tape version in December of 2020. Lord Lovidicus was one of my first real dungeon synth infatuations. This artist taught me me the symphonic heights this genre could travel with releases like The Book of Lore Vol 1 (2015). this is even skipping over some of the releases like Trolldom (2010) which are legendary in the history of modern dungeon synth. Lord Lovidicus is a luminary in the genre and Midsummer continues to add to this artists legacy with a record that is befitting the enchanting cover. Sensual and magical, Midsummer pays tribute to Shakespearian comedies as well as mythological tales of wonder and intrigue. I have always liked using Lord Lovidicus as an example of how melodic and regal, the genre of dungeon synth can become and Midsummer continues to add weight to my example.

Covered Bridges – Covered Bridges [US, Dungeon Synth] (2020)

Standard

Neverwood Records | 12-18-20

this is apart of my quest to write reviews on what feels like a lot of tapes that were recently purchased. It is difficult to say know when you stumble on a wonderful comfy synth release with a tape as well as a record label you did not know existed. Neverwood Records is based in the US and even though they only started to release tapes in October of this year, they have managed to build a decent catalog of dungeon synth and weird adjacent companions. While not entirely a comfy synth label, the releases from Neverwood travel towards the cozy while still retaining some of the more uncomfy esoteric sounds. Covered Bridges, however, is nothing less than a warm cup of tea while starting at a sentimental painting. Comfy synth can be viewed as reductive especially when given a wave of releases at once. Despite this, I have always enjoyed this sound as i feel it promotes a classical sense of escapism where one trades in the dark coldness for inclusive warmth. Covered Bridges works for the holidays but could be played throughout the winter and into the mighty thaw of Spring.

Criecziel – Caverns Under the Wetland [Spain, Dungeon Synth] (2020)

Standard

Self Released: 12-5-20

I would like to spend the remaining days of 2020 reflecting on dungeon synth and how I fell back into the scene. If not for the fact the world turned upside down and things were put into flux, I do not think I would have time or desire to page through daily dungeon synth releases. I am thankful for dungeon synth continuing to be wonderful and providing me an outlet for writing and enjoyment. I think of this while listening to a fabulous release from a Spanish artist. Caverns Under the Wetland is a magical release with minimal synth yet the ability to paint its space with enchanted visions of forests and the spirits which reside deep in caves. O do hope this release sees more attention as it is a fantastic way to close out a year that has been strange to say the least and one that makes all of us hopeful for tomorrow.

Fogweaver – Vedurnan [US, Dungeon Synth] (2020)

Standard

Self Released | 12-4-20

Fogwever has been an experience this year. Not only was 2020’s Spellwind a complete surprise earlier this year, the tape version from Faberglade Records was something of both joy to see being sold and anguish when I missed out on it. I have come to terms with the fact this artist is popular and limited run of tapes will be sought after by many people. It should be expected as Fogweaver manages to capture the imagination of listeners with regal melodies that are cast in a world of haze and mystery. Additionlly the invoking of Ursula K. Le Guin in both content and dedication is a charm which warms every release. Not only does this US based artist marry the classic sounds of dungeon synth with the courtly accessibility of more modern artists but there is a persistent enchantment which holds presence on each of these releases beckoning its listener to fall deeper under its spell. Vedurnan caps off a wonderful year for Fogwever acting as a bookend that began with Spellwind and continued with two outstanding splits (one with Erreth-Akbe and the other with Fogcastle and Foglord). Verdurnan reaffirms my opinion that this artist is one of the best acts to come out in 2020 with releases that will truly become new classics in the ongoing history of dungeon synth.

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

Standard

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.

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

Standard

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.

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

Standard

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)

Standard

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]

Standard

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.