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.

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.

Land Spirit – Through The Eternal Woodland [UK, Dungeon Synth] (2021)

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Self Released | 2-21-21

“Dungeon Synth exploring the strange history of Vikings in the UK. Nazis fuck off.” I often love the frankness of Bandcamp introductions as Land Spirit both paints a delicate picture of the music while still telling fascists to fuck off. Through The Eternal Woodland is the third release for Land Spirit just in 2021 and despite the flow of releases, the current offering stands out as a monument in dungeon synth with a heavy magical tone. While the cover indicates an understated raw dungeon synth, the progressive spirit of this release swirls around grainy renders of ancient monuments offering a future that is hazy and cast in vintage tones. In the footsteps of Hedge Wizard, Land Spirit walks offering arcane sorcery in low fidelity.

Apoxupon – Nameless and Formless [US, Dark Ambient / Dungeon Synth] (2021)

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Realm and Ritual | 2-8-21

This one is a special release since it connects many dots for me. Apoxupon is the work of an artist who is also the creator of of Mystic Timbre Records which was home to some fantastic dungeon synth of 2020 as well as a catalog of left field synth projects. Nameless and Formless is the new release from Apoxupon which is seeing support from another wonderful label Realm and Ritual. While this new release falls under the tag of dungeon synth, Nameless and Formless includes satellite styles such as dark ambient and Berlin school style synthscapes. This release splits the difference between the last few Apoxupon albums with a record that is mysterious and surreal which lay at the edge of dream and waking. This hypnagogic kingdom lay in caverns and passage ways which are carved out of obsidian which often time reflect luminescence in otherwise pitch darkness. Nameless and Formless is a dive into the void but also the realization that there is something alive in the darkness. Apoxupon has created something wonderful here and it is through the cooperation of a few entities this release might see a greater audience.

Oublieth – Mornelance [Canada, Dungeon Synth] (2020)

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Out of Season | 1-25-21

Another Cusp Record! Mornelance was released independently in the twilight hours of 2020 which would then be picked up by the very great and very reliable Out of Seaosn for tape release. January was the first time many people got to hear the work of Oublieth and their solemn worship of classic dungeon synth. Mornelance is for fans of Depressive Silence to the point where some of the synth sounds match the tones of the veteran German act. This is not to say that Mornelance is derivative rather, Oublieth continues the work of Depressive Silence and other classic era dungeon synth with a record that is both reverent to the style yet creating its own grim castles cloaked in fog. Mornelance is a dark fairy tale where wild fey live in spires among the darkness. It is magical and enchanting in its hypnosis.

Sprites Of The Wood – Old Souls [Canada, Dungeon Synth] (2020)

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Neverwood Records | 1-21-21

This is a Tape Release of a 2020 album by Canadian artist Sprites of the Wood. This tape release came with the latest batch of Neverwood Records releases which is making the early part of 2021 something special. 2020 was a busy time for Sprites of the Wood. From January to December of 2020, Sprites of the Wood released 5 (?) albums (?) all dedicated to the wonder and magic of various fantasy media. While there are a handful of releases dedicated to Tolkien, Old Souls is dedicated to the lands of Myst which I am assuming is the puzzle computer game released in 1993. I could be wrong but even if I am, the music presented by Sprites of the Wood is a magical journey into enigmatic dungeons with solutions that are hidden among its contents. The minimalistic world of the music offers many chances for the melodies to soar high into the sky with a landscape of craft and care.

Thorgnyr – Elven Rites [Iceland, Dungeon Synth] (2021)

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Realm and Ritual | 2-26-21

Yes! This review comes with no Bandcamp, yet, since the artist was kind enough to send me the record before its release in a few weeks. This, of course, is the smallest brag but I do appreciate being given access to a magical world from an artist I had missed in the past few years. In 2020, this Icelandic artist released two well received albums. Elven Rites is the third releases from Thorgnyr and continues the journey into melodic and understated dungeon synth. More so than Cycles or Depths, Elven Rites captures the quiet beauty of dungeon synth with a record that is delicate and enchanting. With a story surrounding a a political struggle following the death of an elven queen, Thorgnyr casts high drama with wisps of melodies which resemble paintings soon dispersed by a light breeze.

In the time before the actual release, one can get acquainted with he previous work from the artist which is a glacial landscape of classic dungeon synth.

Tütsen – The Safety of Prosperity [US, Dungeon Synth] (2021)

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Self Released | 1-1-21

The tape release from v was one of the most darling packages I have every received. “Magical tufts of pink and blue fluff (not edible), Three crown jewels. One commemorative miniature crown.” Obviously these things are no magical nor jewels rather very budget knick knacks but the idea and even execution is enough to provide a warm tactical experience for a release filled with cozy memories. The Safety of Prosperity is a comfy synth record that intends to harm no one and leave no trace with its wistful melodies and delicate approach to the world. Through six songs, one is treated to a dream court of medieval ambience with an arc of journey and exploration. I love my small little crown as I appreciate the gifts of dungeon synth and the objects which people cherish.