Arden – III [France, Dungeon Synth / Dark Ambient] (2000)


Cauldron Music – CDR004

DS1e / DS2e — An adventure into dungeon synth of the 1990’s and 2000’s as it grew out of ambient, neoclassical, darkwave, medieval, and underground metal. Presented as retrospective album reviews and given edition numbers like RPG rulebooks.

I really wanted to put the genre of “Neoclassical” for this release but everything listed is either dungeon synth or dark ambient. What is neoclassical then if not gothic sounding chamber music? I might need to investigate neoclassical a bit more but in the meantime we are presented with the third album from French based composer Stéphane Flauder. Along with projects like Maelifell, Fin de Siècle, Al Amor de la Lumbre, and Par Hasard un Soir de Brume, Flauder helmed Arden from 1997 – 2000. Collectively Arden released one album, one demo, and two splits along with a collection of unreleased tracks and The entirety of the work is housed on the Bandcamp page and can be downloaded for free.

Arden leads our exploration into the dark period of the 2000’s for the style eventually known as dungeon synth. During the revival, the foundational records of the 90’s would be enshrined as well as the new projects recreating the sounds of the 90’s. The 00’s would be a period that would see less conversation and to this day remains a nebulous period of dark ambient, dungeon synth, neoclassical, and lofi medieval worship. Arden is all of that with little distinction for the sounds that would eventually have names and zones. III is the sole full length from Arden and the last release from the project. In a way this is the final resting place for the project and its dark and ominous tones are its sepulcher. While the project began as dark ambient, III explores repetition in lofi extravagance making compositions around ornate drum beats and ostentatious melodies. the production gives the entire production a feeling it has been sitting under cobwebs and dust for centuries. The vampiric synth aesthetic has been a popular niche for dungeon synth in the past few years and with Arden, we have a long forgotten vampire.

SCUMSLAUGHT – Knives and Amphetamines [France, Thrash] (2022)


Caligari Records | 6-23-22

Baptized In Piss.

I think when I opened up my email and saw the name SCUMSLAUGHT, I was immediately sold to whatever style of music these three were selling. Whatever it was, it was going to come with the force of a toppling building. Knives and Amphetamines is the debut EP following a 2020 demo which was rightfully called High on Death. Scumslaught in in the same gross orbit as other French death / thrash bands including Sépulcre, Skelethal, Cadaveric Fumes, and Repugnizer. Its all disgusting and they are probably all waiting for us outside. Knives and Amphetamines takes a giant step in terms of production brining out the energy which was buried under the floorboards during their demo. Now the band is inside the house and they are wielding horrid instruments of destruction. Thrash might be in a weird time period in 2022 but I am glad it is being nurtured by loving and tender maniacs.

Albionic Hermeticism – Brittonic Ways [France, Black] (2021)


The Hermetic Order of Ytene | 10-15-21

The Hermetic Order of Ytene is a collective of black metal and experimental music bands based out of the UK and France. Naturally, their lyrical themes primarily explore esotericism with a distinctly UK volkisch bent. As far as can be told, the primary creator behind most of these projects goes by the pseudonym “O.W.G.A.” – of which Auld Ridge’s Consanguineous Tales of Bloodshed and Treachery has ended up being one of my favorites of the year with its blend of furiously riffy black metal and neofolk. Albionic Hermeticism is another (awesome) part of the Order – though this band plays more straightforward black metal with some minor death metal influences. Where Auld Ridge is sublime, Albionic Hermeticism is raucous; this release has far more discord and way less gorgeous melody compared to Auld Ridge, though still firmly within “classic” black metal aesthetics. Two stand-out tracks include “Ciele Uppan Fells” with its tupa-tupa beat and “Summon’d Orlaeg” in the brash 11 minutes of fire.

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


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.

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


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.

Dysylumn – Cosmogonie [France, Progressive Black] (2020)


Signal Rex | 10-3-20

O first want to pay special recognition to the artwork of Karmazid who graces the cover of this release. Karmazid has also done work for Andavald, Bewitcher, Chevalier, Draghkar, LVTHN, Malokarpatan, Urfaust, and a whole host of other acts with their distinct style occultist imagery. Perhaps this is what brought me into the page for Dysylumn’s third full length Cosmogonie. To be fair with the lyrical themes tagged as Psychology, Hallucination, Space and a sound which is akin to climbing on the ceiling of an abandoned castle, I would have made my way here eventually but having artwork that fits the mood is fantastic. Cosmogonie is being released by both Signal Rex and Egregor Records and for now you only get a song but I am sure all of this is enough to keep you in this unhallowed place until the fateful hour.

OTDHR – REHEARSAL II [France, Black] (2020)


Self Released | 9-13-20

I am not usually down with unfinished products. I understand raw black metal (and to some extent other genres) has an aesthetic that embraces unfinished work as it simultaneously showcases potential while celebrating unpolished atmospheres. OTDHR’s sound was enough to grab interest and this 9 minute rehearsal showed enough talent that I start to wonder what a full length would sound like. Some bands never move out of the demo and rehearsal realm content to keep exploring unrefined landscapes. OTDHR is different in the fact their angular approach to black / doom could be exquisite with the right framing. Rehearsal II (Previous one was a year ago) projects a band that is brimming with angst and airs a sense of mystery through 9 minutes of near sonic misery. Perhaps this will be a story of a band that climbs out of rehearsals and makes a demo (or full length) that amazes everyone. Even without that future, OTDHR is a rare find of a band that warrants putting up their practice recordings as they are interesting enough to sit and listen.

Meurtrières – Meurtrières [France, Heavy] (2020)


Self Released | 6-5-20

If you take a look at the whole of the records offered on this site it is half gross black/death and half dorky ass dungeon synth. Heavy/trad does not really fit into the scheme of this site. This is not for any other reason than there are more qualified people to discuss the recent trad revival. I say trad revival as a catch all term for anything that followed the boom of heavy metal that was tagged under the obnoxious “New Wave of Traditional Heavy Metal” label. Since the mid 10’s however, heavy metal has fallen into a comfortable rhythm offering decent and exhilarating records as a digestible pace. Meurtrières continues this tradition with a stellar debut sing in the most romantic of tongues. For being a first offering, Meurtrières makes a bold declaration that is worth taking note and even staying put for a while.

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Rivière de Corps – Tout est chaos [France, Industrial / Dungeon Synth] (2020)


Self Released | 6-4-20

Add this to the weird pile. This is not dungeon synth though I found it while searching for dungeon synth. I blame this label for opening there door and like a lost child I wander in and am now fascinated by the sounds of bedroom industrial / darkwave with some surreal covers. Though this stretches the idea of what dungeon synth / dungeon noise can be, the idea of personal landscapes and escapism through sound remains the same though this is a hellish nightmare with retro paperback covers and instances of mindbending terror.

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Candlekeep – The Death of the Gatekeeper [France, Dungeon Synth] (2020)


Self Released | 5-7-20

I am not going to say that it is perfect, but I am beginning to hone the craft of picking out records based on their cover. Not in terms of quality but sound as a noisy record can be distinguished from a more melodic one. I knew what Candelkeep was going to sound like before I opened the page. I was surprised, however, at how much I enjoyed the sound of Candlekeep as it whisked me away to a magical, lo-fi kingdom where its gold sparkled with worn flare. At the moment, Candlekeep has no supports on their page and this debut just came out yesterday. Finding things like this make me enjoy what I do as I feel like someone who just stumbled upon a cozy cottage far into the woods.