Vinterriket – …Gjennom Tеkete Skogen [Germany, Dungeon Synth / Dark Ambient] (2000)


Neodawn Productions — NDP 001

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.

At the moment, the entire work of German dark ambient / dungeon synth project Vinterriket is cataloged on his website. In this catalog are links to webpage discographies and also ever social media and music cataloging site that many have forgotten. This meticulous attention to detail is the hallmark of a creator who has been operating for 20 years creating various tributes to fantastical landscapes. Throughout the 2000s, Vinterriket’s creator, Christoph Ziegler, would lend his talents to various dark ambient, neofolk, martial industrial, and atmospheric black metal acts. If one would go back to the genesis of a long and sprawling career, it would be a chilly inaugural demo and the start of the record label Neodawn Productions.

…Gjennom Tеkete Skogen is dark ambient music that sounds at home in a dungeon. This music typifies the type of sound before it even had a name but perhaps appealed to fantasy inclined listeners who were interested in playing necromancers in Dungeons and Dragons. The ominous synth are pipe organs which rise out of castle spires as they pound through whipping rain. the demos opener “På Tåkete Enger Og Myrer” (On Misty Meadows And Marshes) acts as an overture to the dammed with the addition of wind samples which muddy its soundscape. The atmosphere created by Vinterriket is an inhospitable world which could be called winter synth if that winter was wet and still freezing cold.

MURGRIND – The Power of Yourself [Germany, Dungeon Synth] (2022)


Uralte Herrschaft Productions | 8-21-22

If Murgrind is good at anything it is rolling out the carpet for their releases. Murgrind is the creation of Sven Strack who has also created other dungeon synth projects such as Draped in Shadows, Haryon, Arath, and runs the label Uralte Herrschaft Productions. Murgrind’s 2013 record Journey Through The Mountain was an important artifact in the early days of the dungeon synth revival and subsequent works have been met with a deep admiration and regal fanfare. The Power of Yourself might be the fourth full length in almost a decades worth of existence but each release from the artist commands a few years worth of attention.

The Power of Yourself, at a staggering, one hour running time, is a cinematic experience which transcends what most people would think of dungeon synth. Nowhere is there any hints of bedroom production rather widescreen fantasy orchestras which put the listener in the role of adventurer and conqueror over dark shadowy mountains. This is what Murgrind does the best which is spend years creating a campaign world for its listener. Each record might come with a long procession but the experience with each release is undeniable in both craft and execution.

Burgfried – Geistertum [Germany, Raw Black] (2022)


Narbentage Produktionen | 7-1-22

“BURGFRIEDs 2nd strike of Primitive Franconian Black Metal. Dedicated to the chivalric specters that roam the Upper Franconian valleys & hillsides.” I love this line which is on the Bandcamp for Burgfried’s Geistertum. It is near absurd but is unique enough to be evocative. The images of ghost knights roaming the hills of the French country side is something that feels comfy to imagine. Add to the the crashing sounds of shredded black metal and one has an evening of terror and abject horror. Geistertum is the second release from Burgfriend following the equally gripping and hilariously named 1631 which I am sure is the date of some obscure French atrocity. Burgfried brings history, or at least the flavor of history, to the table and messily mixes it with black metal producing something that may not be novel but is undoubtley effective. Chivalric specters certainly carry the banners for these dead rulers which seem to ride into battle on horses that are probably also ghosts or some shade of dead.

Tales Under The Oak – Swamp Kingdom [Germany, Dungeon Synth] (2022)


Self Released | 8-7-22

I do not think I was aware of this magical kingdom until today. Tales Under the Oak is a German act who in a year’s time has crafted two amazing releases which seem to weave a tale of mystical lore. Swamp Kingdom is the 2022 release which follows The Toad King in 2021. Both releases have uniform art and direction which makes each release feel like a chapter in a storybook reads by fireplace. Tales Under The Oak employs lush music still under the veil of lo-fi bedroom music yet the landscapes feel more open and rich than dungeon synth contemporizes. Swamp Kingdom is medieval music being played by bards who just happen to be submitting music under the dungeon synth label. This is truly transcendental music as you are no longer just hearing this on Bandcamp rather from a distance as you travel a strange and enchanting land.

KNIFE WRAITH – Into the Undercity Dungeons [Germany, Dungeon Synth] (2021)


Self Released | 3-25-21

Listen, I understand this is hard to look at. It is nauseating and I feel this is the perfect place to start. Knife Wraith is a German artist whose love and devotion to old Dungeons and Dragons modules as well as the 8-bit sounds of yesteryear collide in a stereoscopic dream of nostalgia and idiosyncratic joy. One can almost feel being baked in the glow of a living room television sitting on the carpet while sending your adventure through dark caves in search of magical artifacts. The monsters in vivid flat colors emerge from shaded shadow to inflict terror and health damage upon your character. These are the sounds of your quest and your eventual victory over the pixelated evils of the world.

The Orb Weaver – The Orb Weaver [Germany, Dungeon Synth] (2021)


Neverwood Records | 1-1-21

Yes. A 2021 record I can safely assume is apart of this year. I have talked before about Neverwood Records being a fine merchant of a wide variety of Dungeon Synth. the Orb Weaver is but another chapter in the continuing story of Neverwood with a record of forest based drone that is a near 40 minutes spent in the nebula of grey mist. the Orb Weaver is a project from a German artist by the name of Willow Tea. Similar to past projects, The Orb Weaver explores ambient drone in varying levels of texture and mood. Fans of Neptune Towers will be happy to know the debut from The Orb Weaver is nothing less than a cosmic burial in neutral shades of grey. the artist’s off hand story surrounding the album,, and creation myth, is understand compared to the glacial sounds of its debut

when I was 12, I spent a week at my grandparents’ house. when I got out of their car, there was an orbweaver that had constructed its web in such a way I had to bend backwards to avoid ruining it. it became a familiar companion. the day I left, the web was gone, and the orbweaver too. probably on some adventure.

This small story contrasted with the cerebral sounds of the music is quite a journey as the hypnosis of The Orb Weaver comes with not being prepared for the experience one is about to undertake. There will be joy and narcotic haze undercut by an ever-present sense of anxiety that comes with knowledge of the unknowable. Enjoy this new year and the endless space that exists after awareness recedes.

Walther – Songs from Windhelm [Germany, Dungeon Synth] (2020)


Self Released | 5-4-20

I have no idea of the title of this release is in relation to the location in Skyrim, but I am going to guess it is. I have no idea since the rest of track titles are in German and do not directly point to video games for inspiration. This is all okay since Walther (Bard’s Leap) gives us a full release of light classical dungeon synth which wafts through open windows in stately manors. I would be hesitant to put this under the same sort of court music that is a favored style among other musicians as Songs from Windhelm is narcotic and enticing but interesting enough to keep one from falling asleep. This is the first release from Bard’s Leap and I am hoping for more to come out of this palatial estate of dreams.

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Synthosaurus – Gigantic Throne [Germany, Dungeon Synth] (2020)


Self Released | 4-27-20

I am going to preload this review by saying I feel the goofiness of this record is way over the top. This is even accounting for the other Synthosaurus record has a T. Rex playing a synth on the cover. Dungeon synth is not far from comedy but Synthosaurus not only rips the veil of reverence off but paints sparkly dinosaurs on it with glitter glue. Add to this the half baked story of scientists uncovering music recorded by dinosaurs and you ave something that you could probably dispose of or never have encountered in the first place. Perhaps in the only possibly twist of fate, Synthosaurus overcomes their own self imposed hurdles and presents a record so astounding in execution that it is baffling it works. This is not to say the heavy handed sound effects dont make for a chuckle rather, Synthosaurus traverses the prehistoric lands before veils of secrecy and self importance and frolics in the jungles of new age inspired synth in a land that time has forgotten.

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Nekrovault – Totenzug: Festering Peregrination [Germany, Death] (2020)


Ván Records | 3-27-20

I believe it was one of my online friends who said they loved this 30 seconds in by the sound of dragging chains. There is sometimes a moment when you know you will love a record. It calls to you with open arms of the right aesthetic, band photos, and song titles. I have joked about the decline of basement death which came at the decline of cavern death. this is all funny until there is a constant stream of great cavern/basement death records being released. Nekrovault is not just another festering slab of riffs and attitude rather they are one of the more effective slab of riffs and attitude in recent memory and makes me want to worship at the festering altar of chaos.

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Augrimmer – Pantaleimon Speaks / Lynx [Germany, Black] (2020)


Self Released | 4-5-20

I love that artwork. What a fantastic cover. Augrimmer has been around for a while, in fact, the band has been releasing music for a decade and has been an actual band since the late 90’s. This single/demo represents my first experience with them and by all accounts, Augrimmer has the formula for a chilly black metal record down to a science. With the two shortish songs on this release, Augrimmer swoops like a specter chasing its quarry through dense woods. The adherence to black metal is just as impressive as the bands ability to make the whole spectacle fun and polished. Whether or not Pantaleimon Speaks / Lynx is a herald to s forthcoming release, we will not know until later. For now, enjoy these two songs as you run through the woods with a feeling of dread coming from above you.

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