Oh yes, this is where the cool people live. At the moment, The Dungeons and Dragon module The Curse of Strahd is one of the most famous campaigns made possible by the collaboration between a famous adventure setting originally published in 1983, multiple campaigns and associated novels, and perhaps most importantly, robust community support in making the story more coherent. Ravenloft and the lands of Barovia have stoked the imagination of people for decades. Nowhere is this more evident than dungeon synth records inspired by the campaign setting in a time when it the world was still inaccessible to most except for the most learned of the fandom.
Corvus Neblus has released two EPs. Strahd’s Possession Chapter I in 1999 with a followup Chapter II in 2001. Both releases provide a soundtrack to the world of Ravenloft made at a time when the gothic setting was used in multiple related media. Chapter I was packaged with not only an introduction about the main character, the half elf fighter/mage Nebulus, but also came with a character sheet with ability scores. These facts might lead to the creator of Corvus Neblus using an actual game of Dungeons and Dragons as inspiration for a dungeon synth album or just an adventure setting as a ready made world for a story. Whatever the case, Strahd’s Possession is an early example of escapism made into a world of sound with the entirety of the two releases made into backdrops for a gothic pageant.
Corvus Neblus is better known as Alexandros Antoniou also the participant in black metal projects such as Macabre Omen and Lvcifyre. Alexandros Antoniou’s work in these bands has created a separate reputation with his dark ambient and dungeon synth projects intended as hidden gems for those traveling deep within the mines of records. Strahd’s Possession is a monument for those looking at the origins and tracing the history of dungeon synth from the 1990’s to 2010s. Here is a set of releases which would be on Bandcamp in 2022 but instead is an obscure artifact from a well known black metal musician. The care and calculation heard in the first chapter mixed with the shoehorned dialogue in the second chapter is both fascinating as well as amusing.
ΤΕΦΡΑ / ΣΚΕΛΕΤΙΚΟ ΣΚΟΤΑΔΙ is kind of a compilation, kind of bonus material: it comprises Penny Coffin’s first two demos, but the second demo just so happened to be concurrently self-released by the band when this release was issued. Dry Cough Records thoroughly impressed me last year with incredible releases from Vaticinal Rites (my non-LP of the year), Slimelord, Plague Patrol, and Gouger; this is only another addition in an already stellar catalogue. Penny Coffin exhibits what I like to call “dissolving death metal”: death metal with hollow production, hoarse vocals, and huge layered guitars; as if one is being dissolved in acid. The first half demonstrates that caustic, primitive attitude most readily, while the second half introduces hyper-fast riffing and roar vocals. Though from two completely different recording sessions, the compilation flows strongly – the second half’s gradual introduction of gear-grinding guitars works perfectly as augmented doom. “Confinement” from the first demo and “Skeletal Darkness” from the second are the compilation’s two strongest tracks, with the latter’s fading three-note pulse eerily peering out from the gloom.
It is interesting and delightful to run across a dungeon synth project from a prominent metal musician. Ontrothon, Saga of the Ancient Glass is the side project for Spectral Lore, the almost renown Grecian atmospheric black metal project whose last few releases have been met with praise. Spectral Lore is not unfamiliar with the concept of atmosphere though Ontrothon, Saga of the Ancient Glass is a new adventure in the realm of dungeon synth and specifically cRPG style soundtracks. Ontrothon, Saga of the Ancient Glass is a passion project and much like the other extension of Spectral Lore (Mystras), it has been created to explore of focus. This focus is the near nostalgic escapism of hombrewed campaigns and the fantasy soundtracks to old and new RPG games. Ontrothon, Saga of the Ancient Glass sets its scope whide drawing in many elements of many styles and influences into a record that impresses as much as it surprises. The record covers almost every style imagined by previous DS artists in what seems to be an overview of sound and styles. This is interesting and delightful and I am glad Spectral Lore has decided to created a character for all of our campaigns.
“One million voices,Whispering in my ears, Pulling me in to Eternal Silence.” I enjoy this whole production. From the blown out rendition of Artemisia Gentileschi’s Judith Slaying Holofernes to the near incomprehensible logo, Μνήμα really goes out on the weird ledge and brings all of the caustic terror with it. While this act has been around for a few years, Νεκρώσιμος Ακολουθία is a perfect production and primer in the world of noisy necrotic spells. Occultism reigns supreme but it is clouded by demons and the amassing dead.
“You Have Summoned The Slime Golem! (Master in awe of his creation)” is perhaps one of the greatest song titles in the history of music and if not that then it is a wonderful introduction to the tone of Slime Golem. Slime Golem comes from a Greek label called Wyrm Lodge which is a bunch of weirdo synth that I have trouble finding the members involved. It is okay since the music is a weirdos fever dream. The Short But Touching Tale Of Slime Golem is a loving embrace of horror film soundtracks like John Carpenter just run through bedroom production and given an EC Comic aesthetic. There is nothing wrong with any of this as Slime Golem and the rest of Wyrm Lodge operates in charming obsession to all things weird.
Phew, try to hold on. Sørgelig has been building up momentum for a few years with bleak looking demos and albums that look perfect for cassette tapes. the self titled EP comes quickly after a 2019 full length and by the time 12 minute EP begins, it feels like you are running to catch up with its fervor and forward momentum. With blistering black metal which is thrown at you like kitchen knives, Sørgelig rides the line between keeping their shit together and almost completely fucking losing it. there is little time for atmosphere when everything is collapsing around you.
There are sometimes a great record comes out at the very end of the year and other a great record comes out in June and I just completely missed it. There will never be a time when I can be certain I heard most or even half of the lesser known metal this year even in the styles I enjoy. Sørgelig fits everything I enjoy about black metal with a kickass cover and I still missed it. This is what is hilarious about new music as something that is destined to be enjoyed is sometimes impossible to keep track of. For me I am glad I got the opportunity to catch this miserable record of despair.
Forever Lost is the debut EP by a greek depressive black metal act that leans on the side of raw production. The only member connection I can see is a shred member with Isolert. It does not really matter as Sørgelig is unique in the fact it plays depressive black metal that does not stale under its common narratives. Songs like “The Hill Where I’ve Buried my Casket” are unashamedly purple in its description but the energy and emotion within the track never becomes silly and out of place. With the addition of the non-DSBM aesthetic of “Alcoholic Invasion,” Sørgelig does a fine job in a style that is overrun by mediocrity. Even though two of the four songs sound similar to the point of being twins, Forever Lost is a fine EP for a new band to start the new year. I am sure I will be seeing their name again as long as I do not wait until the last day of the year to finally pick up their release. While writting this review, I am sure I managed to miss three great releases from other bands.
Holy shit. Alright so reviewing splits is sometimes difficult as the titles are long, the bands are from different places, and sometimes the styles presented are too many to discuss in a short period of time. This split is different for many reason. First of all, every band is from this 7″ split is from Greece which makes it easier, second and probably most importantly all of this music fucking rips.
Since we are not keeping track, this recommendation was totally stolen from a friend who also scours the internet for cool black and death demos. I would have found this eventually but it is good to have more eyes lest we all miss something. I say this all now since the debut demo from Greek black metal act Sores is not only blistering buts its precision execution combined with what sounds like the band turning to ash and cinder is something remarkable.
Yeah I know, I am not that enthusiastic about the artwork either. It is not the digital painting depicting a hanging corpse in the middle of a grim forest is bad rather it doesn’t really match the precision of the band’s grey logo. I feel comfortable point this out, at the beginning of the review, because my deflated attitude towards the cover is only dwarfed by my enthusiasm for the music contained within. There is always something that you can point out with a record that is pretty damn great.