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

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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.

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.

Uranium – An Exacting Punishment [US, Black / Death / Industrial] (2021)

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Self Released | 3-21-21

Yes, I am unsure about that band name as well at the logo. there are many things which make me wary to approach this US band first and foremost should be the rusty chains which drag behind this behemoth of a record. I say I am wary to approach this since the music and general disposition of Uranium is so caustic in nature I fear I will contract a disease or some sort of radiation burn. An Exacting Punishment is a grand display of torture through sound with black death drug through industrial soundscapes which is closer to noise than it is anything resembling dance. The band’s name and logo seem secondary to a world of nightmares which blink like strobe lights in dark warehouses. This is something that is horrifying and I am so glad is stalking me as the specter of industrial music should want to do.

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.

Antikythaera – Untitled [?, Atmospheric Black] (2021)

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Self Released | 3-1-21

At this moment, I enjoy the aesthetic. Untitled release from a black metal act that has no country listed nor is there anything on the internet regarding this release. Anonymity does not substitute for quality but an already interesting release is certainly helped by a lack of information. It feels this release skirts the definition of existence and could disappear tomorrow (has happened before). Antikythaera is here, right now in this moment, making haunted music which is cast like shadows against bleak walls. This demo (?) is less of a release than it is a proof of concept that an entity making this music actually exists. I do not expect this release to be shrouded forever, but at this moment it adds to the enjoyment.

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.

Sulmata – Jad, Otrov i Tuga [Croatia, Black] (2021)

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Self Released | 2-17-21

This has everything I could possibly love in a 20 minute offering. Self released raw black debut demo which has all of its tracks on one side. There is little I can offer in the way of translation for the bandname but the demo name translates, quite nicely, to “Misery, Poison and Sorrow.” It is under the auspices of disease and suffering that Sulmata makes its greatest case for being the perfect harbinger of pestilence. Through its 20 minutes, Jad, Otrov i Tuga looms as a storm of finality over an already bleak landscape at many points in its demo, the vocals and music blur into a hypnotic specter which takes the listener in a dizzying embrace. This is a wonderful demo and one I am proud to keep locked away in a closet for fear of it haunting the world.

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.