Gatewatcher – Memories Lost and Planes Forgotten [Croatia, Dungeon Synth] (2020)

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Realm and Ritual | 12-10-20

This is the second release that was given to me by the very wonderful label Realm and Ritual. Today we have the fourth release from Croatian artist Gatewatcher, who also lends their talents to the projects Lone Adventurer and Ashen Chalice. Gatewatcher as a project is entirely dedicated to the lore of Magic’s the Gathering with each release centered or inspired by some aspect of the ongoing story. Memories Lost and Planes Forgotten is inspired by the moments when Jace Beleran wakes up on the plane of Ixalan following the epic antics of the Hour of Devastation and defeat by Nichol Bolas, God Pharoah. Magic The Gathering lore is silly and more resembles a superhero comics than high fantasy. Ixalan, as a story was intended to be a breather, and possibly lighthearted pause in the story, with Jace on a meso ameircan inspired plane and specifically on an island with Vampires, Dinosaurs, and Pirates. Even though Magic’s lore isn’t the most celebrated aspect of the trading card game, and in fact its story has been panned in recent years due to quality and censorship, the narratives still inpire people to create works around it. Enter Gatewatcher and the series of records that take Magic’s lore and creates minimal synthscapes based around its ideas. Memories Lost and Planes Forgotten approaches the themes of amnesia and defeat with sparse tracks that are only punctuated by funerary melodies. Drone and space occupy this world as if the artist ponders and toils all alone with only fading memories as a companion. This is not what I initially thought when immersed int he world of Ixalan but with songs like “Rest, Mind Sculptor” and “Simlmot’s Crossing” we are given a ponderous study on the character and are possibly pushed to refine interpretations of settings that originally had Vampires, Dinosaurs, and Pirates.

Gravkväde – Grav | Ruin [Sweden, Black / Funeral Doom] (2020)

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Self Released | 11-20-20

Going to be real honest in saying, it took me forever to spell this band’s name. Perhaps it was the crushing weight of emotion which comes with this release. The below link to the Bandcamp page goes to the Transylvanian Tapes site which is producing the 2021 tape run for this 2020 release. Funeral Doom is a very distinct genre yet its scene, outside of the founder and a few disparate releases, is not as fertile as lets say black or death metal. This could be due to many things but hearing Grav | Ruin was a dark joy as the band combines the ferocity of black metal into the monolithic template of funeral doom. This makes songs like “Begravningskör” at 18minutes not feel like an eternity spent in darkness. While the previous description sounds wonderful, it is the variation which Gravkväde shines. In the landscape of ruin and despair, Grav | Ruin offers both passive mourning as well as more active despair which manifests itself into an extended stay in purgatory with only mixed emotions for reflection.

Old Wizard – Old Wizard [Italy, Dungeon Synth] (2020)

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Self Released | 11-25-20

At this moment, I am just going to assume that fantastic dungeon synth is going to be released throughout the year and there will be no stopping point between the end of the year and the beginning of the next. It is okay, this just means that no matter where you are in the year, you can be sure there are great releases just around the corner. Old Wizard is a new name with only one full release in addition to a single. Even with the a small beginning, the visual aesthetic for the album covers promises that future releases will be congruous with the previous installments, This uniform nature to the music is pleasing not only for the eyes but also the mind as one starts to experience the self title debut as the first chapter in a possible book by the artist and each track being a continual journey. old Wizard is dedicated to escapisms with the melodies and music a vehicle for all dreamers alike. If one is interested in this sound an would enjoy something even more medieval, the composer is also the head of Reifenstein whose release Mittelalterliche Hofmusik is just as magical as Old Wizard.

Nameless King – Downfall Of Drangleic [US, Dungeon Synth] (2020)

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Gondolin Records | 10-27-20

Downfall of Drangleic comes in a group of four new releases from Gondolin Records. I have talked before and even expressed my undying loyalty to a label that not only showcases quality artists but frames each releases with visual cohesion. I know what a Gondolin Record release looks like as I know what a Realm of Sleep record looks like. A visual aesthetic is something I adore as I feel these releases are apart of a family and Nameless King steps out to not only be a strong release from Gondolin records but one of the better releases this year. Mournful yet airy, Downfall of Drangleic carries the burden of a thousand years of grief in a haunting record that is polarized in its emotions. I want to feel relaxed butthere is this lingering sandess which greys out the world around me.

Various Artists – The Reliquary of Terror [International, Dungeon Synth] (2020 )

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Wrought Records | 10-24-20

This is fun. I feel it necessary to highlight the fantastic design for the Reliquary of Terror as I am a fan and practitioner of mimicking distressed media covers. This release boasts a pulp book cover and the flair which surrounds this releases is truly outstanding. the design is the first thing which greats the listener which is immediately followed by an ushering into a world of neon horror. The roster for this compilation is a cadre of electronic luminaries mainly from the dungeon synth scene with a wider scope. Cimitir, ElixiR, Erythrite Throne, Vaelastrasz
Casket of Dreams & Xasthur and the The IXth Key all dawn costumes, and sometimes come as themselves, for a compilation of frightful merriment. Dark ambient, synthwave, and things which sound like 70’s horror movie soundtracks all decorate the halls of this castle turning a once grim atmosphere into something more fun and engaging. Halloween is the celebration of all things dark but with a playful atmosphere and the passion of these artists and record label to do a one off compilation with an ensemble befitting of the fanfare.

Malfet – Alban Arthan [US, Dungeon Synth] (2020)

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Dungeon Deep Records | 10-2-20

At this point, I do not have to introduce Dungeon Deep Records as this US(?) label has been one of the more consistent and professional tape labels for dungeon synth in recent memory with a catalog of stellar releases that not only build upon the style’s pas but lay the groundwork for its future. Malfet is another entry into that chapter with their fourth record into what they call “pastoral dungeon synth.” I feel this is a perfect name for a style of dungeon synth that is warm but sweeping in its scope. Rather than relegated to a cottage of cozy fire, Malfet’s music rolls over hills in both sunshine and rain questing towards adventures far away from here. Malfet’s vision and ambition is large leading to theatric music videos which could seen ostentatious if not backed up by some outstanding music which is perhaps one of the better releases this year.

DIM – Compendium III [Canada, Dungeon Synth / Medieval] (2020)

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Self Released | 10-5-20

I can remember in 2017 when the first Compendium was released and I was flabbergasted at the quality of the work. DIM was truly monumental in its craft for medieval folk and fantasy ambient. I almost feel silly forgetting about this artist until someone told me about the third compendium and the addition of tapes for all three volumes. What I expected was another romp in the meadows of dungeon synth that was no more challenging than a light breeze carrying the smell of lilacs. What I got instead was a journey under the mountains with a release that is akin to quests in the underdark encountering strange nd mystical sounds of genres which lay dormant. If one would like to experience the journey in its full scope, the passage between the three compendiums is astounding with the third volume the most grand in its scope. Folk beats, new age tendencies, and electronic fetishes roil from dark caverns allows Compendium III to be a declarative statement on the future of medieval synth. I have no idea where this sound is going and I am keeping close to the composer as they lead me through the passages under the mountain.

Taurwen – A Wind Blows from the Mountain of Death [Turkey, Dungeon Synth] (2020)

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Self Released | 7-5-20

I usually do not like to include geographical location when discussing dungeon synth at least in the fact of it being novel. Dungeon Synth, I feel transcends regional locations to a place far away from wherever one would be born. Taurwen’s distinction of being from Turkey is a fact but is heighted by their claim of being the only composer of dungeon synth in the country. Upon looking into it, it seems the other composer, Tir, was originally from Turkey but since moved to Australia. In fact, it would be fitting to know the two know each other and Tir mastered this record. Dungeon synth’s strength among the community is egalitarian access to not only the music but music to fans and the fat the music is making its way to places not originally known for bedroom synth is impressive.

It would be odd for me to praise the composers background and say little about the music. In fact it would be strange for this album’s only strength being the composers country of origin. A Wind Blows from the Mountain of Death is not only a strong debut, it is one of the better releases in recent memory with both an air of sadness which creeps along rolling hills in fog ridden mornings. The Mountain of Death feels distance and its wind which blows is not oppressive rather it hangs in the air as a constant reminder of its melancholy. Country of origin aside, this is a stellar debut for fans of classic dungeon synth in the vein of Wongraven, Mortiis, and Depressive Silence. Fantastic work from an artist that can honestly claim “the best dungeon synth artists from Turkey” by odd circumstance.

Geldurum – Medieval Campfire Tales [Sweden, Dungeon Synth] (2020)

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Ancient Meadow Records | 9-21-20

“Gather around and have a moment of peace.”

First of all, if you enjoy the sound of this record and would like a Name Your Price copy, you can head on over to the artists Bandcamp to support. If you would like a copy of one of the better dungeon synth / medieval ambient records, then ask Ancient Meadow records if they have any copies left. They probably do not. Medieval Campfire Tales was something I was not expecting as I think I missed its first run earlier this year. It was not until I was picking up other tapes from Ancient Meadow that I stumbled headlong into a would of festooned magic and orchestrated wonder with a record that is fanciful and engaging. I am eternally grateful to tape labels that care enough to showcase artists like this as I can not imagine my life without finding these types of releases.

Alkilith – Tales of The Wandering Mage [US, Dungeon Synth] (2020)

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Realm And Ritual | 10-16-20

Release Date/Info: Pre-order October 16th on the Realm and Ritual bandcamp. Limited to 30 cassette copies.

this is one of the first prerelease tapes I get to review which is an exciting step in getting ahead of the limited release tapes that always seem to elude me. Alkilith is a US based composer who has already had a well received release this year. In fact, Blade of Morndinsamman was released in September, of this month, and already the composer is setting up for another release in October. If you are not familiar with the lonesome minimalism of Alkilith, then please see yourself to the nearest lonely mountain for a journey through the blistering cold of northern winds as it whips from the glacier. I make mention of the cold atmosphere but Tales of the Wandering Mage is a campfire set up in the shelter of rock ledges as it burns throughout the night. The sparse atmosphere combined with the undertones of solitude and emotional journey cast in lofi hues is something that can only be experienced by oneself in the shadow of great mystery and adventure. Realm and Ritual has already released fantastic tapes this year and Tales of the Wandering Mage is another chapter in a tome that is slung on the back of a traveling wizard.