Effluvium – Symphony No. 2 [US, Dungeon Synth / Experimental] (2021)

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Moonworshipper Records | 1-1-21

I do not think Effuvium ever intended to make dungeon synth but got caught running around with contemporary classical and noise music to really care what time curfew was. Symphony #1 is dedicated to Dimitri Shostakovich with a quote the feels like it is attributed to the Russian pianist but is another false flag in a theater of odd red herrings. Walking a line of experimental and apocalyptic sounds, Effluvium makes music much in the same way people wake up from night terrors.

This was a review I did of Effluvium’s 2017 release Symphony #1. This was also the release which solidified my love for dungeon synth which had trouble hiding its weirdness. In fact, it was a closing entry in a short lived Best of the Weird collection for 2017. Effluvium was something special for me and recently I heard my reviews were something special for its creator. It was only this year I learned of the passing of Jake Dunwoody (J. R. D.) and Symphony No. 2 was a posthumous construction of the last piece he composing. Even outside this personal connection for me, Effluvium has always represented an avatar of weird in this genre and urges listeners to be as strange as they want to be. Without limits or bounds, Symphony No. 2 is an overture to the frightening freedom of chaos, a procession for all of the idiosyncrasies and predilections one possesses but never shares. IT is a march of the strange and for J. R. D., it is a coda to a wonderful life. I thank everyone involved in this process for I know it means the world to to those who knew him and oddly those many who just knew him in music.

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.

Apoxupon – Nameless and Formless [US, Dark Ambient / Dungeon Synth] (2021)

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Realm and Ritual | 2-8-21

This one is a special release since it connects many dots for me. Apoxupon is the work of an artist who is also the creator of of Mystic Timbre Records which was home to some fantastic dungeon synth of 2020 as well as a catalog of left field synth projects. Nameless and Formless is the new release from Apoxupon which is seeing support from another wonderful label Realm and Ritual. While this new release falls under the tag of dungeon synth, Nameless and Formless includes satellite styles such as dark ambient and Berlin school style synthscapes. This release splits the difference between the last few Apoxupon albums with a record that is mysterious and surreal which lay at the edge of dream and waking. This hypnagogic kingdom lay in caverns and passage ways which are carved out of obsidian which often time reflect luminescence in otherwise pitch darkness. Nameless and Formless is a dive into the void but also the realization that there is something alive in the darkness. Apoxupon has created something wonderful here and it is through the cooperation of a few entities this release might see a greater audience.

Oublieth – Mornelance [Canada, Dungeon Synth] (2020)

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Out of Season | 1-25-21

Another Cusp Record! Mornelance was released independently in the twilight hours of 2020 which would then be picked up by the very great and very reliable Out of Seaosn for tape release. January was the first time many people got to hear the work of Oublieth and their solemn worship of classic dungeon synth. Mornelance is for fans of Depressive Silence to the point where some of the synth sounds match the tones of the veteran German act. This is not to say that Mornelance is derivative rather, Oublieth continues the work of Depressive Silence and other classic era dungeon synth with a record that is both reverent to the style yet creating its own grim castles cloaked in fog. Mornelance is a dark fairy tale where wild fey live in spires among the darkness. It is magical and enchanting in its hypnosis.

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.

Sepulchral Cult – Immurement, Spirits and Graveyard Chants [Poland, Death] (2021)

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Putrid Cult | 2-8-21

Yes. This is where I want to be today. I do not car how many times the riff rotten death metal with illegible logo and monochrome cover is done, I will probably listen to it. This is not to take away from the weight of Sepulchral Cult’s debut rather to put up front I will listen to this album and others like it until the end of eternity. Immurement, Spirits and Graveyard Chants is the debut from this Polish outfit which follows a 2020 demo which is surprising I missed given I was doing nothing else last year aside from listening to death metal demos. My surprise and pleasure at Immurement, Spirits and Graveyard Chants’ and its plunge into the crypt which is filled with ghouls that bear you ill will. Prepare thyself to be torn asunder.

Tütsen – The Safety of Prosperity [US, Dungeon Synth] (2021)

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Self Released | 1-1-21

The tape release from v was one of the most darling packages I have every received. “Magical tufts of pink and blue fluff (not edible), Three crown jewels. One commemorative miniature crown.” Obviously these things are no magical nor jewels rather very budget knick knacks but the idea and even execution is enough to provide a warm tactical experience for a release filled with cozy memories. The Safety of Prosperity is a comfy synth record that intends to harm no one and leave no trace with its wistful melodies and delicate approach to the world. Through six songs, one is treated to a dream court of medieval ambience with an arc of journey and exploration. I love my small little crown as I appreciate the gifts of dungeon synth and the objects which people cherish.

An Old Sad Ghost – Der Letzte Koenig | Der Erste Koenig [Austria, Dungeon Synth] (2019)

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Gondolin Records | 12-29-20

This is a 2021 review of a 2020 tape release of a 2019 release by the Austrian artist An Old Sad Ghost. It is without a proper year which is why it feels so at home drifting in the passages of time and space. I remember An Old Sad Ghost’s contributions to the Dungeon Synth Compilation project in 2017 and how amazed I was at their attentiveness to atmosphere. Looking at the discography from the artist , one is cast into a world of gothic gloom with monochrome releases which reach out of darkness like tombstones. Der Letzte Koenig | Der Erste Koenig is a set of releases from 2019 which has been enshrined as a tape release from Gondolin Records. Initially popular upon its release, An Old Sad Ghost is adorned with another round of attention to this amazing release which has not lost any of its grim luster as it still conjures images if tall spires in mist and outlines of skeletal trees. This is dungeon synth for fans of classic depressive atmospheres that is enhanced by its attention to detail. This is neoclassical dungeon synth which plays melodies from pipe organs in the distance.

Vaelastrasz – Shadows Of The Eastern Kingdoms [US, Dungeon Synth] (2020)

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Gondolin Records | 12-29-20

Another Cusp record which was released on the 29th of December in 2020. Shadows of the Eastern Kingdoms was apart of the final 2020 drop from Gondolin Records, a label I have praised many times before. Vaelastrasz has been a name in dungeon synth before 2018 but the release of The Plagueland Chronicles solidified the artist’s status as a dealer in hypnotic dungeon synth that could lull a listener to dreams or incubate future nightmares. Shadows Of The Eastern Kingdoms is another tentpole release both for the artist as well as Gondolin as the dreary mists inhabit every mile of this record which feels less like an album and more a landscape of dread and despondency. I am thankful for labels like Gondolin and also artists like Vaelastrasz who continue to craft worlds where the middle grey is a cast of characters embroiled in a tragic play.

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

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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.