This is wonderful. Stench Ov Death is a Washington based tape label that seems to specialize in black metal and dark ambient. Wyndcrawler is a dark ambient act which invokes the spirits of old and new in a record that is textural and understated. Obsidian Swords For The Heavendwellers ( cool album name) is a tribute to both acts like Neptune Towers as well ads the newer dark ambient inspired acts like Old Tower. Wyndcrawler’s embrace of both melody and darkness results in a release that is less apart of the dark dungeons than it is the cold forest floor in the deep of winter. There is ancient magic which runs through the middle of this release which is something that could be missed due to its raw production. I look forward to more from this label and artist as there is something potent in this sound.
It would be wonderful if this was a 2021 release. It is okay. By now, I have talked a lot about Neverwood Records as being a gem in the area of high quality dungeon synth. Through The Forest Deep is the debut EP from an artist who I am anticipating having a stellar debut full length in 2021. Ninthalor’s soundscapes are both mystical and playful with sounds the feel like trickster gods which lead the listener further into incandescent woods. With far out synth effects and regal tones befitting a faerie court, Through the Forest Deep holds a sense of wonder mixed with unease as one gets further into the record. Ninthalor offers a journey and no one is saying that you will come out unscathed. 2021 is going to be an exciting time as long as artists and records labels continue to pursue unearthly delights.
I would like to mention for the purposes of academic history, this record was self released in December of 2019. Feberglade Records included this release in the Winter 2020 bundle along with other fantastic releases. Spatial Illusions is dungeon synth yet their aesthetic, just visually, put this release in another dimension entirely. Torn between the realms of dark ambient / drone and berlin school electronics, Merkury pays tribute the dungeon synth’s primeval foundations with a record that is enigmatic as well as omniscient. It exists across the fabric of space and time and could easily be the soundtrack the universal changes in the cosmos if not for the omnipresent silence. For fans of Tangerine Dream or just anyone who thinks beyond the confines of prescribed perception, Spatial Illusions exists in extra dimensions.
I am writing this on December 29th which is still in the afterglow of the holidays but not underneath its oppression. I think as the years goes by, comfy synth is going to be more pronounced at the end of the year just for its ability to evoke warm emotions and a paralyzing sense of sentimentality. Wrought Records has always done fun things for the holidays in addition to being a consistent producer of fantastic releases since 2019. Aside from the dark ambient to lo fi fantasy releases, fun themed releases like Witch Haunt and Reliquary of Terror would dot the Halloween season. Warm Smial’s second release, Carols for the Hearth in Winter, comes during the end of the year holidays and is perfect for a crackling fire and steeping tea. While comfy synth can feel sugary and disposable, Warm Smial, as well as Wrought Records, manages to command attention and respect with releases that warm the minds and heart so listeners. This type of music is going to be an annual tradition from this moment forward.
Warm Smial’s debut was in March of 2020 which came at the tail end of the comfy synth boom in December of 2019.
Listen, I get it. The use of Japanese on a tape release usually leads to assumptions that it is vaporwave or some sort of hip electronic that you probably will not get. If this release had a fantasy aesthetic to it, it probably would have been a little bit more popular. Reflection is a meditation on nature through a cracked lens of lo fidelity and warping. Through field recordings and the haze of solitude, this release invokes the power of nature to be a soundtrack for for the spirit. This is the second release by Local Forest Society, a US based label, with I believe only one artist, who records albums live in nature with the ambient sounds put to mixed in with the melodies. The idea of this recording process (do not know how true it is) has deep reverence to both nature and the solitary act of recording music where it is just one person and their communion with the wilderness. Despite the idiosyncratic name and aesthetic, トレイル GUIDE continue to forge their own path into nature synth opting to get lost in the woods to finally be at peace.
This was released back in August of 2020 but I am finally writing about it since Dungeons Deep released a tape version in December of 2020. Lord Lovidicus was one of my first real dungeon synth infatuations. This artist taught me me the symphonic heights this genre could travel with releases like The Book of Lore Vol 1 (2015). this is even skipping over some of the releases like Trolldom (2010) which are legendary in the history of modern dungeon synth. Lord Lovidicus is a luminary in the genre and Midsummer continues to add to this artists legacy with a record that is befitting the enchanting cover. Sensual and magical, Midsummer pays tribute to Shakespearian comedies as well as mythological tales of wonder and intrigue. I have always liked using Lord Lovidicus as an example of how melodic and regal, the genre of dungeon synth can become and Midsummer continues to add weight to my example.
this is apart of my quest to write reviews on what feels like a lot of tapes that were recently purchased. It is difficult to say know when you stumble on a wonderful comfy synth release with a tape as well as a record label you did not know existed. Neverwood Records is based in the US and even though they only started to release tapes in October of this year, they have managed to build a decent catalog of dungeon synth and weird adjacent companions. While not entirely a comfy synth label, the releases from Neverwood travel towards the cozy while still retaining some of the more uncomfy esoteric sounds. Covered Bridges, however, is nothing less than a warm cup of tea while starting at a sentimental painting. Comfy synth can be viewed as reductive especially when given a wave of releases at once. Despite this, I have always enjoyed this sound as i feel it promotes a classical sense of escapism where one trades in the dark coldness for inclusive warmth. Covered Bridges works for the holidays but could be played throughout the winter and into the mighty thaw of Spring.
Fogwever has been an experience this year. Not only was 2020’s Spellwind a complete surprise earlier this year, the tape version from Faberglade Records was something of both joy to see being sold and anguish when I missed out on it. I have come to terms with the fact this artist is popular and limited run of tapes will be sought after by many people. It should be expected as Fogweaver manages to capture the imagination of listeners with regal melodies that are cast in a world of haze and mystery. Additionlly the invoking of Ursula K. Le Guin in both content and dedication is a charm which warms every release. Not only does this US based artist marry the classic sounds of dungeon synth with the courtly accessibility of more modern artists but there is a persistent enchantment which holds presence on each of these releases beckoning its listener to fall deeper under its spell. Vedurnan caps off a wonderful year for Fogwever acting as a bookend that began with Spellwind and continued with two outstanding splits (one with Erreth-Akbe and the other with Fogcastle and Foglord). Verdurnan reaffirms my opinion that this artist is one of the best acts to come out in 2020 with releases that will truly become new classics in the ongoing history of dungeon synth.
All I want in life is to listen to ear shattering noises at 8:46 in the morning with a cup of black coffee and an overcast sky. I have no idea who Vultures Ov Veles is or why they decided to add anxious noise into their already caustic black metal but this declaration of ruin is everything I want right now. Demo 2020 perhaps will not reach many people as that initial welcome of noise is enough to send any sensible person in the other direction. For the weirdos that are still here however, Vultures Ov Veles is a sound that keeps people honest in their weirdness and allows everyone to revel in the pitch black.
It has been a little bit since I reviewed something that was not dungeon synth but I feel the return to something heavier is fitting that it is so gloomy. Tombreach, the first demo since 2016, marks the return of the Maryland based two piece in a time of great uncertainty and dread. “Unprofessionally recorded, rife with mistakes and experimental notes straight from our malignant dwelling to yours. A small respite from the horrid plague-ridden reality that has veiled the globe. Mourn with us and enjoy.” I can not think of a better demo to break the quasi silence form this band than a demo full of lingering sadness and tolling grief. Through its 24 minutes, Funerary Descent showcases a mastery over negative emotions with a demo that is far above the quality purported in the Bandcamp description. Tombreach is a dazzling demo that has the ability to astound and drown in the murk and mire.