źmiarćvieły – čornaje połymia [?, Black] (2021)

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Caligari Records | 5-21-21

Caligari always comes through in terms of pulling me back into a world of rot and despair. At this time of writing this review, this band has no Metal Archives entry, nor any other Bandcamp page, nor anything on the internet about its existence. This band exists only as an ugly six minute black metal track which feels like it was birthed in a witches hut and now is running towards the nearest town gibbering unholy speech. This preview track is a grotesques sound and the tone of the raw production combined with the lack of information gives this release the amount of excitement and potential dismay it deserves. I thank Caligari for being there for me reaching a hand in a cauldron and pulling out something that should never had existed.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Wyndcrawler – Obsidian Swords For The Heavendwellers [US, Dungeon Synth / Dark Ambient] (2021)

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Stench Ov Death Prod | 1-23-21

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.

Ninthalor – Through The Forest Deep [US, Dungeon Synth] (2020)

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Neverwood Records | 12-18-20

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.

Merkury – Spatial Illusions [US, Dungeon Synth, Ambient] (2020)

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Faberglade Records | 12-21-20

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.