Grandpas House Near the Sea – Sunny Weekend​/​Mourning Weekend [France, Dungeon Synth] (2020)

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Vicious Mockery | 12-4-20

For as rudimentary as comfy synth can seem, the micro genre within an already micro genre has the ability to evoke powerful emotions. Its sense of nostalgia and sentimentality is not unlike the whole of dungeon synth just without the fantastic framework. Sunny Weekend​ and ​Mourning Weekend were two EPs released by Ancient Void Music, a ritual / ambient music label based in France. While I think both EPs fit in a catalog of ritual ambient and experimental music, Grandpas House Near the Sea’s, an act that seems entirely dedicated to this tale, fits most at home at Vicious Mockery and especially on a physical tape. Broken into two acts, Sunny Weekend​/​Mourning Weekend weaves the tale of childhood fantasy along with the inevitable unraveling of mortality and memories which go into both. The track titles and approach can feel frank and without poetry yet the forthright honesty which comes with these EPs is something that feels cathartic for a style of dungeon synth that is suppose to be be cozy. There is a space for cozy emotions as well as natural sadness which is apart of the march of time.

Lord Lovidicus – Midsummer [US, Dungeon Synth] (2020)

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Self Released | 9-5-20

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.

Covered Bridges – Covered Bridges [US, Dungeon Synth] (2020)

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Neverwood Records | 12-18-20

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.

Criecziel – Caverns Under the Wetland [Spain, Dungeon Synth] (2020)

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Self Released: 12-5-20

I would like to spend the remaining days of 2020 reflecting on dungeon synth and how I fell back into the scene. If not for the fact the world turned upside down and things were put into flux, I do not think I would have time or desire to page through daily dungeon synth releases. I am thankful for dungeon synth continuing to be wonderful and providing me an outlet for writing and enjoyment. I think of this while listening to a fabulous release from a Spanish artist. Caverns Under the Wetland is a magical release with minimal synth yet the ability to paint its space with enchanted visions of forests and the spirits which reside deep in caves. O do hope this release sees more attention as it is a fantastic way to close out a year that has been strange to say the least and one that makes all of us hopeful for tomorrow.

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.

Fogweaver – Vedurnan [US, Dungeon Synth] (2020)

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Self Released | 12-4-20

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.

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.

~*Faerie Cross Grotto*~ – Crystal Majesty [US, Dungeon Synth] (2020)

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Self Released | 12-1-20

“For my love of places often forgotten.” I do not know why I am so drawn to that phrase. Perhaps it sums up my love for this music in an invocation for the gods of hazy escapism and memory. Crystal Majesty is ~*Faerie Cross Grotto*~ ‘s debut release and by the sound of the first track, the listener is blanketed in sometimes oppressive magic and serenity. I absolutely love the heavy use use of sound where the melodies feel sweet and benevolent but their weight is like drowning in the light. I think I was passing around the Bandcamp picture of the artist with glowing rock and chain mail as something I found humorous but despite all of this, Crystal Majesty climbs to be one of more effective releases of the year with a nobly bright record that can cleanse with its searing brilliance.

Vultures Ov Veles – Demo 2020 [US, Raw Black / Noise] (2020)

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Self Released | 12-3-20

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.

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.