Monday, December 3, 2012

Depressive Silence - Demo III


As we rest our minds and bodies to the earth, in eternal death, do we make a passage to a new realm?  Perhaps this great sleep is a dream of sorts, as we begin to drift off into the lone wanderings of the soul, through the inner worlds until the ultimate dissipation into darkness.  In the Forest of Eternity we glimpse this infinite wilderness of the mind, wherein the explorer finds no true home, no resting place in his long travel.  The journey shall continue indefinitely, even as the shimmering heavens make their last sink into the inky black ocean.  But there is a beyond.  This work seems to suggest it, that there is a majestic metaphysical  realm that our derelict souls can find respite, in the grandiose temples of the afterlife, crafted through imagination.

Perhaps I'm stretching a bit here.  I'll admit, two works of Depressive Silence I've long considered adding asterisks to in the list, which is my way of indicating that they represent my personal ideal of dungeon synth.  As nice as these works are, perfectly fitting the paradigm of the genre, somehow they're lacking that extra bit to make me worshipful.  Don't get me wrong, I think every person with an interest in this genre needs to hear these demos, as they're a spot-on example of the style, only they come slightly short for me.  I'm focusing more upon "Demo III" for the purposes of this review, however both this one as well as "The Darkened Empires" are very similar in style, to the point that combining the works wouldn't cause any surprises.

It's definitely best as background music.  I hate to speak ill of Depressive Silence, because it is undeniably a strong example of dungeon synth, but in  my many listens of this demo, there doesn’t seem to be much beneath the prettiness.  It's great for pushing oneself into a mindset of fantasy, or for a somewhat distracted escape, but it's not quite distinctive enough, and lacks the truly captivating qualities that might make it great.  While it does often shift between serene and intense moments, it still always maintains a static tone of marble beauty.  It's as if one is a ghost, drifting through an ancient city where all is perfectly preserved, except for the life.

The keyboards are the clear and iconic early 90's digital machines, the very traditional dungeon synth instrument.  The crystals, strings, and harps shimmer, soaked in reverb, creating a hazy sense of unreality as the white columns glisten in the starlight.

I'd recommend Depressive Silence to a new dungeon synth listener far more readily than a more challenging, but also more interesting artist such as Abandoned Places, since Depressive Silence is readily accessible, quite beautiful, epitomizes the sound of dungeon synth, and was created in a time when such a sound was still very new.  Unfortunately, however, it lacks depth.  While it is a good work, it is not quite great, getting near enough for a hint of that mysterious other realm, but not being able to fully crossover into it.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Honorable Mentions, Part II

The second installment of this series of posts, wherein I point out artists who I've considered for the list and explain why I decided not to add them.  These posts are quite important, because the genre of dungeon synth is not for me to decide.  I think all of us here recognize what this genre is, and can make our own decisions when it comes to the artists that are nearer to the edge.  So this is where I will explain my personal decisions in why I don't consider certain artists to be "dungeon synth," and bring up some artists who I think deserve mention despite being far from that sound.

Nox Arcana/Midnight Syndicate
I put these two in the same grouping because I feel that they are working in a similar fashion (and also sound very similar).  The works by these two groups can be described as tabletop RPG and haunted house music.  The sound is often nearly identical to dungeon synth, being fairly simple compositions done with keyboards, and with a focus upon darkness and fantasy.  The reason why I do not include them on the list is that they are often somewhat too orchestral sounding, and I feel that they also lack a certain seriousness that dungeon synth has.  Even though dungeon synth is often "hokey" because of that seriousness, the style of these two artists is hokey in a different sort of way, the intent being more to provide an atmosphere for fun.  And then, there is the simple fact that these artists seem to have no connection or influence from black metal or dungeon synth musicians.  I think it is from black metal that dungeon synth brought the grandiose feelings of "high art," the "No mosh, no core, no trends, no fun" attitude, which I feel these artists lack.  It seems like these artists come strictly from the film and video game soundtrack tradition, while I think dungeon synth arrives somewhere pretty distant from such sounds.  Still, I recommend both of them, as they make for very entertaining listens (and are incredibly useful for things like D&D).



Ulf Söderberg/Sephiroth
I included both of these this time because not only do they have an extremely similar sound, but the same man is behind both of them.  I love these projects.  The atmosphere is earthy and archaic, a ghostly journey into a dark, fantastical, and mysterious past.  It's rare that it ever really has the "dungeon synth sound," since it makes use of tribal-type percussion, many seemingly non-electronic instruments, and samples more reminiscent of world music, not to mention that the production values are much more professional sounding.  But the reason why I include them in this post is because I feel that most of the time the music has an atmosphere and intent that is identical to that of dungeon synth, just with perhaps more of a world and new age touch.  I highly recommend the works of these project to anyone who's interested in this genre.  It is very far from the dungeon synth sound, but I think it is absolutely successful in allowing the listener to escape to a mysterious and beautiful world of fantasy.


Die Verbannten Kinder Evas/Dargaard
I don't consider these groups (and a number of other similar groups) to be dungeon synth because I feel it is less about escape into fantasy, and more about wallowing in sadness.  Also, the sound is simply more along the lines of neo-classical, largely because of the heavy use of clean singing.  I'm not sure if there's a proper genre of this kind of music: dark ambient, darkwave, neo-classical, I don't know.  I just personally feel that this isn't the same sort of thing as dungeon synth.  Still, the connection to black metal, the treading in fantasy moods, and the heavy use of the synthesizer earn these kinds of groups recommendations to those who listen to dungeon synth.  I must admit, I haven't given these artists nearly as much attention as they deserve, so I'd rather not say too much more about it and speak out of turn, but it is certainly important to point out how closely it often comes to the "dungeon sound."


Za Frûmi
This artist utilizes synths for fantasy soundscapes, though the reason that I don't include it on the list is that it is often more along the lines of sound effects and field recording type material, along with dialogue in fictional languages.  When it does come closest to dungeon synth, it seems much more bombastic, orchestral, and even tribal.  Za Frûmi tells various stories, of cults, vampires, orcs, etc.  I'd say that it would be very interesting and perhaps even moving to any fantasy-minded listeners, though to me it really lacks the dungeon feel.  


Friday, October 26, 2012

Interview with Erang


Andrew: First off, what is the meaning behind the name Erang, if there is any?
Erang: Erang has a very personal meaning. It is a person, a lonely person from a long forgotten past and I tell his story through my music. But it is a place as well. A kingdom from my childhood that nobody knows and where I will probably never go back.
Andrew: What country do you live in?  And would you say that your locality has any significant impact on your music?
Erang: At the end of the day, I am just a normal guy so I don’t really want to give details about myself. I don’t want to seem aloof but I think it is better to keep some secrets when it comes to music, especially with Dungeon Synth :  it is never good to know what is hidden behind the magician curtain.
About my locality, again, I don’t think it has any importance nor impact on my music. Of course, it gave me a certain kind of culture, feelings and tools or comfort to create... But when it comes to Erang, my country is in my mind and my land is my imagination. I don’t want to deal with reality...
Andrew: Who are your primary influences, and what are your primary inspirations when making the music of Erang?
Erang: My influences are numerous and varied. In every style there are artists, tracks or songs that I love. I would like to add that I don’t come from Black Metal, even though I very much like a few tracks and artists in this genre as well. My first inspiration to make Erang music really came from the cheap sound of old synth. I love it. It reminds me of old computer or rpg games. I've never been an hardcore gamer and I don’t play anymore today but, again, it strongly deals with nostalgia : the RPG and video games I played in my early years stuck their sound in my head. Then, I discovered few years ago the "ambient" albums and tracks from Burzum and after that, Mortiis era 1. It really gave me the impulse to try to create my own musical world, my own spell...
Andrew: That's very interesting that you had not come from black metal but dove straight into this dungeon style of music.  You say the sound of the cheap old synth was one of your primary drives to create in this style?  Could you tell us anything about what kind of synthesizer(s) you use, or might that also be revealing a bit too much of the magician's craft?
Erang: I use software : a very old and simple one. And my sounds come from every kind of source, as far as I like it. But you are right :  I prefer not to get into technical comment about Dungeon Synth, because it is more about feelings and this is why I like it so much…  To me, it is like “Naive art” in painting : raw and sincere.
Andrew: This theme of hopeless nostalgia, as you mention, attempting to invoke the "kingdom of one's childhood," even though it is almost entirely unattainable, it seems to be a common theme in dungeon synth.  Even though you stated that it's a personal thing for you, do you think that this sense of yearning for what was lost is an intrinsic aspect of this type of music?  Do you get the same feeling when you listen to other artists who make dungeon synth?
Erang: I could not speak about the motivation of other Dungeon Synth artists but definitely I get the same feeling when I listen to the ones I like. In the past, I used to try to listen to lots of music in all genres, always trying to find a new sound to listen to or new experimental artists… just to arrive at the point where I thought : I’m fed up with the art dictatorship of “You have to be modern”... and then I found Dungeon Synth. Now, I just want to be moved by a simple single note of an old synth and feel the music on an emotional level rather than an intellectual one. Approaching art like a child : this is why I feel strongly connected with naive art, just to name it, and amateurish production. Everything around us, in our everyday life, is “ultraprofessionalized” and industrialized. Of course, I don’t want to live (and I couldn’t)  by candlelight and hunting but, at least in art, I need amateurish, handcrafted and sincere sounds. Fuck the music industry.
Andrew: What do you think the balance is between making music for yourself opposed to the audience.  Is the kind of art which is made solely for the artist and released as an afterthought, if at all, somehow more "pure" and "true"?  Do you think you'd continue with Erang if you knew that it would never have very many listeners?
Erang: As far as I release my music and share it with people, I care about their opinion. But not in a way that I would change anything in my music just to please the audience. But every time I get positive feedback from people about my music, it makes me want to carry on to share it and try to reach a lot of people, without compromising myself. I don't want to be famous or have huge amount of money (if that was the case, I will have done another genre than dungeon synth, haha) but I want to share my music with the maximum of people which are interested in this genre and universe. It is a way to communicate my feelings and fantasy... But if nobody were listening to my stuff, I will still do it them just for myself !
Andrew: Are you a spiritual person, any dabbling in religion or the occult?  And do you believe there is anything beyond "conventional reality" that we might have access to, such as an afterlife?
Erang: Wow, it is difficult to answer without being too long... I'll try to do it as short as I can and not being boring. First, I think that spirituality and religion are two things completely separate, in my opinion. Religion is just a human invention, like the wheel. It is a tool and it depends on random historical, geographical and political events. All religions could have been completely different, depends on so many different situations and events that happened in the past. So, in my opinion, it is strange to believe in religions and follow their rules. But on the other hand, there is spirituality which is, to me, basically asking to ourselves this question "is there a reason why we are here and life exists or is it just biological randomness ?"... and I don't have the answer, like everybody. Indeed, I hope that we are more than just intelligent monkeys but I don't have any clue.
About anything beyond "conventional reality" I will answer, again : yes, my imagination. I strongly believe in imagination. To me, The worlds I create inside me are just as important as the food I need to survive.
Andrew: You just released a new album, which is quite fantastic, called "Tome II."  What are your feelings about this album, both in itself and in relation to your first?
Erang: Thanks for the compliment ! The idea of delivering “Tomes” came with the second album. I wanted it to be a bit darker. Also, I tried to draw a storyline between them both. But it is not an obvious scenario, with a track by track story, because I always try to leave blank and space for the listener to create his own fantasy. (the most attentive observers could notice that the “man with no face” in the cover front of the Tome II is the same as in the back cover of the Tome I)
Andrew: So far you've released these two albums through bandcamp, a resource that a quite a few other dungeon synth artists use as well.  Do you feel there are any downsides to this modern approach, or is it a godsend for such an unprofitable style of music?
Erang: Obviously, it is a great opportunity to make me able to share my music. Without computers and internet, I probably wouldn’t have been here, doing this interview and having listeners… On the other hand, I grew up with CD’s (and even vinyl of child stories when I was very young) so it is still important for me, now, to have a CD with booklet, artwork etc. when I really like a band. But I can't afford to release my music on CD… This is why I always try to create a nice artwork for the album, even if it is a jpeg file. And this is why, also, I don’t release my music for free : not to make money but I think that you are always more involved in something when it costs you, even a little (and it not only works for money : when, in life, you make an effort to get something, it often counts more for you, in my opinion). This way, I know that when someone download my music, it means that he sincerely likes it and not that he downloads it just to give it a quick listen and forget it in his mp3 folders... at least I hope, haha !
Andrew: What are the future plans for Erang?
Erang: I’m currently working on Tome III. Maybe it will be the end of the first trilogy and Erang will evolve… or maybe a Tome IV will follow… I don’t already know it, right now.
Besides, I’ve just recently rejoined a new netlabel : Katabaz Records. It is a familial label with a bunch of friends, DIY spirit. They have recently released “This Mortal Night”, an ambient album (with some Dungeon Synth aspect sometimes). Other things are coming soon and I guess they could please Dungeon Synth listeners (pure dungeon synth, epic dungeon synth and some other electronic projects as well, etc…)
Everything is in progress but it takes time (we all have “real” jobs). If you need any information or news, email us at : katabaz.records@gmail.com
Andrew: Thanks very much for your words here.  Do you have any closing thoughts?
Erang: I really and deeply want to thank the writer of this Dungeon Synth Blog for 2 reasons :
1/ Giving me a voice and supporting my work.
2/ Making me discover a lot of great Dungeon Synth artists !

And also, great thanks to all you people who follow my music : your feedback is my reward, really!

The albums of Erang can be streamed for free or purchased for $2 each here: http://erang.bandcamp.com/

Friday, October 19, 2012

Burzum - Dauði Baldrs


 I suppose it's about time that I address this work.  All of us here are undoubtedly well-familiar with this ugly, minimalist, droning record.  In a way, this album is perhaps more fitting for the term "dungeon synth" than any I've reviewed so far, when we consider that not only does it sound exactly like one has been condemned to that damp, cold place, but it was in fact composed and performed by a person who was himself in a dungeon of sorts. 

These tracks are mostly spooky, an atmosphere of gloom, isolation, and despair, which is enhanced by the raw midi tones.  Judging by the music alone, it still seems fascinating to me that this album could've become so well-known, due to the sheer simplicity and repetition.  It is, of course, understandable, considering Burzum's general fame and the hype that was surrounding Varg at the time, and this album as well, being his first "prison album."  In a way I'd say that the hype was a very good thing, because it allowed listeners to explore a very eccentric release that I think most would usually avoid judging on the music alone.  Instead, people listened and attempted to understand, and though I personally do not know that there is too much to "get" here, it still played a powerful role in opening people's minds to what could be done with the dungeon mood.

There are some quite magical moments mixed in with these trudges through desolation, such as Hermoðr á Helferð and Móti Ragnarǫkum. 

This work as a whole could best be described by the term "vampiric."  I certainly don't mean that in the sense of the popular modern notion of vampires, of course, but more along the lines of what it symbolizes: the decayed aristocracy, a noble bloodline turned monstrous by the weight of time.  I feel as if Varg most strongly falls into his persona as "Count Grisnakh" here, the title and blood of a high-born person but with the repugnance and innate evil of an orc.  One can almost picture, especially during tracks such as Bálferð Baldrs and Í Heimr Heljar, a horrific tyrant, limping through a rotting castle, barking orders at subordinates, drunkenly attacking servants, or sometimes just screaming at empty air in his inbred madness.

The mood becomes far more somber in Illa Tiðandi.  It is a song filled with loss.  It feels as if this is a more sober look at just how deeply this once-beautiful existence has been corrupted.  It seems to have fully accepted the hopelessness, but there is beauty nonetheless, if only in a sort of dreamlike remembrance of what must've once been, though can be experienced no longer.  The length of this track is the longest in the album, and I think for good reason, since I feel that it represents the sands of time blowing on, the long wait before life might return to the desert.  It is a mood of not only loss, but acceptance, recognizing that night inevitably comes.

And then there is the track which I feel is the highlight of the album, Móti Ragnarǫkum, which is the rebirth where the previous track was the death.  It is grand and glorious; one sees the towers crumbling, the earth splitting asunder, fires raining from the heavens, and finally senses that the thorough rot is being washed away.  This track might even be the climax of all of Burzum's ambient material, that this decadent modernity which Varg so opposes finally meets its inevitable destruction, so that the life might begin anew without this debilitating disease.

I'm sure many of you have come to this conclusion already, but for its surprising simplicity, this album is quite thought-provoking, and strangely elusive.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Forgotten Dreamscapes - This Place, Where Destiny is Made



This work is crude, like a strange, shamanic-looking figure carved into a cave wall.  It is vague, utilizing extremely short or limited phrases, creating a sense that the life and spirit of that unattainable fantasy is now but an incorporeal, transparent ghost, truly forgotten.  There is little beauty or ugliness here, merely the shell of something that once might've been magnificent, now reduced to near-unrecognizable rubble.  There is a hint of some ancient magic in this scattered, dusty debris, though it has long since been buried by the winds of time.  Perhaps it is as some spot in an ancient desert, where the corners of several pillars are almost imperceptibly surfacing from the sands.

There is not too much I have to say about this work.  It is quite primitive, however it feels like a very honest and genuine attempt at grasping that mysterious realm through music.  In a way it might be an unpolished gem, but so unpolished that the gem lies deep within, with nothing but rock visible, surrounding it.  If it is to be appreciated it would take quite some mental effort by the listener, I think perhaps a bit too much.

Now that said, this feels like an early effort, in the sense that I see definite sincerity in this work, which suggests great potential in the artist.  I look forward to his future works, which I have a feeling will have more depth and beauty.  Not that there is none to be found here.  I think it's quite worth listening to, as really primitive dungeon synth has its own unique charm, allowing more room for the listener to explore his own fantasies, merely providing the seeds for the visions to grow in the dreamer's mind.

The album can be downloaded for free here: http://www.mediafire.com/?wftenfrug4t57ob