Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Wojnar - Kiedy Duch Wojny Nade Mna Powstanie

As I hear it, this is one of the truest examples of Eastern dungeon synth. It is triumphant, pagan, prideful, cheesy as hell, endearing as hell, lo-fi, atmospheric, and throughout most of the album the artist is intoning some dramatic Slavonic gibberish. I'm making fun a bit, but this record has long been one of my favorites in the genre. In fact, this is one of the first few artists playing in the "dungeon" style that I discovered after Mortiis. Someone new to this genre might find everything about this to be laughable, but for those who are open-minded enough to hold back the chuckles, you shall find this album to be very profound and moving. The synths maintain a consistent tone, and yet they manage to be quite dynamic throughout, slowly changing between moods of solemn contemplation, honoring some forgotten pagan sun-father, to emotions of pure ancient victory, and sometimes down to stoic melancholy. Though the vocals will initially strike the listener as quite overdramatic, the enthusiasm and seriousness is extremely contagious, and one will find themselves nodding to these seemingly-ancient pagan hymns within less than ten minutes.

I'm going to review this as an English-speaking listener, without looking up a translation (I'm not sure if one exists) because that has always been suitable enough for me to enjoy this album for quite a few years. I don't understand a single word, and yet it all seems to make sense to me, as if it's calling out to some instinctual yearning of the indo-European mind for dense forests, snow-covered battlefields, and icons of myth and monstrosity.

Without knowledge of the lyrics, identifying exactly what this is about is impossible, but I sense it's about something gravely important. It seems to me a desperate attempt to resurrect the pagan sentimentality, true honor of oneself and the gods of battle and northern archetypes. I'd say, like Wongraven, this is one of those albums where, if one gives it their full attention, it's nearly impossible not to get swept up in the grandiose vision. It moves slowly, but in a way that is necessary. It manages to fill its ambient boots perfectly, being as slow-paced as they come, and yet somehow never seeming boring.

I'm going to, without a doubt, go so far as to say this is one of the absolutely necessary dungeon synth albums. Is Mortiis or Wongraven better? Perhaps, but I think this album is almost just as important, if not only for serving as an example of the essence of the Eastern style of dungeon synth. This is one of those albums where, if one is listening to it and doing nothing else, it's best experienced by letting one's mind drift where it may until the album reins it in (and it certainly will). This is the kind of album that is hard to do justice to. It is both as primitive as can be, and yet fantastically majestic. Everyone with even a fleeting interest in this kind of epic keyboard music should listen to it.

What is it about? I find that this seems to be an important question while listening myself, and yet I sense that it is open-ended. One can see within the majesty and pride of this record whatever strikes the individual listener as deserving of honor. Or perhaps one can listen to it as a representation of honor and pride itself…

It's minimalistic, no doubt about that, but it is the sort of sparseness that allows for a clear focus upon the only things that matter, and so the powerful melodies which carry the music waste not a single note in their goal to bring the listener's mind to a place of epic mythological power. Even the melodies themselves could be called simplistic, and yet it is this same simplicity which resonates within our spirits at an instinctual level, a mood which many artists fail to reach due to insecurity and unjustified complexity (or, most often, simply a lack of vision). Often the most profound statements are those said in simple, straightforward terms, of the human experience that is lost in the unimportant details.

But that is certainly not to say this album functions so well because it is minimalistic. This album is so good because it has spirit. That is ultimately what so many artists fail to reach and so many listeners fail to recognize. That is the reason why black metal was once so great, and is now long since dead, despite having the same sort of sound, and true spirit is why dungeon synth remains appreciated by only a small group of listeners who understand the soul of the art. Wojnar's early works are fantastical, primitive, and majestic, and shall only be honored by those who are the worthy inheritors of the magic born from black metal's ashes.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Interview with Tiwaz of Gvasdnahr

Andrew: What artists/albums most influenced you to create the music of Gvasdnahr?
Tiwaz: When I first started out, I only knew about Mortiis, Burzum, and later Wongraven. I guess all of the Mortiis Era 1 albums were the main influence, even though I don't really think my music sounds much like Mortiis at all. Later on I discovered more bands in the genre. Most of which I discovered on your blog, actually. And I think pretty much every band that I like has been somewhat of an influence, especially on Through Mists and Ruins.

Andrew: What is the inspiration for the concepts of the songs you make?
Tiwaz: Different things. On the first album, a few songs were inspired by Norse mythology, which can be seen on some of the song titles. Some songs were inspired by nature and the cosmos, and Mortiis, as I already mentioned. It's not a very dark album. Skymning EP might be a bit darker, but it was inspired by pretty much the same things.
On Through Mists and Ruins, I drew some inspiration from some newly discovered dungeon synth artist, but most ideas came from my own imagination, moods, and images that I pictured in my mind. Which is fantasy, I guess.

Andrew: On the subject of fantasy, do you have any interests in fantasy outside of this music? Novels? Paintings? RPG games (tabletop or video games)?
Tiwaz: I play Dungeons & Dragons with some friends a couple of times a month, and I've been pretty hooked to The Elder Scrolls V lately. I used to play Warcraft III a lot in the past as well, but I never got into that whole MMORPG thing.
I used to read a lot of H.P. Lovecraft stories online a few years ago, and I still have a pretty deep interest in his Mythos although I currently don't read anything.
Andrew: What do you think of this genre as it is currently? There are obviously not many listeners, but do you think that is changing at all?
Tiwaz: I think most of the best works in the genre was made in the 90's. There are some great releases from the last decade though, but I only know of one or two other bands who's currently active in making music in this genre.
I think it might slowly be growing in popularity, thanks to the Internet. Be it for better or worse.

Andrew: Where would you like to see the genre go in the next five or ten years? And where would you hope to see Gvasdnahr in that context?
Tiwaz: It's my wish that it would remain somewhat shrouded in mystery, and I think it will. It may have crawled out of the shadows just a bit lately thanks to the internet, but I think it still mostly only attracts the rare type of people who's got the right mindset and who will come to understand the music and it's meanings, and I wish it would keep doing so. When I start thinking about it, I think this kind of music simply can't become hugely popular. Because I don't think most "regular" people can find any attractiveness in it.
It's hard to tell where Gvasdnahr will be at that time really. I hope some more people will come to enjoy my music of course. More Gvasdnahr will surely come, but I don't know when, or what it will sound like at this point. Probably colder and darker, as it seems to be heading that way.

Andrew: I think I quite agree with you, that this kind of music needs a certain amount of obscurity for the atmosphere to be effective. More on the topic of your own music, how do you feel about your past three releases individually, "Gvasdnahr," "Skymning EP," and your recent one, "Through Mists and Ruins?"
Tiwaz: I think "Gvasdnahr" is a pretty light album, and I don't think it's very exhausting or difficult to listen to. I hadn't found my style yet when I made the songs for it, so It's a bit experimental and the songs are pretty varying in tone and style. I think Skymning EP is darker, but still has a similar tone as on Gvasdnahr. Some time after the release of Skymning EP, my Roland D-5, which I had used for both releases started to break down and became more or less unusable. I didn't feel like spending money on a new synthesizer or keyboard, so I started looking for some other ways of making music. I eventually tried out working with some VST software synths, and that's what I used when I composed the songs for Through Mists and Ruins. Even though it's not recorded with a keyboard, I think it's probably the best Gvasdnahr album so far. It's got a few parts with some "heroic" orchestral like sound, but it's also darker and colder than the previous releases, which is something I like a lot.

Andrew: How do you feel about politics in dungeon synth? Specifically I'm thinking of the "aryan" ideas that a lot of the Eastern bands seem to have, but I'm also curious whether you think there's a place for politics at all in this kind of music?
Tiwaz: I've never been one to meddle in politics, and I certainly wouldn't involve it in my music. I think there are better ways to express ones political views (of any sort) than to do it through music, and especially through this genre. Perhaps it fits in some other genres, but I personally don't think it should have anything to do with dungeon synth.

Andrew: How about religion and spirituality? You said there was an inspiration from Norse mythology in your first couple releases, do you have personal spiritual thoughts or practices in regard to these pagan things? Do you have any strong feelings about occultism, Satanism, or Christianity?

Tiwaz: I'm not religious, and I'm certainly not very spiritual either. But I'm very interested in Asatru and other pagan religions, and I have great respect for it. However, my interest in paganism is not limited to just European paganism. I have great respect for Native American traditions as well for example, and the Ancient Egyptian religion is fascinating. I enjoy Native American traditional music a lot, and I can even enjoy some traditional oriental music as well from time to time. I have a little bit of interest in pretty much all ancient religions and civilizations that predates christianity.
I don't really have any thoughts about occultism. It might be interesting to read up on some of it some time, but I wouldn't go any further than that.
Like many others, when I first got into black metal, I was also pretty into all that Satanist business even though I didn't know anything about it. I grew tired of it pretty quickly though and realized that I did it only because the sudden exposure from black metal with all its satanic imagery, macabre song and album titles and raw music had made Satanism seem like some really fascinating think to me at the time.
While I still may dislike christianity, I have no problem with christians as long as they don't preach in public and tries to shove their belief down anyones throat.

Andrew: What are your feelings about black metal in relation to this style of music? Do you think it has too much influence, or perhaps provides a sort of isolated "sanctuary" for dungeon synth?
Tiwaz: I've always felt that dungeon synth has a connection to black metal for sure. The second wave especially. Seeing as all of the first dungeon synth artists I heard either were, or had been black metal musicians.
I kind of think of dungeon synth as a lone, ancient castle, hidden in a dark desolate corner in the shadow of black metal. Only a few knows it's there. And out of those few who dares to enter, only a few is capable of finding it's treasure.

Andrew: That seems a very nice note to end on. I thank you very much for the interview. Do you have any final words?
Tiwaz: I think that's all from me, for now. Thanks."