Category Archives: Review

Dödsrit – Mortal Coil

Dödsrit

Band: Dödsrit
Label: Wolves of Hades
Origin: Sweden/Netherlands
Genre: black crust ‘n roll

Swedish-Dutch Destruction

The project that is now Dödsrit may have started in the forests of Sweden, when Christoffer Öster created it, it has now more or less become a Dutch affair for 75%. With members of Morvigor, Nuclear Devastation and Destructo in its ranks, it’s become a full-fledged metal machine, blending black metal coldness with a hard-baked crust sound and heavy metal sensibilities. In short, it’s tasty as fuck.

‘Mortal Coil’ is the third album of this international outfit and it is a prime piece of metal destruction. The bio reads a little dramatic, this album representing the world in flames, the hell they call home. I think metal can do with some drama and theatrics, it’s after all not fucking punkrock, is it? I like punkrock though, but it’s simply another beast. Ok, pointless chatter, let’s go to the music.

Burning the fields with Dödsrit

The sound of Dödsrit is more of a journey, as the songs drag on and on. This is not a bad thing, since it nicely blends aggression with the richness of atmospheric passages. In its desperate nature and forlorn feeling, the sound is like everything is burning behind you. The world is indeed on fire, and hope is racing away from you. ‘The Third Door’ is a song full of story, and as one of the four, a great start of this record.

‘Shallow Graves’ takes it up a notch with epic guitars, roaring vocals and some of that melo-death grandeur. I noticed here how well polished this album sounds. Not to demean any of it, because the production quality is essential to really make you feel those hooks and riffs. In that sense, it even has a bit of that Dissection/Immortal vibe going. The title track is even more accessible, though it’s got that dragging sound going too.

I suppose ‘Apathetic Tongues’ kinda knocks it out of the park after that. Nothing else to say honestly. In many ways, Dödsrit fits the mould of the more new-school black metal bands, like Downfall of Gaia and ilk. Wide space in the music, bursts of energy, a little hybridization between genres, atmosphere… In four excessively radio-unfriendly songs, the band just drags you along. It’s got a bit of everything that makes this music good; it’s catchy, furious, melodic, yet still full of grit.

Winterblood – Finsternis

Winterblood

Band: Winterblood
Origin: Italy
Label: Kunsthall Produktionen
genre: Winter synth, polar ambient

The lonely, frigid wastes

Winterblood is not a name I had on my radar this far, but releasing work on Kunsthall Produktionen peaked my interest. The label is after all home to none other than Paysage d’Hiver, a cornerstone act for wintery, brooding darkness. And don’t we love darkness here at the Stranger Aeons offices in a dark Lovecraftian corner of the world? Who is to say, little uprising of the great old ones here. Anyways, more on Winterblood.

Winterblood hails from Italy, from the city of Florence which the more literate may associate with Boccacio, Dante Allighieri and Machiavelli. Others may think of sun, pizza and wine, which is also fine (rhyming and stealing here). The project is by Stefano Senassi, who racked up a total of some 29 releases to this point. Inspiration comes from the north, the cold, the wintery… This he unleashes on ‘Finsternis’, the latest effort from his hand that is now available on vinyl.

What first strikes me is the droning nature of the sound. What comes close to it for me, is the music of Kalameet, another winter-inspired artist who manages to paint vistas of frozen prairies. Winterblood goes further, into snowy wastes where one gets lost who is not careful. Snow blindness lurks as you stumble through the ongoing gale. Is it entertaining? Not so much, I mean, ploughing through the snow on aclear night when you know your heating is functional is fine, but the endlessness Winterblood offers is an immersive experience of sonorous booming sound, that drowns out the world.

And that for a full hour if I’m not mistaken, even a bit longer. The numbered tracks are just offering you a reason to get up and flip the record, but the best is to just turn off the lights and curl up. Sink into the eeriness, which becomes a bit bass-like on the second half of the total. That is the second slab of vinyl, crusted with ice. Look, I’ll not recommend you get this if you like summer, but if you like sounds that emulate the polar night, this is for you.

Dungeon Synth Digest: Forest of Orthanc, High Mage, Knife Wraith, Speedway and Mystiska Skogen

It’s been a while and some of this DS Digest has been rotting on the shelf and that’s a shame. There’s some releases I was pretty keen on in the dungeon synth corner, and I guess some of it is more synthwave… But check out below for Forest of OrthancHigh MageKnife WraithSpeedway and Mystiska Skogen music.

May your save rolls always be blessed.

Header image: Belgian Monument in Amersfoort. Forgotten monument to a forgotten war for the Dutch, built by Belgian refugees from the First World War, who were interned in the neutral Netherlands. 

Forest of Orthanc X High Mage – The Wandering Mage of the Spellbound WoodForest of Orthanc X High Mage

A split release in dungeon synth is something new to me, but a welcome concept. It feels, to me as the listener, even more so as a collaborative effort., Forest of Orthanc, from Colorado, takes care of side A with whispy, light tones, and a solid foundation of low tones. The cavernous effect is achieved through an echo, that sounds like dripping. Calm, yet it is as if we are awaiting something. Some darkness to descend upon us. It’s very bare, yet highly immersive on songs like ‘Mildew’.  Forest of Orthanc feels, as far as I experience it, much more earthy and grounded. Truly dungeon synth-y, whereas High Mage has an iridescent quality to its sound, instantly audible on ‘Discovering the Edjewitch’.  The sonorous synths are covered with a haze of distorted noise as if you’re listening to them through a rainstorm at times. It makes the whole vibe of the music feels more ambient, like a field recording with an organic feel to it. Particularly on ‘Unbinding Ancient Texts’ this is very distinctly true. What is surprising is how flawless the transition between the two artists feels. This release feels like a ‘whole’ story, which makes it extra cool to listen to.

Artist: Tower of Orthanc / High Mage
Origin: USA
Laber: High Mage Productions

Mystiska Skogen – Den Förtrollade Gläntan

Mystiska Skogen –
Den Förtrollade Gläntan

For the Swedish Mystiska Skogen, nature holds the mysteries. But it also would appear that this is a dark place full of foreboding threats and grand stories if we listen to ‘Den Förtrollade Gläntan’. A record that allows you to taste the dew on the leaves and feel the fog hit your face on an early morning in the forests. Eerie synths, and pounding rhythms guarantee tracks like ‘Bergatron’ come on slowly and captivate you fully within moments. No sound elements are wasted or embellished in this song, each minute detail has an effect. From the flowing waters to the flourishes on the keys. That changes when we get to ‘Solbärgingen’, a track that swells to a majestic scale. That’s what I like best in more fantasy-oriented dungeon synth, it’s the ability for the grandeur and force I enjoy in my reading. It’s in that minimal use of elements, much as I know it from the Burzum ambient records. Mystiska Skogen successfully creates that same feeling.

Artist: Mystiska Skogen
Origin: Sweden
Label: Gondolin Records

Speedway – DeathblowSpeedway

Speedway is Hank Richardson, an artist who uses technology from the eighties to create immersive synth-scapes. A perfect fit for his RPG, titled ‘Deathblow’, which accompanies this release. Pretty awesome stuff, so you get a game and a soundtrack that sounds wildly accurately eighties. Musically, it may sound simple, but the tunes contain a lot of referential emotive movements and song-referential elements. After listening to this bad boy for the whole day, I’m siked about this gang-war-landscape, where I imagine Mel Gibson riding around in true Mad Max fashion. But you can also dance to it, so that’s all the good stuff you want from a dungeon synthy synthwave release, right? Let’s roll the dice.

Artist: Speedway
Origin: United States
Label: Heimat der Katastrofe

Knife Wratih – Adventure Module 1: Into The Undercity DungeonKnife Wraith

It’s hard to grasp what’s coming to you when you visit the bandcamp page of Knife Wraith, but the music speaks for itself. Game-soundtrack inspired dungeon synth, with a high level of creepiness. I particularly enjoy the cavernous, lofi sound that sort of boxes in the music. And yes, there’s sounds that I recall from playing my ancient Commodore 64 as a kid. Those crashy sounds, and blips and beats, fantastic. What makes Knife Wraith so awesome to me is the fact that the music speaks about all the things that embody my personal eighties nostalgia. I miss that simpler time and it’s like this artist just caters to my needs. Particularly enjoyable is ‘VI – Fighting The Bleak Clacker’. Don’t even know what it is, but I want to roll for initiative. It’s a ruddy shame that this is not out yet on one of those DS/wave labels.

Artist: Knife Wraith
Origin: Germany
Label: Self-released

Eternal Champion – Ravening Iron

Eternal Champion

Band: Eternal Champion
Origin: USA
Label: No Remorse Records
genre: heavy ‘sword raising’ metal

Raising swords and raising hell

I am not entirely sure what I find so alluring about Eternal Champion. It may be the reference to Michael Moorcock’s work, but it may also be its hyper-retroism of classical heavy metal. Or simply the sensual artwork, that you particularly see in the bygone era of muscular fantasy heroes with scantly clad ladies (rarely without powers of their own). Perhaps it’s the mixture of all these elements that makes it stand out. Fact is: Eternal Champion rocks. 

This is the second full-length for the band from Austin, Texas. Comprised of members from the band Sumerlands and War Hungry, the line-up is completed with vocalist Jason Tarpey from Graven Rite and guitar player Blake Ibanez (how awesome is that for a guitar player’s name) from Power Trip. And they perform with a sword held high, without becoming an uncomfy cheese-fest like Manowar. Don’t be like Manowar… For many reasons. Ok, let’s drop that line of thoughts. 

Cleaving through the night, like thunder, hooves will split the ground – ‘A Face in the Glare’

We’re immediately off with massive riffs and this bad-ass Tom G. Warrior ‘Ugh!’ but we move on to a sound that I feel has a lot of Cirith Ungol in it. Vocals that stand out remarkably, but fit the soaring nature of the sound that pulsates with power. That being said, it’s not Manowar posturing, but some true storytelling as you can hear on ‘Skullseeker’. Conan-esque, yes, but that’s good stuff as well so nothing to complain about here.

What I find most enjoyable about this record, is that I don’t know how to make it seem like anything else than what it really is. Tough old-school heavy metal, full of sharp guitars and thundering rhythms. It’s not complicated, but executing this style correctly is a challenge.  Eternal Champion does that on tracks like ‘Coward’s Keep’, which thunders on with strong melodies and soaring vocals.

I would almost say that if you do not like Eternal Champion, you most likely don’t actually like metal, But hey, that would be a heavy statement. I mean, you could not want to bang your head to ‘Banners of Arhai’. But I sincerely hope that’s due to injury or a compromising situation, because the song definitely deserves it. SO, once more to close this story: Hail Eternal Champion!

Conrad – Exu​.​21: Voodooesque Nightshades, Her Embrace & His Alluring Ways

Conrad is a beast from a more dark place than you might think. The band hails from Barbados and is Kadeem Ward’s brainchild, a.k.a. Emdeka Anubis. After almost a decade of silence, the band ploughs on with this new release, titled ‘Exu​.​21: Voodooesque Nightshades, Her Embrace & His Alluring Ways’, an endeavour that displays a remarkable development in the band’s sound.

Originally, the band had multiple members, but it would appear that Emdeka is going at it solo for now under the Conrad banner. Barbados is not a place known for its metal connection and scene, so there’s a lot to unpack here. For this, I recommend reading the interview. Here I want to focus on this remarkable mixture of psychedelic music and black metal darkness.

Into darkness with Conrad

I don’t want to lump Conrad in a specific whole, but the way strange rhythms fluctuate through the hazy sound is fascinating. I can only think of Burzum actually, as using the texture of the sound itself in all its dissonance to create something new. I ‘d like to particularly refer to ‘Reinos Pt. II: Cruzeiro (Cross)’, the third track on the album. Yet, it is far from the only track in the Conrad maelstrom of distorted guitar sounds and cryptic drumming. The long-ass tracks (they are really long) are also filled with psychedelic loops, that remind me of Selim Lemouchi & His Enemies on the last record. Hallucinatory is the best word I suppose. I can taste the incense.

The record is a ritualistic one, paying homage to entities like Exu and Pombagira, who are key in the Afro-Brazilian cult of Quimbanda. Emdeka was inspired for this series of sonic sketches (because to me, that’s how they feel) by the teaching of Nicholaj de Mattos Frisvold. You really feel that vibe on the repetitive, droney ‘Reinos Pt. IV: Cemiterio (Cemetery). But even the more metallesque songs, like the following ‘Reinos Pt. V: Almas (Souls)’ keep that ritualistic vibe going. It’s a testament to the strength of the music that each expression feels wholesome and connected to a larger idea.

If you are looking for traditional black metal, steer clear of this album. If you like your darkness to be like a starlight night in the Caribbean where voodoo rights are performed in the firelight, this is what you need.

Lóndrangar – Lóndrangar

Lóndrangar awakens from its slumber

How lovely it is to discover new dungeon synth artists emerging from a country not particularly well known for its imagination. It’s ok for me to say this, as it concerns an artist from the Netherlands itself. I’m not sure what it is – our lack of wild places, the country’s flat nature, or a simple disconnect with the mysteries of our past. All of these seem to be well part of the Dutch condition, yet here and there magic appears, for those willing to see it. Lóndrangar is a project that has been slumbering in the forgotten past but now has reawakened.

Toner Low might be the last band I’d associate with dungeon synth, but member Daan started Lóndrangar a lifetime ago, back in 1997. After only a short period of a year, it became dormant and had been until we had this global pandemic raging around our globe. And there, we have it, the self-titled debut after long last. The songs are completely new though. And if you were wondering, Lóndrangar is named after an eroded volcanic rock formation on Iceland’s west coast.

Though the songs are new, the feel is very old. Lóndrangar hits the right spot for the lovers of old-school dungeon synth. Repetitive, epic strings and a gloomy, melancholic atmosphere all the way. It really doesn’t take much for ‘Ruins Forgotten By Time’ to grip you, but with a title like that, what else did you expect? Yet, it takes us back to the earliest recordings of Mortiis and Cernunnos Woods, and I’d like to mention Wongraven here too as this is the same primitive sound I hear. Slowly the music waxes and wanes, with multiple layers working in harmony to set a mood more than tell a story. But that’s early dungeon synth for you, I believe.

‘Darkening Skies’ is a bit more threatening, slightly more urgent. There’s a swing in the sound, that allows you to imagine the fluttering on the wind, the meandering of rivers and the dripping of water over rugged rocks. The song becomes softer over time, as the synths take on an emulation of the wind, that wistfully blows over the land. It’s full of longing for a different time, now forgotten. ‘A Call Upon The Ages’ takes a darker route. It’s a more subdued swan song to a great debut album. Even if it was 23 years in the making, Lóndrangar makes it all worth it on this classic slab of DS.

Botanist – Photosynthesis

Another offering is coming from the worshippers of the Verdant Realm that are Botanist. On this record, they delve into the mystery of photosynthesis with 8 tracks. Nature worship at its most pure and basic, I would say, with the ever-hammering dulcimers foregrounded and making the band still unwelcome on Metal Archives for some clouded reason.

It’s always been challenging to figure out what number this album is in the Botanist discography. We went from VI to IV, which were followed by the ‘Collective: The Shape of He to Come’ in 2017 and ‘Ecosystem’ in 2019. I suppose this is VIII… or VII. Regardless, a concept album about how plants convert sunlight into energy, how they transform carbon dioxide into the oxygen that all fauna need to breathe is a remarkable thing in itself.

What I like so much about the sound of Botanist is that you get the full intensity of black metal, but more smooth. It’s like adding milk to your coffee, a blasphemous act I never pursue myself, to take off the edge. The clear vocals on a song like ‘Water’ even so make it easier to take in the story of the song. I suppose this is also the aspect of Botanist you might object to from a purist point of view: no guitars = no metal. But that’s not a discussion I care for, because the music stands on its own, even if you start calling the genre wood instead of metal. I’m sure the band would like that in fact.

But that doesn’t mean the sound is mild, on tracks like ‘Bacteria’ we certainly get to experience eruptions and violence in the best black metal tradition. Or ‘Dehydration’, which definitely give s bit of a rough rubbing. But yes, all over the thing you easily notice about this record is how Botanist maintains harmony within the whole. That does fit in with the concept but has in my listening experience been the consistent factor in their music. Each record is one journey and filled with flourishes and nuances, but one flow to follow, as nature itself is. ‘Photosynthesis’ embodies that best.

 

Band: Botanist
Label: The Flenser
Origin: United States

Ifernach – The Green Enchanted Forest of the Druid Wizard

It’s been a while since I spoke to the man behind Ifernach, but the band’s intensity has not diminished. That’s a good thing since Ifernachis one of the torch bearers of traditional black metal, full of fury and hatred. It is radically opposed to all, defying mainstream appropriation. Yet, this album shows a gentler side of Ifernach as narrator and guide on a journey through his world.

I’ve seen some conflicting reports on the tracklisting of this album. For example, some reviews state that the song ‘A Cursed Spear…’ is an ambient track. I listened to the version on Bandcamp and have described songs thusly.

Ifernach is built on the Mi’kmaq heritage and the Irish roots of its sole member. We previously would mostly see the first; this album takes a swing for the second element. I think this is exemplified by the title ‘The Green Enchanted Forest of the Druid Wizard.’ though there are tons of cultural parallels. Yet, the folky part on this same track, after a good 6-minutes of eerie, melodic black metal, speaks for itself. It also fits the style of Ifernach, who never really sounded like your run-of-the-mill band in the first place. 

If that wasn’t surprising enough, now follows the fingerpicking, 9-minute acoustic ‘The Passage of Dithreabhach’. It’s of remarkable beauty and takes us deeper into the forest that is this album before we truly get hit with its force on ‘A Cursed Spear…’. It’s a solid track, meticulously rhythmic, filled with gurgling vocals and an abyssal, dark quality. That’s what you get for awakening the dark gods of the ancient forests, I presume. Under that skintight drumming and bass-ing, chanting and melodies weave and spread out, which add to the mystique. It’s really, really tasty, and as we then enter ‘In the Hollow of the Togharmach’, I’m sort of sorry for the break with this intermezzo track. I want more violence from Finean Patraic. 

And so, that is exactly what he provides on the two-part ‘Teinm Laida’, a reference to ritual practices banned by Saint Patrick. There’s a proper groove to the second part, actually, which really works in its favor. I’m surprised at the accessibility of these songs, which is not something I would say Ifernach is widely known for. It doesn’t take away from the ferocious nature of the barrage, the gritty hailstorm of the guitars and cymbals. The hammering fury of the blast beats; it’s all there. However, my favorite track must be ‘A Winter Tree Clad in Black Frost’. An almost Burzum-esque effort of a hypnotic journey through nature, amplified by synth elements hidden in the repetitive riffs’ haze. Ok, maybe there’s a bit of a mellow part to it, but I think it’s an apt description anyway. 

‘Hidden Palaces Under the Green Hills’ is the closing track on this album, another collection of nature sounds and ambient, heightening this record’s mystique.  

Artist: Ifernach
Origin: Canada
Label: GoatoaRex

Dwarrowdelf – Evenstar

Dwarrowdelf claims to be: “walking the utterly untrodden path of Tolkien-based epic metal”. A bold claim from the UK-based project, as Tolkien and metal have been bedfellows since the early days of the genre (the man himself had little to say about this I’m afraid). Think about Blind Guardian, who soar high to this day thanks to their themed records. Even if you want to ignore bands who on a few occasions used Tolkien material. As a worshipper in the waters of Summoning, one should tread carefully and even if that is considered a band with a sound that is slightly one dimensional, there’s epic black metal from the likes of Emyn Muil. In so far, alone, this one-man project is not, but that shouldn’t stop us from checking out ‘Evenstar’.

Dwarrowdelf: More Elvish Than Twilight Force

That doesn’t mean it can’t be good, however, and Dwarrowdelf is something else in the way of cinematic-sounding metal. I would not go so far as to call it overproduced, but the black metal element is dim and remote on this record. Though, you would probably not say so after the barked vocals and intro of ‘Estel’, opening track on this record that tells the story of Aragorn and Arwen (she being the titular ‘Evenstar’). Sure, there’s the soaring ‘reach for the heavens’ tremolo riffs, but they sound more heavenly than hellish. Not saying black metal needs to be evil, but none of the grim aesthetics remains. 

In a sense, Dwarrowdelf sounds like you would imagine white metal would sound. Full of epic moods, emotive guitars, clean vocals full of heroism and boldness, and of course richly decorated with synths, it is a clean record in the most complete sense of the word and I find myself warming to that. If Summoning is the best soundtrack for reading the books, this is probably what I would have preferred for the movies. I mean, if ‘The Eagle of the Star’ isn’t more elf-metal than even the faithful Twilight Force, I don’t know what is. Now, on this album O’Dell does ad more folk and melodeath to the sound, but I think for this genre of fantasy metal that doesn’t really fit one classic definition, that’s the way to go. More so, the vision of using guests on your solo project shows ambition and a high standard, which is admirable. It’s particularly in the details, like the fantastic ‘In Pursuit of Ghosts’, where the tin whistle from Kristoffer Graemesen adds a haunting element, that this shows itself. 

The following track, ‘The Three Hunters’, is also a more energetic gem on this record, where other songs may take the lamenting tone a bit much to my opinion. But that’s an opinion you can discard. Why? Because, as a whole, this album is a great listening experience and I highly recommend checking it out. 

Artist: Dwarrowdelf
Label:  Northern Silence Productions
Origin: United Kingdom

Dungeon Synth Digest: Akerius, Casio Tomb, Meadow Grove, Vale Minstrel

Welcome to another selection of tasty dungeon beats (not really, it’s not beats… I mean, that would be way to hipster) from Akerius, Casio Tomb, Meadow Grove and Vale Minstrel. As I listened to these, I was reading ‘The Dragons of Autumn Twilight’ by Weiss and Hickman. You know what I’m talking about. Anyways, pretty nice to have som good atmospheric tunes to go with that book. So here goes, enjoy these dungeon synth finds!

Header image: Partly broken tower in the Anacopia fortress in the hills above New Athos in Abkhazia. The fortress played an important role on the border between Byzantine Christendom from the Umayyad Caliphate. King Leon I of Abkhazia had his seat here. 

Akerius – Shadowed Paths Through Middle EarthAkerius - Shadowed Paths through Middle-Earths

Self-released
Artist origin: France (Réunion)

This is actually an oddity for Akerius, who normally is inspired by medieval/alchemic themes from his region of origin (Occitania). A Tolkien-infused dungeon synth album in the best tradition of this act, filled with mystery and subdued notes. Akerius stays true to the sound, with slow, steady rhythms and an all-together aura of mystery on this record.  The music is always sombre, which is pretty much the whole tone of Tolkien’s works when you are venturing outside of Valinor and the Shire. The droning sounds really give shape to that sense of dread and danger, while the higher notes weave their own patterns. At times, Akerius does the odd surprising thing, like the intense drumming on ‘The Malefic Fortress of Utumno’. It shakes you up a bit, and helps you keep your eyes on the road in this dark land.  I love how Akerius manages to make such small gestures in his music, but those small shifts take you to a whole new level of epic drama. ‘Shadows of Mordor is a prime example of how small nuances can make such an impact. As far as dungeon synth goes, for those who like to leave the cave for open-air threats, Akerius is as good as it gets for your personal peace of darkness descending.

Casiotomb – Exkursion in das Hügelgrablabyrinth

Casiotomb - exxkursion

Heimat der Katastrofe
Artist origin: Unknown

So, technically I’m out on a limb here listing this release in dungeon synth, but the vibe is there. Casiotomb just uses the sound of the 8-bit (or less) videogame soundtrack to emulate the feeling of a dangerous dungeon crawler. There’s a simple excitement that only those who played these ancient video games can really understand and this crawler-soundtrack captures perfectly what the vibe of those games was. A gritty bass layer, primitive, scratchy and not really heavy on the thudding keeps you on edge, as the spooky music beeps and blurps onward. In a way, it makes you wonder how with so little these composers managed to do so much.  I particularly love the spiralling sound on ‘Devoured By Vermin’. Seems like you just lost a life. The energy is high on this album, electric even. No time to stop, there’s a monster lurking around the next corner and each tick your supplies dwindle (remember that game aspect? I’ve never eaten a thing in Skyrim… pfff).  This record is fantastic.

Meadow Grove – The Exile of Lord BearstonMeadow Grove

Self-released
Origin: Finland

Meadow Grove is a Finnish dungeon synth project that focuses on the story of a  knight, named… as you may have guessed, Lord Bearston. The Lord refused to bow before the encroaching empire and is now on the run. The songs tell the story very precisely, step by step. Musically,  Meadow Grove is an artist that enjoys minimalism. There are rarely complex layers at work in the music, neither do the sounds wholly conform to the medieval setting of the story. At times, the synthetic nature of the sound is clearly audible, even a bit scifi in this form of audio-storytelling. Notably on ‘Reflections in Solitude’. That’s only odd if you have focused on the music and not the story because there everything makes sense for Meadow Grove. Having ordered the cassette, I was charmed by the DIY aesthetic, which also made me take a closer look at the story. This is a project in which you can hear (and see if you get a physical copy) the love for the art itself and that’s, to me, the coolest thing dungeon synth can do. It’s what makes it more real than any Netflix production.  Meadow Grove is definitely a project still developing and when the sounds are more tailored to an organic feel, this can go a long way.

 Vale Minstrel – Warden of the ValeVale Minstrel

Ancient Meadow
artist origin: USA

If you ever genuinely wanted to get the vibe of sitting down by the fire in a tavern, located in a beautiful, lush green valley, this is your chance. Vale Minstrel is encroaching upon the terrain of comfy synth with his ‘Warden of the Vale’ release. Call it medieval synth if you like, it strikes that bardic cord with simple flute-like synths and interwoven repetition. It’s what you imagine hearing in the background as you bend over that tankard of ale you wish to gulp down as you listen to a wondrous tale.  Only ‘A Minstrel’s Control Spell’ the sound goes a bit off as all the melodies spiral together. It’s an oddity on this otherwise perfect collection of medieval tunes. I can just picture the damsels curtsying and tip-toeing over the dancefloor. Somewhere in the back some dwarvish type shouts something incoherent and indecent but is further ignored. Peace, tranquil (like ‘Awoke! Near a Moonlit Grotto in the Glade of Green’), time to escape to the fantastic realms. In that case, Vale Minstrel is a worthy companion.  I do wish the songs on this 100th Ancient Meadow release were slightly longer. That way you could linger in their magic a moment more.