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 Orthanc, High Mage, Knife Wraith, Speedway 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 Wood
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
Laber: High Mage Productions
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
Label: Gondolin Records
Speedway – Deathblow
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.
Origin: United States
Label: Heimat der Katastrofe
Knife Wratih – Adventure Module 1: Into The Undercity Dungeon
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