Tag Archives: dungeon synth

Grimrik: Into the wordless night of dungeon synth

The music, generally called dungeon synth, is on the rise. One artist who has been endeavoring the create these otherworldly sounds for a long time is Grimrik. The artist released his first project in this style more than 20 years ago, in the wake of the second wave of black metal.

The connection between black metal and dungeon synth might seem fickle, but a while ago I started looking into this and wrote the ‘Bedroom Dreaming’ article, which was overall met with a nice reception. Dungeon synth finds its roots in atmospheric tracks and side-projects from artists like Burzum, Satyr’s Wongraven and Neptune Towers by Fenriz, but one can easily look further back and see many similar musical releases (often considered oddities). Considered the father of the genre is Mortiis, who used to play in Emperor. In the mid-nineties, he started shaping the sound. At that point, Grimrik already started to release music within the confines of this movement and has busily been exploring this magical realm.

Grimrik has various projects and due to the general anonimity of artists within dungeon synth, it’s tricky to find them all. One thing I found particularly interesting is the use of the word ‘sidegenre’. It makes a lot of sense, as dungeon synth is an aspect of black metal. Since the genre has been rapidly growing and even made it to Roadburn with a performance of Old Tower, let’s illuminate these dark dungeons with one who has dwelled there for years. It’s an exciting time for dungeon synth, but also for Grimrik, who has re-releases and exciting new projects coming out soon!

For those who are unfamiliar with you or your work, could you briefly introduce yourself?
I started making my own music back in the early/mid 90s. My first release worth mentioning was a (solo) side project called Nazgûl (1996), which was musically quite exactly what is now called‚ dungeon synth’ (re-released 2016 by Deivlforst Records).

After 1997, I quit releasing music for a while and made only some (more electronic) stuff for myself and drafts for songs that later became and will become alive. In 2013 – after meeting Murgrind – I started being active in publishing again, the project Arath released its first album (classic dungeon synth as well). This debut album was elected the best DS album of 2013 by the world’s largest DS scene which was quite a motivation!

Nevertheless, I soon felt the need for a new solo project which turned out to become Grimrik ( Albums so far: Eisreich [2014], Die Mauern der Nacht [2015]). Different than in the 90s, I now have lots of interest in the production side of music and this definitely influences the music I make. For an example, while making synth music I find it very useful to know exactly what each knob and fader on a synth does and how compression and EQ-ing work for example. Besides producing my own music, I did a lot of complete audio masterings for Deivlforst Records in the last years (examples: Thangorodrim, Wolcensmen, Murgrind, Medhelan). In the beginning of Deivlforst Records, I also did some layout works for them.

Just to clarify, any intro is my words and opinions. In no way do they necessarily reflect those of the artist.

Tunes while you read:

Into the dungeons with Grimrik

What is your musical background and how did you end up making music?
The music that influenced me most is probably Black Metal and its sidegenres. I can’t deny that I also always liked electronic music also very much. Making music came naturally back then in the 90s, if you were into metal, everybody also wanted to make their own. So I started drumming, ‘singing’ and playing keyboards in metal bands first.

After that era, I first didn’t find enough sense in releasing stuff anymore and experimented with other types of music. Those didn’t turn out good enough for me though. The initial breakthrough for more activity came with meeting Murgrind, whose music inspired me to make DS again – which led to all following developments. I can’t thank him enough for lighting up the flame in me again!

What inspired you to go in the dungeon synth direction? Which musicians inspired you?
Back then definitely the ‘classic’ artists like Mortiis, Pazuzu, Summoning, Die Verbannten Kinder Evas, black metal intros, outros and interludes and Wongraven – no surprises here.

What is dungeon synth for you? What makes the genre so particularly attractive?
This is a very difficult question to answer! For me it will always be a sidegenre to black metal, because I got into it this way, but much more on the fantasy side, less ‘evil’ and less bound to certain ‘beliefs’.

The genre is very attractive to me as it is still very underground despite its recent growth in popularity. It can be done on a DIY basis by anyone and is able to transport spirit and atmospheres that no other music can. It is really hard to describe, it is more a ‘feeling’ than it could be rationally categorized.

Outside of music, what are things that inspire your love for the genre?
Fantasy literature, mythology, nature, ancient history, philosophy, own insights, weird theories, visual components. I wouldn’t name particular books, I prefer to keep that a secret.

We got in touch through my attempt at introducing dungeon synth to a broader reader population. What would be the artists you would name for a listener new to the genre and why?
Let me start this answer with a short introduction. The genre and scene grew a lot in the recent years and already can be divided into some subgenres. I personally prefer the more sophisticated, more ‘composed’ music that is also written and produced with lots of effort (still DIY at home) – and is also more linked to the origins of the genre, but taking them to a more nowadays level.

That said I’d recommend the following contemporary albums: Murgrind – Inheritor of the Forest Throne,
Thangorodrim – Taur-nu-Fuin
Medhelan – Fall of the Horned Serpent
Barak Tor – March of the Triumphator
Splendorius – Norfaragell-Thul
Skarpseian – Fragmenter av Trolldom
Old Sorcery – Realms of Magickal Sorrow I

could recommend some more, but these are probably the best of the genre for me. Another (double) album I would recommend to get quick access to some facets of the genre is ‘Arath – Treasures from the Dungeon Vol. 1 & 2’ which is a collection of songs Murgrind and me made over some years, showing a variety of different atmospheres, sound choices and production levels, while all songs are DS.

If I should choose ONE classic 90s DS recording to recommend and which stands for the genre it would be ‘Mortiis – Ånden som gjorde Opprør’

What sort of instruments or programs do you use to make your music? What would anyone starting out need?
Main DAW: Propellerhead Reason with some extra ‘rack extensions’ (special VST-Format for Reason), Hardware controllers & sequencers Current Synths: Yamaha CS1X, Kawai GMega, Roland JD-XA, Kawai K4, Elektron Analog Rytm, a modular (Eurorack) synth, Waldorf Streichfett.
Next buy: Arturia Matrixbrute. All you need to start is a DAW that has some good sounds installed or free VSTs plus a MIDI-Keyboard plus, on the production side, the will to learn how to record and mix and master.

How do you go about making music, where do you start from?
It depends. Sometimes I do some improvisation and just try around playing some sounds, sometimes from this whole new songs evolve. Sometimes I have a certain mood, melody or something else in mind and I try to transform this into a song. Usually, I make drafts that I work on further again and again at a later point. This includes (re-)arranging, changing sounds, enhancing the mix etc.

Do you start with a concept or with music and how do you shape the eventual work?
Sometimes I start with the music from which the inspiration for a topic comes, sometimes the other way round (see also question above).

Dungeon synth seems to be even more in love with the cassette format than any other genre, how did that happen?

I think there are several reasons for that. Nostalgia, handling and playing a cassette evokes feelings of a now long gone past for the older of us. For the younger it is possibly some kind of ‘weird relic’ of their parent’s centuries, totally unnecessary when it comes to pure reason – but reason often doesn’t transport feelings, but using ‘ancient’ technology does. Also playing a cassette means limitation, but in a world where you can get nearly every music track just by a simple click on the internet and can make your own tracklist, you often do want to be limited to the artist’s choice of tracks, their order etc. This goes along with the get-all-you-want, but virtually, options of the internet-age, people like to go back in time by intention and feel a real item in their hands, which was – in the best case – designed with passion and effort. Also, you can actually own a collection of ‘hardware’ items that can be looked at and browsed through, designs are connected with memories of the music etc.

Same goes for vinyl, that also has a huge renaissance, but is much more expensive both to produce and to purchase so more rare in extreme underground scenes. A cassette limits the sound – but this is often wanted and even seen as an enhancement. What is really important for both tapes and vinyl is that they are analog. In a world becoming more and more digital, many people do like the ‘limitations’ of analog media. I am totally happy with this as I grew up with all music media types and love them all. They all have their pros and cons – but only physical is real!

 What future plans do you have right now as an artist and label owner?
Anything good coming up? Concerning Grimrik, my album ‘Die Mauern der Nacht’ was just released on red/black vinyl by Neuropa Records (Belgium) and on tape by Out of Season with Foreign Sounds/Children of the Night (US). I am extremely happy with the physical results, all editions look incredibly cool. Responsible for this are the labels involved which put a strong focus on quality work, Dan Capp, who’s layouts he did for this album are truly great. I also did some conceptual work for every physical release. What makes me kind of proud is that these labels released some much bigger artists before – like Carpenter Brut, Ulver, and Mortiis for example. ‘Eisreich’ will be released on vinyl by Deivlforst Records soon (probably March, three different vinyl colors…)! The third Grimrik album will be hopefully (and finally) finished soon. Additionally, I have some more Berlin-School, hardware-only music almost finished that should be out in 2018 as well. Plus another secret project and possibly some new songs by Nazgûl… So, if all plans will work, there’s a lot to come!

Anything you’d like to say, that I didn’t ask?
A thing that been on my mind for long: The Grimrik project is not political at all, it neither carries nor supports any political ideologies.

Final question, if you had to compare your music to a type of food, what would it be and why?
Let me answer this only for my last album ‘Die Mauern der Nacht’ only and based on feedback many people gave me. Seems it is best compared to a (possibly French) 5-course menu, the opposite of fast food. It demands attention to detail and quite a lot of patience. It grows on you while listening to it and makes the best sense when consumed completely, then it can feed your brain. You get the whole concept from start to beginning, taste all spices that were carefully thrown into each course. If consumed in a hurry or incompletely, it will definitely leave you unsatisfied and you won’t like it. This makes it less accessible to many, but I was often told it rewards those willing to go through it as intended with a great experience.

Underground Sounds: Inoriand – Dwelling in Frost

Label: Eldest Gate Records
Band: Inoriand
Origin: Hungary

Inoriand is a particular entity, that creates what it calls winter synth. Winter, like in a sense the word dungeon does, fills in the thematic side of the music. Inspired by the elemental forces, the project has been unleashing various records, that convey the feeling of the outdoors. When it’s cold… and when it’s dark.

You can feel the ice-crusted meadows, the windswept mountain peaks, and the misty ancient forests, that are hidden underneath a blanket of snow. We’ve definitely left the dungeon on this one. The record, titled ‘Dwelling in Frost’, follows the path set out by predecessor ‘Bringer of Cold Winter’.

The music is eerily tranquil and with an icy force. Every note has the straight path of an icicle, hanging from a roof or a tree branch. The tones are elongated, cool tones, that speak of pristine beauty and cold death to the listener, as they lazily surge past you. Every new one enters gently, sliding into the complete spectrum of sounds with a casual ease. The clarity of the music makes the listener experience a strange tranquility.

There lies a yearning underneath though, buried under snow, to find life again. To blossom and bloom, which is almost tangible within the spectrum of synths by Inoriand. The gentle swelling ‘Lights in the Northern Sky’ for example, which suddenly breaks free after 5.30 minutes into something floating, effervescently light. That’s where ‘Reflecting Yourself’ comes in, which feels like being in a cocoon. Soothing and oppressive at the same time. A great record to immerse oneself in.

Underground Sounds: Scriptor Hiberniae – The Manuscript

Label: Celtic Wraith
Band: Scriptor Hiberniae
Origin: Ireland

In a magical story, the record ‘The Manuscript’ sprang from a magical manuscript, found by Scriptor Hiberniae. It’s marvelous layout and caligraphy fascinates him, but when it is taken home it starts to glow, transforms into a humanoid creature and leaves to cause mischief. After an investigation, it turns out that a pagan chieftain had himself resurrected into an ecclesiastical script of gold. Maybe Satanic interference is at work? The scholar never manages to work further on his research, as he is apprehended and burned at the stake under suspicion of sorcery.

This is the wild story for this record of gloomy dungeon synth from the Irish island, but it can hardly be left out. The label Celtic Wraith, that released this happens to be from the same artist (whose name I have not been able to deduce). Regardless, this is some fine dungeon synth for you to admire.

There are light-hearted tones, giving the pixie-like light step to the sound (like the intro of ‘Magical Manuscript’), but it’s only for brief moments that it is the more illuminating factor for the Scriptor Hiberniae’s overgrowth and dark, dusty libraries of ‘Scriptorium’. Relying heavily on bass tones, the sound has a dark and foreboding atmosphere, which is befitting of the traditional dungeon synth sound. What really sets SH apart, is the attempt at storytelling through the minimal means of the genres instrumentarium.

At times the record embraces dark and gloomy sounds, almost pounding heavily when the somber and dark parts of the story come by. On ‘Kept Records of Activity in this Area’, the lighter tones take on a more frantic pace. Effects enrich the sounds to create an atmosphere of upheaval and nervousness. The record ends with the grim ‘Infernal Burning’. Finality to the story is given with the crackling sound of fire when the scriptor ends up on the pire.

Dungeon Sounds: Fief – III

Label: Independent
Band: Fief
Origin: United States

Fief seems to generally have been hailed as the new king (or kings) of dungeon synth. Maybe that’s a stretch to state, but the releases of this unknown outfit are much adored in the genre. Now Fief returns with their third offering of folky music and it seems to have even gotten better on ‘III’.

The artist from Salt Lake City in Utah makes what I consider the best bit of dungeon synth, due to its particular foresty sound. There’s a lightness to Fief, a peaceful joy, and gentle vibe. It’s the thing we often lose when we stop reading books and playing video games that beckon.

On this record, a new layer appears in the music of Fief. The sound becomes richer, fuller and all without ever losing the tranquility of early digital worlds. Remember those video games, where you could walk around rather peacefully? Or build your own settlement without the pressure of time and resources? I always enjoyed the calm and peace of those and I find them in this music.

Listening to the music brings you to that state of reverie. Of simply allowing the tones to wash over you, calm you down. There are two layers of music, dancing around each other in a swift-paced dance that fits best in a tavern or an inn for your RPG game. It’s never overly present, but also interesting enough to capture your ear. It’s just so darn pleasant.

Underground Sounds: Varkâna – Rite

Label: Independent
Band: Varkâna
Origin: Iran

Dungeon synth is a peculiar genre and is being made in strange places. One of the acts I came across recently is Varkâna. The inspiration for their sound comes from Iranian paganism and history, which obviously offers a wealth of inspiration for any artist seeking topics to work with. Varkâna is the old Persian word for a region south-east of the Caspian sea, now known as Hyrcania. A region now partly in Iran and partly in Turkmenistan, which was incorporated in various historical empires.
So, because I was really curious I got in touch with the artist behind the project and I’ll share the reply the way I received it: “It’s based on Iranian mythology and nature. I composed all the tracks when I was away from the city and deep into the vast lands and forests of northwestern Iran, the name varkana means land of wolves which is a part of Iran it’s called Gorgan now which means the same.”
The music of Varkâna summons images of the tranquil beauty that this verdant realm in Iran is. It’s vast forests and radiant green colors. Of course, a few pictures that I could browse don’t cover the full extent of the region, but it links you to the visions that inspired the artist. Mellow drones and calm, thudding drums bring on a trance-like feel. Intricate melodies weave through this flow of sound. There’s an aspect of dungeon synth present in that the music seems to be produced with the traditional software. The music is slightly different though. If only simply in the atmosphere that the sounds and patterns evoke.
On ‘Gathering’ I feel I can actually hear the oriental vibe. It’s the way the heavy reverb of the drum is followed by the cascading music, the little tang right after and the way it fills you with a sense of foreboding.  It’s where you really realize that this is a different place when you stumble upon ancient ruins and imagine the sounds of those past places, obscured in the mists and fog of history.  Mellow folk influences dance through the tunes, which really work the imagination.
There’s a serenity in the music of Varkâna, a peaceful spaciousness. Dream away with forgotten histories and far of lands with this piece of remarkable ambient music.

Underground Sounds: Bròn – Зарђала Круна/White City, Black Circle/Ruins/Where The Leaden Dawn Meets Iron Shores

Label: Kunsthauch/Independent
Band: Bròn
Origin: New Zealand

The project Bròn originally released an album with a very natural vibe to it. It had the eerie magic of the night sky over the mountains as depicted on the cover of ‘Ànrach’ and I absolutely loved it. I wrote a little about previous release ‘Fògradh’ too.  Bròn is the project of Krigeist, or Andrew Campbell, from New Zealand. Campbell relocated to Scotland and there’s a definite connection between that move and the sound of Bròn it seems. He also plays in the amazing Barshasketh and Belliciste.

I missed the fact that Bròn had become a prolific outlet for the musician in the past year, so high time to catch up with the astonishing 4 releases of last year. I was reminded of this, because of the live show I saw in Little Devil recently. All exploring new aspects of nature and different sounds that express that passion and beauty found there. So this is 4 reviews of one artist. Never do words like this do justice to the full force of these albums, but I feel that I need to cover all for completion.

Bròn – Зарђала Круна

January 2017 saw the release of this record, which sticks close to the familiar Bròn sound with a lot of soaring guitars and tremolo riffs. The inspiration comes from the devil in nature, that is the only info given. The choice for a Cyrillic font does say more than that though. A later notification on Facebook said that it was inspired by the Serbian wilderness and the darkness within. There’s a definite darkness to the Balkan forests that is caught in the looming, dark sound of this new EP. The untarnished sky above it at night, the shades of the trees.

The record is a multi-part atmospheric black metal piece, with a definite Burzum doom and gloom vibe to it and the grandeur of an Elderwind.  The crisp clear production sometimes borders on overly polished but keeps on the right side of the track in all its overwhelming force. At other times it has the gentle trickling of an empty forest, where all you hear is the gentle sounds of the natural world around you. Pure magic and all of that in one long piece of over 32 minutes. Unfortunately, it’ll be the last black metal release, thus wrote Krigeist. His newer soundtracks take on different shapes.

Bròn – White City, Black Circle

Living in an urban environment requires a different soundtrack, wrote Krigeist on Facebook. He explained the sound of ‘Зарђала Круна’ while introducing this new release. The organic sound of the previous releases is vastly more fitting for the verdant realm indeed. The album signifies a radical turn in sound for Bròn. With a groove that is more triphop we enter the realm of tarmac and concrete, with lamp posts illuminating the grey jungle around you. Meandering between the aforementioned, synthwave and maybe a little dungeon synth, the sound is peculiar but fitting.

The titles are in Croation, referring to central themes revolving around that of Bròn (sorrow). It offers songs of those dark, nameless places we dwell in. Whether that’s a city in Croatia, Norway, Scotland or I wager even in New Zealand, there’s a sort of nameless grief there. The mixture of beats and ambient drones conveys that feeling very well. I particularly enjoy the mixture of that with the synths, which is always the sound of the urban environment. Towards the end of the record, the music is lighter, warmer as if the sun has broken through the smoggy haze. We leave the city here to the free part of the world.

Bròn – Ruins

On Ruins we find the same instrumentation, but a more Ulver or even folkish vibe at times with spun out tones and long passages of melancholic music. The music is calm and soothing and does, like the title tells you, remind of the tranquility you find in between forgotten ruins. That is also what the song titles refer to, to various locations of ancient ruins in corners of Europe, places that make you think and imagine. The vocals are gentle as well, almost chanting in a meditative way. The record even includes a folk cover ‘Twa Corbies’ from Scottish lore.

The sound has a clarity to it, everything is wavering and calm like an easy breeze. It’s almost like listening to an acoustic performance with various musicians, all delivering the minimal bits of sounds that make out the complete tapestry.For me, this might be the most beautiful album that Bròn has created this far. The music is so intricate, without ever sounding difficult or overly contrived. It’s a natural expression of the feeling in easy flowing, but still heavy music. After this record, Krigeist announced a hiatus for Bròn. That was definitely not meant to last after this june 2017 release.

Bròn – Where The Leaden Dawn Meets Iron Shores

A trip back to New Zealand was the impulse that Bròn needed. Krigeist was revitalized and inspired to make music again under that banner and three tracks expressing the untapped dark energies that dwell in New Zealand’s wild places. There is definite darkness on this album, which almost faded on ‘Ruins’. A long murmured intro with foreboding synths leads us into this new record. Eerie synths slither out of the speakers, while a creepy, scifi tune is played on the keys in the most bombastic tones.

But then there’s also the guitars and the screams. It would appear that Bròn comes full circle here and finds a sound that truly embraces the atmospheric output that Krigeist is looking for. The melancholy of the synths, combined with the harsh, ruggedness of the guitars. The ragged fury of the vocals, like that furious sea wind biting at you, while ver in motion on the waters. Three tracks tell the story that is both beautiful and grim at the same time. I guess it makes sense what Kant once said on the sublime in art, which really goes for nature. It’s overwhelming force can overwhelm us with awe and wonder in a sense. This is well conveyed in this piece of music by Bròn, which I really enjoy.

Let’s see what the future holds for this explorer in both the geographic and artistic realms.

Underground Sounds: ElixiR – Les Tours du Temps

Label: Murder on Ponce (though this appears self-released)
Band: ElixiR
Origin: France

I’m not certain about the release date of this album. It’s good though, so check it out. 

To the forests and hills with ElixiR

Dungeon Synth becomes really special if you listen to some true story tellers like ElixiR. ‘Les Tours du Temps’ is a re-recording of the music on the earlier ‘Moonlight on Black Castle’ and ‘The Mage of the Bright Forest’ EPs. It’s really slow, melancholic dungeon synth but with a natural feel to the sound compared to the original releases.

ElixiR formed in 2015 in the French Dordogne Valley. Thomas Elixir creates the music and is the one behind the project. He holds a fascination by medieval legends and fantasy universes. He takes a lot of inspiration from the ancient ruins and landscape of Aquitaine. The cover already tells you as much. Other inspirations are acts like Burzum and Erang for the French musician.

The music of ElixiR is clearly meant to be enjoyed at peace since it passes with barely any strain or force. It just trickles by in the way you let the pages of a good fantasy book flow by, entranced by what you’re experiencing. The sounds are gentle and paint images of simple, clean lands. Of nature and all its detailed splendor. The motto of ElixiR is not without reason ‘Nothing is Sacred, Only Nature’ (the next release ElixiR is planning).

Thomas paints in different colours and lets the tones really fade out to create a full, warm sound. A tune like ‘La Lisière’ is a good demonstration of that art, of the flowing notes that come close to a pan flute. It often has a bit of that Peruvian flute feeling, the tranquility and calm of a world free of human beings. Even more so on ‘A Quiet House in the Wood’ it seems that this is a very personal Walden. Though the music sounds as in minor tones, sadness doesn’t describe the sound. When the notes hit a feeling of peace wafts over you.  This is a very enjoyable dungeon synth release and though I still find it hard to describe this sort of music, it is much like reading long, descriptive pieces of fantastic lands and the beautiful landscapes you’ve never seen. ElixiR gives a glow to the story telling.

A reminder that there’s still magic in the world.


Underground Sounds: Menelglîr – Menelglîr

Label: Independent
Band: Menelglîr
Origin: France

I’m not sure how I picked up this record, perhaps through a dungeon synth group on Facebook. Menelglîr is a band from France… or like with most dungeon synth groups, it’s a one-man endeavor by Alderaan (the force is strong in this one) from the band Nazrak. This artist plays keys and sings in the black metal formation.

The act hails from the French Savoie. That’s about as much as I can tell you at this point. Nazrak seems to hold folklore close to their black metal, which is probably an element you can experience in this music as well by their keyboard player. It definitely has an otherworldly feeling to it when you hear it.

The sound of Menelglîr is big. Flowing, regal synth sounds make it feel like you approach amazing castles. Your eyes filled with awe, you look upon a world of grandeur and magic. The electronic chants remind me a little of the old Final Fantasy soundtracks as well. The simple way in which the sound of epic proportions is created is what makes this artist so attractive to me.

The music progresses slowly, gradually building up and then with big lumps comes at you. When the big, droning sounds pass, you get the gentle, trickling keys that ever so gently whisper of fantastic realms and magnificent nature. I particularly like how the sound is quite minimal on this record. There are not that many different layers to the music, it offers a very direct and effective delivery of sounds, which makes it so easily accessible. The downside of this record is that it’s really not very long. So I’m keen to hear the full thing.

Underground Sounds: Emyn Muil – Elenion Ancalima

Label: Northern Silence Productions
Band: Emyn Muil
Origin: Italy

Dreaming of Tolkien

Some people take their Tokien fandom to extreme lengths. Emyn Muil from Cassano delle Murge is one of those bands.  The band is an epic black metal project of Saverio Giove (Valtyr, Ymir). As you probably guessed, the sound is very close to the masters of this sort of music Summoning. This is the second full length by the Italian artist and it is a grandiose spectacle indeed.

It took four years after ‘Túrin Turambar Dagnir Glaurunga’ for ‘Elenion Ancalima’ to manifest itself. The album theme is accordingly a particular section of the Silmarillion book, titled Akallabeth. Sometimes the story is published in Lord of the Rings books. The story tells of the lost land of Númenor, a Tolkienesque version of the Atlantis myth.

The lyrics seem to come straight from that piece of literature and the music really is Summoning worship at its best. Finding a spot somewhere between black metal and dungeon synth, Emyn Muil is a dreamy, intoxicating experience that easily entices its listeners to travel to strange lands. The right mixture of eerie synths (including pipes and flutes), bombastic drums and proclaiming spoken word, immediately takes you in on ‘Under A Silvered Star’. The black metal part is really restricted to a few passages, like on ‘The Lay of Númenorë’. In fact, the synths really take the upper hand in this 14-minute epic and the guitars only serve to give a bit of menacing tang to the song. Therefore it’s actually quite easy listening.

The record is more a strange soundtrack with storytelling. Listening to ‘Ar-Pharazôn’, it feels like you’re watching a grandiose spectacle in your mind. An element of remorse seeps into the sound, it’s the grandeur of ruin that is described in this song. The hubris of Icarus, of a King that wanted too much. This is the absolute magic that Emyn Muil evokes with this music, without ever overdoing it. Emyn Muil either moves you, or it bores you I suppose. You probably feel equally passionate about Dungeon synth in that case or similarly disinterested. In all honesty, I think that Emyn Muil is a beautiful project, particularly for the fans of fantasy and film. Providing that you are one of those, this is the record for you.

Underground Sounds: Fief – II

Label: –
Band: Fief
Origin: United States

Dungeon synth is a genre with a spectacular variety, but sometimes you find true gems that stand apart even it this genre. Fief dropped two records in 2016, which both are completely out of this world. For lovers of fantasy and dreamy realms, this is the right soundtrack.

Whether you’re a dungeon crawling role player or an obsessive high fantasy reader or even an oldschool gamer, this should fit right in there. The simple, synthy sounds are playful, merry and have the natural feeling of a soundtrack. Oh, a bit of history. A fief used to be the word for the reward vassals would reap from serving their lord. It could com ein the shape of land or peasants. The fiefdom would be the vassals realm.

So that explains why this sounds so much like medieval music. You picture yourself on a sunny day in the village or the forest, with bright, twinkly sounds. A harpsichord is ever present in there and it just feels so close to a folky ensemble playing a jam, that it becomes so tangible. The charm is that it is still different, not natural, which is the feeling I get in my D&D games. There’s a construction taking place, of cold, ancient walls, overgrown ruins and peaceful cottages.

For Fief the playground is not the dungeon and the looming threat, it’s the blissful spring in the village. The sound is well composed and balanced, not just a guy jamming on a keyboard. It seems that the force behind Fief knows his music and manages to create tunes that keep you listening, while holding to the continuity of soundtracks (for example, I tink of the old Lord of the Rings RPG on the SNES or the Zelda games).

Fief makes colorful, lively music that I completely adore. Check it out for yourself! (also listen to I) it’s pretty too. For Fief there are no dungeon walls, just the sunny forest.