12 Jan 2018

Triple Dungeon Synth Feature: Thangorodrim, Deorc Weg, Old Tower

Thangorodrim - Akallabêth (Metalstrom Records)
Thangorodrim's Akallabêth EP is an exceptionally early entry in the scape of the dungeon synth genre in 2018. If it represents the quality of things to come, we're in for a ride. Over just two tracks the artist manages to invoke the same compelling feeling of a vast, largely unexplored realm mostly hinted through myth and wayward rumours that Tolkien did with Middle-Earth.

Akallabêth's two compositions feel heavily sequenced at first, entailing a bit of digitalism as opposed to the organics of utilising synths played by hand. Both Númenor and The Felling of Nimloth, however, play like misty clouds around a frost clad mountain top, every layer interweaving in the mix. It's a majestic piece, no doubt, soaring even to epicness at times. The fluted melodies and bowed string tributaries feel, at times, sort of token in their basic nature, but even so Thangorodrim's compositions by and large stand out among peers.

To a point it is more enthralling than most, but through the wide strokes that Thangorodrim has used to paint this vibrant portrait of magic fantasy, the colours end up washing out to a point where this otherwise highly engaging piece becomes one with the atmosphere. Like a picture on the wall, you become almost used to it. Not in a way where you love it any less, but in a way where you have to remind yourself to stop what you're doing to fully appreciate it. Some would argue that this is the point of dungeon synth, bearing in mind its ambient origins. But several artists manage to take it one step further, taking it out of its cloud-form and giving it substance and mass.


Deorc Weg - The Dejected Howls of the Spectre (Independent)
There's already a pretty fine line between the dungeon synth and dark ambient micro-genres, and few portray this fact better than Deorc Weg from the UK. Subtle and simplistic melodies sweep across cryptic, dirge-like strings, accompanied by sparse and hollow drum beats, lending to The Dejected Howls of the Spectre an atmosphere that teeters on the brink of ominous and deceptive simplicity.

Like an unknowable primeval force, the hand-crafted menace of Deorc Weg invites you into the dungeon for more. The melodies presented on Dejected... would be further away from traditional dungeon synth territory if not for the occasional plucking overlays which invariably harks back to the stables of the style. Because of the very sparse soundscape, Deorc Weg does tend to steer toward the "wallpaper music" term, but if you have the attention span for it, The Dejected Howls of the Spectre is more than just random noise.


Old Tower - The Rise of the Specter (Independent)
At the time of writing this album is already about a year old - A great time to revisit this modern gem. Old Tower has taken the dungeon synth world by storm, with the artist even landing a spot at the revered Roadburn Festival. The Dutch artist relies heavily on the teachings of the originators of the genre, and through that deceptively simple soundscape he conveys an impressive array of emotions.

Progression is a drawn out, slow-moving affair across the two tracks on The Rise of the Specter. As with many similar artists, Old Tower veers close to the dark ambient genre, but the computerized bowed strings has a pull of dungeon synth invariably woven into its fabric. In this sparsely populated synthscape the use of simple, drawn out melodies and ethereal choirs recalls gregorian chants and the spiritism of ecclessiarchal hymns; An essential contribution to its medieval sound.



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