Saturday, June 16, 2012

Honorable Mentions, Part I

This is a post I've been planning on doing since starting this blog.  In creating the list of dungeon synth bands, there have been very many artists that I've had difficulty in making decisions about.  Several I have put on and taken back off again.  I don't want to be seen as the sole arbiter for this kind of music, however, and so I will explain my reasoning for a number of them, and in the process recommend quite a few artists that dungeon synth fans are likely to enjoy. 
This will not be an exhaustive list like the other one, since to mention all the artists that come close would be far too difficult for this one blogger.  Instead I'll just name off a few that I think are important, and will likely do further such posts down the road.

Asmorod - Dance in the Winter Fog
I've always wished I could put this on the list, since it is a personal favorite of mine, and I feel that it is criminally obscure.  Still, there are other works which have a similar amount of metal, sometimes less, which I've said no on, so I need to be just about it.  But this demo tape is fantastic, lo-fi, grimy, catchy, sloppy, mysterious, and both the black metal and dungeon synth parts are top notch.  I listen to this work all the time and it never seems to get old; I highly recommend it.

Ildjarn - Hardangervidda
Strange and serene, this album is one of the best musical interpretations of nature that I've heard.  At first glance, it might seem that this album could not be more dungeon synth, being a fully-synth work from a previously black metal artist.  Still, to my ears this is not fantasy music, it is nature music, and I mean that about the music itself, not just the themes revealed in the titles.  In that way it has a lot more in common with the "ice-landscape" sort of ambient music that is also closely associated with black metal (as well as general ambient and even new-age stuff).  I do love this album, and recommend it to all dungeon synth listeners, however I think it is just not quite the same.  This is one of the albums that I've put on and taken off the list several times, so if anyone else has an opinion on whether it is dungeon synth, I'd love to hear it in the comments. 

Nearly Everything by Summoning
Obviously the reason Summoning is not on the list is because it's equal parts black metal to the dungeon synth.  I'm assuming I don't need to say much about these guys, since all of you reading are no doubt already long-time fans of these metallic Tolkien symphonies.  If you are reading this blog and don't know about Summoning, what are you doing with your life?  Immediately get their entire discography, apart from Lugburz, unless straight black metal is also your thing. 

Akhenaton - Divine Symphonies
Since starting the blog, this album has been recommended to me several times.  I did not know of it beforehand, however after many listens, I have to say that I do quite love it.  It is a fairly unique mixture of synths and black metal, nearly half of each.  Because of that I can't say it is fully dungeon synth, but I still strongly suggest that everyone with an interest in the genre check it out.  It is very dark, mysterious, and ancient sounding, and the synth moments are masterful, to the point that it might be worth listening to even if you dislike black metal.  If not for being fair to the countless other symphonic black metal works, this would most definitely be on the list.

Godkiller - The Rebirth of the Middle Ages
Sounds almost like a mix of Summoning, Sacramentum, Satyricon, and early Burzum (at least with the vocals).  Some thrilling and energetic symphonic black metal, heavy on the synth, of course, though probably the most black metal thing I'm recommending in this post.  It is not the most original work, by any means, but everything is done well; it gets straight to the point, evoking both the frenetic violence of black metal as well as the epic awe and atmosphere of dungeon synth.

Nest's Entire Discography
Here's another group that has been on and off the list several times, which I really do wish I could call dungeon synth.  It's very close, I think, but just not quite.  It's a Finnish ambient group that is heavy on the harp and synthesizers, evoking moods of a dreamlike, primordial, pre-civilized world, where mankind was thoroughly entrenched within its biological place amongst all the other life-forms of earth.  For that reason, as nostalgic and fanciful as it is, I still think it is slightly more nature ambient.  BUT, Nest is one of my absolute favorite bands, and I believe that all listeners with a strong interest in dungeon synth will love them as well, so I wish all of you will check out their works.  Fabled Lore is probably the closest of their material to the dungeon synth sound, however I would suggest starting with Trail of the Unwary, since it is their most deep and dreamlike work in my opinion.

But these don't even scratch the surface when it comes to music that is close to dungeon synth.  I will be making quite a few more of these posts in the future.


  1. Thanks for the Asmorod recommendation, I'm excited to hear the full album.

    I agree on Hardangervidda. If it wasn't released by someone in the metal scene, no one would even think to call it dungeon synth. It's a brilliant album in it's own right though.

    I'll have to check out Akhenaton and Godkiller soon.

    Have you heard Syven, the (as far as I can tell) continuation of Nest? It has more metallic elements and a stronger focus on vocals (beautiful mascule singing and primal barks and growls). It's even further from anything resembling dungeon synth, but its great on its own merits.

    Related: Have you heard Jääportit's Kauan Koskematon? I think it's right up your alley, although it contains quite a bit of Biosphere-esque arctic ambient alongside the more traditional sounding dungeon synth stylings. Link:

    Their demo, Halki Lumisen Metsän, which no one appears to have put any of onto youtube, however, is pure, cold dungeon synth. Worth seeking out.

  2. I believe I briefly heard some Syven tracks awhile ago, but I don't think they had released any albums at that point, so I forgot about it. But it looks like they got an album out now, so thanks for reminding me.

    And I had heard Jääportit, but my memory of them was of being that sort of washer-machine style of dark ambient, but now hearing that song in the youtube link, its pretty clear that I misjudged Jääportit need to check these works out immediately. Thanks for the suggestion, and thanks for the interest in the blog.

  3. Have you heard of Bokorac? I believe they would fall into the dungeon synth/black metal category.
    This is one of their purely DS tracks
    and this one has DS and BM but is still instrumental
    worth checking out I reckon.
    Anyway awesome blog man, keep up the good work!

  4. I haven't heard of them, but I'm glad you mentioned it. It is certainly heavy on the dungeon synth, so I'll either need to include it in one of these "honorable mentions" posts or maybe even put it on the list and try to ignore the few black metal moments. Thanks a lot for the suggestion.

  5. I thought I mentioned this earlier but apparently not; this is a very good idea for a series of articles as there indeed are so many "fringe" artists or ones that would probably appeal to the dungeon synth listeners even if they fall outside the category.

    I need to take a listen to "Hardangervidda" but from what I recall of it I lean to agreement. I agree to Jääportit recommendations, I need to see if I can dig up the demo Jake mentions.

  6. Druadan Forest are a band which would fit into the Honorable Mentions to, they are a Ambient band from Finland.

    They (or much more he) sings about Tolkin stuff, sounds in parts like Pazuzu, he adds sometimes Black Metal Vocals, sometimes he is very folk-ish and some songs like "Rivendell" are just weired.
    Check it out for yourself.

  7. Sorry about my late reply, but I definitely would say it qualifies, and sounds quite interesting. There's certainly some Summoning and similar influences at play. I'll have to look into this project more thoroughly. Thanks for letting me know about it.

  8. Have you ever heard Shadowcaster? You can download their 2 promo's from 1994 and all 3 CD's there.

  9. I have heard of Shadowcaster actually. In fact, I just recently added the two promo albums to the list, as well as linking them to that blog. Very interesting stuff. Reminds me of the early German synth musicians with the more improvisational elements.

  10. I want to nominate Endvra's "Great God Pan" album for an Honourable Mention. Whilst most of their material is largely Dark/Ritual Ambient, this album has a massive DS element - at least 50% in my opinion. Tracks like "Alpha - Wolf", "Sperm of Metals", "Saturn's Tree" and "Oriflamme" are no-brainers. Even the neoclassical darkwave ballad "Dark Face of Eve" has a borderline DS feel with its clunky harpsichord instrumentation.

    Also, both tracks on the "Great Pan is Dead" 7" are pure DS, so that could definitely be added to Ye List.

  11. Since most of the album is ds, and most of the other tracks are fairly unintrusive, I think it'd be fitting to just put the album on the list. And since there is only one song on the ep which is not on the full-length, it would probably be overkill to add them both.

    Thanks a lot man, your recommendations are consistently great!

  12. Hi Andrew. I'm new to your blog and to the genre in general (or rather, I didn't know it was an active genre until recently. I've been a fan of Wongraven, Mortiis and Burzum's synth albums for many years).

    I just wanted to say - Nest and Ildjarn (synth albums) is some of my favourite music of all time. I would support their inclusion in your list (I know it's not active anymore) for this reason: I believe we're drawn to Dungeon Synth for the atmosphere and mood it creates within us, not for the pedantic specifics of how that atmosphere is created. Woodsmoke by Nest gives me the same feeling as Fjelltronen by Wongraven, pretty much. The instruments may be different but the mood it creates is the same. In fact, all of this, as well as most good (old) BM, is about Romanticism. That's the common factor.

    1. The purpose of the list was to define what the "pure" dungeon synth sound was, which is why I didn't include Summoning even though they're a cornerstone of influence on the genre. The list served its purpose, which is why I let it go. I'm no longer interested in splitting hairs. I'd recommend Nest and Ildjarn to any ds fan.