Monday, April 13, 2015

Skarpseian - Tan Gil

The order of a quiet medieval kingdom continues, the motions and energy synchronous with nature, the death and decay in balance with the life and energy, side-by-side.  Castles rise, already ancient, and stand as a beacons power for centuries, until becoming ruinous haunted tombs, stone corpses on the horizon.  In the heart of this realm lies a single ruler, cloistered in the top of a forgotten tower, the beating heart of majesty.  Through the mystical vision of this god the world and its inhabitants come to life, subjects to the will of this power, whatever that will might be.

Skarpseian is one of the best dungeon synth artists, and not just of recent times.  He seems to pick up right where Mortiis left off, not simply recreating the wheel, but expanding upon the pure vision.  The themes and general tone here are similar to the previous album, Skygge Slottet, however Tan Gil proves that there was more to explore in this territory. The best comparison to Skarpseian would be Mortiis' first three albums, and in fact the progression of Tan Gil seems to almost follow a similar course, with the beginning being a detached blurry daydream of a desolate dark age scene, hidden in fog.  This path changes a bit with Krysset Fjellene, which is an entrancing ambient, meandering track, a hard thing to do well.  It feels like a breath of smoke gently drifting past the trees and off the cliff into the ocean.  Then the transition from this track into the next one, Tengel, is a very striking force.  The abrupt, violent shift has that perfect feeling of decadent power, a black tyrannical uprising.  

Many of the synth voices here will be familiar: horns, strings, woodwinds, and of course the timpani heartbeat.  However these tones often have some sort of characteristic that distinguishes them, especially in the second half of the album.  There are also a few distinctive synth tones, not directly relating to any real-world instrument, that stand out against the backdrop of grounded medieval imagination, for example the spacey tone that appears in the latter half of Tengel and the surreal warbling tone around the middle of Til Fjellet Grav, very unique atmospheres.

What does the atmosphere of this album specifically refer to?  It's hard to say.  I'm sure the song titles have some relevance, but as to the actual feelings that the music evokes, it's a bit more vague.  Of course diseased castles are prominent, foggy medieval landscapes, forgotten myths and battles, and other classic medieval fantasy themes, however there is also something else.  That something else is what makes dungeon synth worth listening to.  It's that atmosphere of mystery, that unformed image that seems familiar but still forgotten, as if it were somehow an obvious memory, yet can only be reached in the unconsciousness of dreams, completely inaccessible to the waking mind.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Xynfonica - A Feast for Famished Ravens

A demon slave of the mighty Azathoth is forced to view all moments in human civilization, and is then incarnated into mortal flesh to teach man of his own history.  He tries to communicate with the mortals through their own language, but is only able to gibber out an alien madness, a corrupted blasphemy of thought that serves only to poison the minds of any unfortunate enough to hear the message.  Blood leaks from the ears as brains soften, becoming ever more palatable to the unholy banquet of Chaos.  

This album is from Hekaloth Records, somewhat better known for their similar project, Shevalreq.  A Feast for Famished Ravens revolves primarily around historical events of the early Medieval period.  The Hekaloth website has since gone offline, but one can still access some info on this album with the "wayback machine."

Raw synth tones repeat atonal melodies with seemingly no reasonable arrangement.  The bass ceaselessly wanders along playing random dissonance.  A black metal growl is also ever-present, barking out lyrics that have the historical specificity of a textbook.  As one would expect, all these disparate elements manage come together to create a perfect hole, evoking the pleasant feelings of restlessness and nausea in the listener.  The abyss gazes first here.
One needs only listen to the sample track below to recognize that this is the greatest dungeon synth album ever composed, if not the greatest work of musical art.  Mortiis is dead!  Long live Xynfonica!  All other dungeon synth is now irrelevant.  Give your sanity to the feast of Xynfonica or suffer the wrath of the primordial sultan himself.