Friday, November 12, 2021

Alchem - Morninglight - The Beginning


Hope you all have had a good year. Coming close to another year between posts. I really have no good explanation! Life is very busy and full these days, and rarely do I get to sit down and do nothing but listen to a tape; however, this night I've been able to do just that and take the time to cut ripped tracks and write up this post. So here you are.

Alchem's Morninglight - The Beginning always piqued my interest after finding its lone discogs page. The j-card, titling, lack of info, and its whole presence exuded 'dungeon synth', a foresty lost relic that seemed to be just the kind of thing I would love. I was hinted towards this artist from the single mention on (the classic) Asmodian Coven blog, on the side-panel requesting help with lost rips. Years later, a good friend of mine acquired this in a private overseas sale and was generous enough to send me a rip of its audio, including scans of the j-card. Finally, this obscurity has come into the (morning)light.

Morninglight - The Beginning is seemingly the only release from Poland's Alchem, released in 1998 through The Gathering of Funeral Gods Productions. For those privy to cult status 90s black metal tapes, you may know this label as home to the original issue of the first LSSAH demo. From what I can gather, I'm betting this was either a vanity label for one artist behind the only 3 projects present on the roster, or it's a small group of friends from the same area in Poland.

The tones present here are very foresty, airy, druidic, and overall rather pleasant. The melodies are fairly simple but nonetheless catchy and welcoming. 7 tracks make up the entirety of the release with each title matching the general feel of each track. The tape opens up with bird sounds and some minimal keyboard tones leading directly into the first proper track, 'Last Warrior'. Long droning chords often back up a track while other orchestral presets create melodies that build and layer on each other. The artist uses repetition quite well, almost in the way that dance artists construct their mixes. Track 3, 'Journey Through the Misty Lands' might be favorite on the tape, a breezier and slightly more somber song that invokes a foggy image of wandering through the heavy misted fields of a world unknown. Two tracks on the tape titled 'Kold's Way' reference 'stages' of sorts, which I'm guessing is supposed to be an imagined video game soundtrack. There is something a little more engaging about these two tracks that I could see working in a dungeon crawler. Morninglight is a generally pleasing tape that I'll be returning to every so often. While not groundbreaking by any means, it's well made, evokes nice imagery, and doesn't bore in its repetition. Check this out if you enjoy Cernunnos Woods or Era of Ice, similar synth tones and feelings.

You'll notice in the download that I've left a few different versions of tracks. The j-card references these tracks really as two distinct pieces divided by sides of the tape, with movements within. The tracks were easy enough to split save for the very first two which flowed together seamlessly. I've included versions of the entire sides as well as the split up tracks, so take your pick (I prefer split tracks just for the sake of keeping the titling accurate to the smaller movements). I haven't removed any of the hiss between the split tracks, so they'll still match up as they play and you won't notice a shift when listening to the full thing in a playlist, save for the shift to side B of course. Lastly, side A was mixed or recorded a little bit hotter than side B, so I've included versions of the B-side tracks with a bit of a boost to match the levels of side A. The hiss between tracks is still not as pronounced, but they do match a bit more in presence. Note that the download is a little larger due to all of these inclusions.

See you... some time


Monday, December 21, 2020

Caduceus - Viduramžiai


Hello, readers. Has been another long lapse, my apologies again. Free time is quite hard to come by for me in such a weird year. Figured since the holidays are coming up and since the solstice has arrived, I'd share in the spirit of giving by providing a new upload for everyone. Still much more to post, but being that this release is among the most legendary and elusive recordings in maybe the whole genre of dungeon synth, it's about time it got put it out there.

If anyone was unaware, the last Caduceus tape Middle Ages was revealed to be little more than a collection of tracker songs from the 90s that were stolen and released as Caduceus' own music. Went a very long time before anyone noticed, but thanks to some keen ears among the tracker-users in the DS genre today, all has been revealed. You can read more about this here.

Viduramžiai is the infamously impossible to find second 'release' from Caduceus released in 1998, apparently only circulated among his own circle of peers in Lithunia back in the day, with many being quite withholding of information about this. But now here it is, a 40 minute neoclassical dungeon synth monster of cinematic composition and dusty dungeon romanticism. This rip was provided to the blog by a well trusted confidant (who will remain nameless unless they wish to be named) with a great deal of insider info. Some very slight editing has been made to side A to improve audio quality, but this diminishes nothing from the base sound. Alas, Viduramžiai is another case of tracker .mod file theft. While posed as two compositions comprised of smaller movements, the tracks within are also stolen from tracker music artists without their knowledge. So far among the Excavators, we've identified one track within this tape as being 'Kingdom Skies' by the artist Jase. This track appears at the 15 minute mark on side A. Being that Middle Ages was entirely stolen and that we've already ID'd one stolen track here, it's safe to assume that the rest are also stolen. Very unfortunate that these original artists never got the proper credit for their music which is now lauded as some of the best 'old school DS' in the genre, but it's good that we can now begin to appreciate the contributions of artists that we would otherwise be unaware of. If you're able to identify any other songs within this tape, please email me.

Now, scandals aside, this is another monumental release of extremely well composed fantasy music that would fit squarely into the cheese of 80s and 90s sword & sorcery films (if only!) Sweeping orchestration, complex percussion, emotional crescendos, atmospheric dark synthesizers, it's all here. In fact, this might be outside of the taste of many DS minimalists who prefer the somber straightforward stylings of many modern bedroom projects, but for many hi-fi fans or OST listeners, you'll certainly love this. If you want an even higher fidelity taste of similar music, browse through the medieval and classical tags on sites such as Mod Archive wherein many of the true Middle Ages originals are available, including 'Kingdom Skies' from this tape.

So, take it as it is. Enjoy the music that is here and keep in mind the true artists behind these compositions. I guess we could say thanks in a sense for the timeline where this whole ordeal has led us to discovering or rediscovering the demo scene tracker music history of the 90s. It's terribly unfortunate that this music comes to us through the unveiling of theft. Even in the modern day we've seen similar scenarios in the genre where various tracks or even whole albums are stolen and labeled as another artist's music. Just goes to show you, nothing stays hidden for too long.


Monday, May 18, 2020

Sole Occidente - Ye Last Journey of Mine

Hello again, readers and followers. It's been some months since the last post, but hopefully people are still checking in from time to time. Still have quite a backlog to get through, so the blog won't die off anytime soon. I have lots of priorities these days, but I wanted to squeeze in another post since everyone's stuck at home lately. Some new (old) dungeon synth can hopefully ease the mind. Hope you're all well.

Instead of the usual tape rip, here we have a CDR of the only album from Ukranian artist Sole Occidente. This was released in 2003 on OMS Records, who put out some other underrated DS albums back in the early 00s like some of the Old Monk's Saga material and the much overlooked Silentium/AR split. Sole Occidente is work of Duke Amduscias, Incubus (comma included) who also fronted the black metal project Ignis Nocturnum which produced a single tape release 5 years before this SO album. This upload was made possible by a longtime patron of the blog whose knowledge and resources are always bountiful. Thank you, again.

The overall sound of this album is reminiscent of the very early Bandcamp era of dungeon synth, with digitized instruments creating thoughtful and ambitious compositions coming from a very grand personal fantasy world. I know I've heard these particular instruments before, but I can't quite put my finger on where. It's a very string heavy album which at times reminds me of Darkstroll, a classic from this early BC era (I highly recommend the compilation Sounds of the Taiga on Dungeon Lore Foundation, one of my favorites). The moods on this album recreate a varied and long adventure for the listener, with some tracks like the opener giving a very verdant and bright mental image while others like "Ye Crying of Lilith" painting a much darker and dreary sort of gothic atmosphere. As I said before, the strings here are always at the forefront in various forms: harps, violins, piano, cello, even harpsichord in a few places. While each track may intend a different image mood, the compositions are always driving forward with lots going on. You don't get much of a break here as the pace stays fairly consistent throughout, only slowing down at times when focusing in on creating a darker atmosphere. With 13 tracks in total, things do tend to blend together a bit in places since you're mostly getting the same instruments in each track with a similar pace. Two tracks that really stand out to me are "Ye Crying of Lilith", which has a strong gothic tone and serves as something of a dark respite during the surrounding upbeat and adventurous tracks, and the track "Ye Circle of Ye Fate". Ye Circle features a kind of Asian sounding flute tone, which is a new and welcome element, and there's something about the composition that reminds of Steve Reich. I'm not versed in music theory so I can't explain this very well, but there's just something about the key that this is written in or the range of notes being reached that gives me a modernist vibe. Great track.

Overall, there's lots here to catch your attention. You can hone in on one instrument at a time and follow an interesting melody or take it all in its in digital grandeur. That said, something about the similar pacing per track and the repeated instrument patch usage makes things blend together at times, but the tracks that do mix it up really stand out. I can definitely see this being a great background RPG album.

And here ye have ye download for ye listening pleasure:

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Aldaron - Forest Path

I was very lucky to come upon a copy of this recently on Discogs for an overly reasonable price (thank you, friend!) This tape sits both on the periphery of dungeon synth and deep into its core chambers where the isolated bedroom naivety of the genre materializes. Forest Path by the Greek artist Aldaron is the first of two short demos the artist released in the early to mid '00s. I believe this one was self-released while the other demo, When Dawn Rise Again, which I'm still hunting down, was given a release from what I'm assuming is the artist's own label considering its the only release on the roster. Essentially self-released either way. Forest Path from 2004 is a short demo though it is nothing short of intriguing. What we have here are four tracks of sparse Roland Soundcanvas MIDI instruments, totaling about 11 minutes of playtime. The on-point timing here makes me believe that these were written in a tablature program, perhaps Powertab considering the date and since there is no drum-kit being used. The j-card credits the artist for guitar and synth, but I don't think anyone's being fooled into believing the guitar here is real. Not saying I don't love the old MIDI sound, though.

What is striking about is this tape is that the tracks somehow avoid having a recognizable or familiar atmosphere. Perhaps it's the overly accurate timing due to the program being used to compose the songs, but there's something just unfamiliar and vaguely alien about this whole thing. Even the title track, which is the most conventional of the four and is actually rather 'pleasant', still has an anomalous sense of confusion. I am indeed transported by the music, but not to where I am often taken. Whereas other DS releases may take you to fantasy realms of wonder, or medieval scenes of old, the forest path we are set upon here is from another world formed by unknown magics, a scene constructed to look like our own surroundings. The soil, the trees, the smell of wood, the branches snapping underfoot, are all conjured by an inhuman wizard attempting to recreate the human world. Occasionally the artist jumps to an off key note, yet it remains true to its intention. The instruments mesh at times and clash at others, experimenting with each other to give us the forested images we wish to see, but their form is warped, even uncanny. Volume fades and swells and you become disoriented. For some reason, you cannot stop wandering down this unnatural path. There is an end, but it remains perpetually out of reach. At that end sits the inhuman wizard, bent over his alien tomes, casting unearthly spells to construct the world in which you wander, a world he wished was natural. A verdant vision from the nonexistent childhood of the most innocent of demiurges.

I would say that Forest Path sits well within the realm of Hekaloth material (Xynfonica, Gluttony, etc.), though on the folkier and less dissonant side. The demo is intriguing enough to warrant at least one listen, but this isn't going to be for everyone. However, I know there are some of you who will listen to this over and over. I'm on my fifth listen this morning.


Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Arcana Liturgia - The Reign of the Mighty King

And at last, the final tape of the three original Arcana Liturgia releases: The Return of the Mighty King. Back a little early since I wanted make up for such a lapse. I've had this on the shelf for quite some time. Originally, this was the release I had planned to post after the last Alviss post in 2017, but equipment issues at the time kept me from getting a decent rip of the audio. After far too long, I'm happy to be posting the most epic of the three class AL tapes. In the meantime, Arcana Liturgia has actually come back to making music, and the new stuff is great, picking right up where he left off many years ago. His first album in 20 years, Tales of an Ancient World is on Bandcamp with a tape on High Cathedral Records (though I believe this is long sold out). AL's previous demos also got a recent re-release in one tape on Gondolin Records. Different mix than the rips here, definitely check them out.

King comes as a natural progression from MCCXXXI and Ars Moriendi, creating an epic tale of an usurped king on a journey to reclaim the throne from his deceitful brother. Lots of instruments and atmospheres featured on this album with some familiar sounds from the prior two tapes but really put to the test of building a grand story. What this album does best is allow the music act as narrative. While each track serves as a scene in the king's journey, the music really speaks for itself in guiding the listener through this tale. Occasionally, narrative/spoken vocals are used to add to the story-telling purpose of this album, but they are sparse enough where they only add flavor and override the music. My favorite moments in the album are the combination of the tracks "The Return of the Mighty King", "The Death of Edris", and "Honour and Glory". The final battle between brothers occurs. The bulk of the self-titled track has this kind of tense yet understated repeated passage with piano, choir leads, and drums that represents the action between brothers. This isn't your typical boss battle music, but something more uncertain and understated. The track transitions into some somber piano moments where its as if the king is accepting the the troubling task of killing his brother. The queen soon comes in congratulate the king on his victory. The following track paints the scene of Edris' funeral, melancholic yet hopeful in tone. The sadness doesn't stick around for long before the victorious tavern fanfare of Honour and Glory begins in celebration the king's victory and the freeing of the land of Alghor.

I recommend reading to the j-card story to get some background of what's going on before listening. We even get a map of the king's travels to follow, another fine touch to the lore of the story. A great tale to conclude the history Arcana Liturgia, with future chapters now unfolding.

Thursday, September 5, 2019

Compendium - Ensemble MCMLXCV

Greetings, again. After over a year of inactivity, I've come back with quite the stash of obscure music to share once again. My ripping equipment is in working condition again, so I've been able to get quite a lot digitalized. Still a handful of tapes to go, but everything I have is currently uploaded and is awaiting a write-up, so I don't have a whole lot of excuse for delay now. Many people have emailed pointing out that a good portion of old download links are dead. I've moved everything to google drive which should stay up for a long time. I've also swapped out the Ashmadai rip with the cut-off final track to a new rip from a friend of mine. I played with the mix a bit so it's not so panned to the right and a bit louder. It was still a low mix tape to begin with, but hopefully this makes it a little brighter. Anyway, please enjoy any old stuff you've missed out on due to inactive links. I think the majority of my rips have been uploaded to youtube, as well. I'm sure posts ahead will make their way over eventually. Glad to be back!

I wanted to bring this tape up first thing coming off of my hiatus since it may be my favorite tape so far on this blog. Compendium's Ensemble MCMLXCV comes from the legendary Dark Age Productions, released in 1995 during the label's heyday. Ensemble MCMLXCV is lovely EP/mini-album of six tracks making a total of around 20 minutes. I should note that this tape isn't entirely dungeon synth proper. There's a strong element of gothic/neoclassical piano for the bulk of the tape but keyboards, acoustic guitar, cello, and other instruments are woven in to create a very lush and dark romantic atmosphere. I'm a pretty big fan of this kind of atmosphere relating to neoclassical darkwave, so fans of the genre will surely love this. The music is largely instrumental, though the first and last track feature very beautiful female vocal harmonies. If you're not into the whole gothic piano piano thing as much, old-school dungeon synth fans will get their cheesy synth thirst slaked with the synth panflute on the track "The Falls of Caledonia" and the baroque synth harpsichord on "The Dark Enlightened". It's hard for me to pick a favorite out of these, but I'm partial to the first track "Dancing in the Mist". In some ways reminds me of the piano solo tracks of Theatre of Tragedy. A very beautiful tape that's worth the time of anyone into darker piano music or dungeon synth.

Thursday, August 9, 2018

Cernunnos Woods - Immrama

Well, it's certainly been a while, but I'm finally back to posting. I currently have about thirteen more releases to post, but I'm always searching for more. What I was previously using to rip tapes is giving me a good amount of feedback now and I can't seem to get it sounding right even with head cleaning, so I'm stuck with posting reader submissions or CD rips in the meantime. I'll try to get something working soon since I do have a backlog of tapes to rip. I also haven't checked this email account in quite some time and I've been alerted that a few of the upload links are dead. I'll be re-uploading whatever has died, so try downloading them again tonight or tomorrow. I also have a better rip of the Ashmadai tape I'll be uploading soon. The last track was cut off on my copy, so those files that have been spreading around aren't complete (though it's just the end of the track that's missing, it's mostly all there).

For my return, I'm posting a promo tape rip from one of my favorite dungeon synth artists, Cernunnos Woods. Big thanks to the guy who ripped this for me. Immrama was a promo tape featuring three tracks that were to be seen on the Awaken the Empire of Dark Wood full length released on CMI sub-label Cruel Moon International in 1996. These versions here should be considered demos, later being reworked a bit and properly mastered for the album.The first track here, "Enchantment to the Empire of Stone" would come to be named "Dark and Ancient Visions". It's the same length as the album track, though this one trails off with some ocean sounds, so a little less DS, a little more waves. The second track, "Loch Dirge", didn't make it onto the full length, but it's a great one, melancholic and triumphant. The third track, "Into Glory... We Ride", wasn't really changed in any noticeable way for the full-length, save for better mastering. While these promo tracks are technically featured on the Forest Anthology compilation that was released in 2016, the tracks on that release that were labeled as being from this tape aren't actually the same, save for the last track. The Immrama track on the FA comp is closer to the album version and features the same name. The second track labeled as "Cad Goddeu (The Battle of the Tress" on FA is actually not "Loch Dirge" at all, it's a rougher mix of the actual album track "Cad Goddeu". "Into Glory... We Ride" however remains the same across all three releases. If the tracks on the compilation were the same as the tracks on this tape, I wouldn't really have a reason to upload this, but luckily we get some nice demos here and the unheard "Loch Dirge" track. If anything, even if the tracks were the same, this was worth uploading for the cover art alone, made by Bard on one his high school's computers. Some classic DS clip art. A fun little promo from a great artist.

Definitely check out the Forest Anthology compilation and everything else on Bard's legendary Dark Age Productions label, one of the classics from the 90s now active again and releasing more classic dungeon music.

Cernunnos Woods
Dark Age Productions