Wednesday, September 18, 2019
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
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
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
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.
Dark Age Productions
Monday, October 9, 2017
Sincere apologies for a delay in posts. This one will count as the August post. I'll post the one for September soon, and the October one should hopefully be coming soon as well. Also, many have informed me that a number of download links have died. All dead links have been reuploaded with nofile, which seems to be the most reliable service I've found so far.
I've been holding onto to this tape for a while so thought I'd throw in something new before uploading the last Arcana Liturgia tape. Here's the second demo from the German artist Alviss. You might know Alviss from his short first demo 'Fafnir' which Ascoven uploaded last year. Dunkle Wälder is a bit of a bump up in terms of dynamics and variety, but still sticks to a minimalist delivery, leveraging imagery with sparse, repetitive, and hypnotic sound. I think this demo is better than the first, and clearly shows the artists growth. No date here as with the previous demo, but I would peg this either some time in the same year, '96, but more likely '97 since there is a noticeable difference in compositional variety and sound. There's some static crackling a bit in the recording, namely in the first track, but I've checked with multiple tape players and this is part of the recording itself and not the player I used to rip the cassette (perhaps it's the cassette tape itself, but it seems to be in perfect condition).
Dunkle Wälder, like Fafnir, features three tracks, though these three differ much more than the single synth used previously. The first track is a rather odd and delay-laden minimal track that only serves to confuse you. I feel this track is more of your entry into the dark forests (the English translation of the title), the first steps into a path-less expanse of trees and leaves with no sense of direction. Next we come a upon a flowing stream. We lay down and begin dreaming as wind brushes over us. Traum (Dream in English) is much more recognizably DS compared to the first track, with drawn-out synths blanketing nature sounds. You can kind of hear the keys press down on the keyboard at times. Lastly, we come to the heart of the dark forest, to the Tor zur Unendlichkeit, the gate of infinity. Whether this is within us, brought out by the spirit of the forest, or if this gate is physically happened upon through our wandering is unknown, or perhaps we are unable to differentiate between the two; but we are here, led my drum rolls and melancholic yet uplifting ethereal synths into the gate.
Dark Forest Musik
Wednesday, July 26, 2017
Back for the official July post (the previous counting as June's) with the second tape from Arcana Liturgia. Glad to be putting this artist into the canon because he really deserves the attention. Ars Moriendi follows the artist's first tape, MCCXXXI, a year after with a fuller sound and more complete concept. Simple j-card layout with a dedication to the great JRR Tolkien. The artist looks a lot like Neige.
As the insert will describe, Ars Moriendi tells the tale of a great warrior, meant to musically transport us back to a time of chivalry, swords, and all that good stuff. Each track represents a part in the story of the life and death of our subject. Every track fits extremely well with its intention; even without the guided insert, you can glean what is happening based off of atmosphere and composition, which a great feat for an artist to accomplish. In Act I, the soldiers line up on the field, militant and true, putting their life on the line for their cause. Act II depicts the praying warrior before battle, calling for strength and protection. For Act III we have some epic fight music as the war erupts. Pounding drums, driving leads, perfect concept synchronization. An ominous Act IV puts the warrior in the face of death to be taken from the Earth (or Middle Earth?). This track kind of reminds me of music late in a Doom game, kind of somber and hopeless but still tense. The second half of this track breaks from the bombast, softer melodies but still dreadful. Our warrior has perished. Act V serves as the mourning song, a piano elegy. You can picture the tears falling from the cheeks of the warrior's loved ones. Evocative stuff.
Ars Moriendi clocks in at around 25 minutes in total with 5 songs, which may seems short for some listeners, but I feel this tale is very complete. Kept my interest from start to finish and really drew up some imagery. Looking forward to posting the final Arcana Liturgia tape soon enough.
Tuesday, July 4, 2017
Amorte is Atropos first release from 1995 and to me is definitely the weaker of the main two releases, but that's not say this one isn't without its merits. The tape opens with Clotho, a fairly lighthearted short song with a deep synth bass pad, playful synthesized pan flute, and live recorder playing (off key at a few points). Reminds me a bit of Bacchia Neraida's or Zweilicht's flute playing. After this brief track, we have Lachesis, a multifaceted song that's almost set up in separate phases. The recorder continues on in a simple melody reminiscent of a campy fantasy movie opening. Eventually the song breaks down and gets darker and incorporates some raspy whispered vocals. Again the song mutates an turns to a church organ as the darkness increases before transforming back to a lighter tone recalling the beginning of the track. The contrast between the simplicity of the first and track and this near twelve minute fantasy journey is nice and the variation keeps you attentive. An odd percussion track follows that is rather sloppy in timing. Not too big on this track, almost seems like its a pallet cleanser after the evolving Lachesis. The A side finishes off with Imago, a rather short folk-ish transition song that brings in acoustic guitar, probably the prettiest song on the tape.
The B side picks up where Lachesis left off, cutting the lighter feel off and diving right back into a slow building darkness with many elements of the previous epic, church organs and whispers included. A tolling bell at the track's end leads us to the outro Giorni... which in my opinion is the creepiest song on the tape. A period of silence, and we're given a hidden black metal acoustic synth burst outro complete with some falsetto wail screams. A fun way to end everything.
Overall, Amorte is enjoyable but it feels like the duo is still kind of getting their ideas together to create something larger. I don't fully consider Amorte to be a dungeon synth tape, proper. It incorporates a number of dungeon-y synth elements that provide a lot to the dark lo-fi atmosphere, but there's just something to it that feels different than much other DS tapes. Maybe some would consider this more as dark ambient with folk elements? Perhaps experimental DS? Maybe you'll disagree, give it a listen.