Dungeon Synth is one of the most interesting genres out there at this point, and it is undergoing a huge revival. More or less loosely rooted in the seminal classics of the early 90s, represented by the early material of Mortiis and the absolutely magnificent output by Dark Age Productions (originally called 7th Key Creations), the last few years have seen a massive resurgence of primitive, medieval/fantasy inspired boy room atmospheric music. The site Hollywood Metal has a fantastic running post series on the topic. Furthermore, Dark Age Productions has recently resurfaced, and one of the very first “dungeon synth” bands from the US – the absolutely awe inspiring Cernunnos Woods – is said to be recording new material. These are glorious times indeed.
One of the newest stars on the rapidly expanding dungeon synth horizon is Verminaard. His debut cassette, Wardens of a Light-starved realm, featured old-school RPG-style artwork by Bard Algol of aforementioned Cernunnos Woods, and had a great, traditional sound. While the cynic in me has to believe it was created largely using computers, it still had the ambiance of old-school, 4-track portastudio recordings.
Lorac’s Folly is Verminaard’s upcoming full-length album. Conceptually, it draws heavily on the fantasy universe of Dragonlance, which since the early 80s has inspired a host of role-playing campaigns, novels and other escapist miscellania. It consists entirely of one 40 minute track called “Lorac’s Folly (Ruins of Silvanost / Tower of the Stars)”. A complicated back story comes with the song. It reads like a scenario for a Dungeons & Dragons campaign, or possibly an old school computer RPG. There’s a king (Lorac), whose folly in attempting to utilize a Dragon Orb to save his kingdom has rendered him insane and inert. His daughter Alhana brings a gang of adventurers (or possibly just one adventurer) to invade the Tower of Stars and cure the king’s madness.
To describe the music is easy but difficult. There are quasi-medieval, yet very digital, synthesized instruments of the type fundamental to the dungeon synth genre. It’s not as murky and occult as much of the genre tends to be – rather, it’s somewhat bombastic and “epic”, though held back (in a good way) by the crudeness of the instrumentation. To be honest, there is a certain stiffness to Lorac’s Folly, a hint of computerized sequencing, which does not serve the recording well (classic dungeon synth was usually performed “live”, track by track, but this sounds like it wasn’t). Such details, however, can of course be overcome, much like the cassette fuzz and cheap synthesizers of the original 90s dungeon synth stuff could be overcome, to open realms of beauty hitherto unheard of.
The resurgence of dungeon synth is a beautiful thing, which must be supported by all freedom loving, as well as freedom hating, people everywhere. One of the first steps should be to buy this album – either in digital form off of Bandcamp, or from Path of Silence, when they release it physically later this year.
Open the gates of the dungeon!