Archaic Triad is a little late on the ball here, as the prolific dungeon synth project Erang’s latest effort in the genre has already been out for almost a week. Nevermind that, we’re here now, and everyone can just calm down and explain what happened.
Erang is a one man project that has released tons of material in the last five years, consistently exploring the land of imagination he has built for himself (and we do mean that quite literally, more on which later). King of Nothing, Slave to No One is a 53 minutes long epic of mainly VST instruments playing fairly uncomplicated, but densely and cleverly layered, arrangements. The style is quite different from track to track, but all would fit well as soundtrack music to fantasy themed computer role playing games, or perhaps movies.
An early favorite track is the “Day of the Troll”. As the title implies, it is a scathing critique of Donald Trump’s Twitter followers, and a call to abolish the electoral college… Just kidding, it is nothing of the sort. Like most dungeon synth, Erang is a purely escapist project thematically, and has nothing to say on the subject of everyday modern politics. Not even a little occult Nazism of the type popular to black metal related music hides in the tracks, even by lazy association via Vikings or runes, since Erang has taken the trouble to invent an entire fantasy world of his own for this and his many other releases. With the Bandcamp download, humanely priced at $4, the fan gets a primitive but informative map detailing the “Three Ages of the Land of the Five Seasons”, showing the locations of various important places in this magical realm, as well as ascribing previous albums and recordings to their respective age.
You can think what you like about this stuff. Erang explains clearly that the music draws heavily on popular culture: Lord of the Rings, movies such as Conan and Willow, as well as table top RPGs and even video games like Zelda and Secret of Mana. This reviewer personally prefers a somewhat more grounded approach to dungeon synth – there is, after all, a massive amount of actual historical, mystical and spiritual material to use as themes in this kind of music (cf. Cernunnos Woods celticism, or the bizarre occult/Scottish reincarnation theories of Proscriptor). The Legend of Zelda is a great game, but doesn’t quite cut it for yours truly when it comes to awakening more serious forms of anti-worldly inspiration. On the other hand, I do like me a little bit of J.R.R. Tolkien, and the whole concept of world building in dungeon synth is pretty damn cool.
Musically the only problem is the slight stiffness that comes from heavily sequenced stuff, even if the variety of instrumentation, sounds and effects serves to ameliorate that issue somewhat. If you can swallow a little computer feel (which you better, if you’re getting into this genre), there’s a wealth of nice music to experience. Several tracks stand out from the pack. Aforementioned “Day of the Troll” is (for real, this time) very much inspired by Mortiis’ underestimated and impish sounding Crypt of the Wizard album, and perhaps also his equally underestimated side project Fata Morgana, which is awesome. “Flow of Time is Always Cruel” has a bit of guitar in it, and very classic dungeon synth strings/flutes for an almost 80s feel. “True Alchemy Never Dies” pays tribute to the originals of the genre, with it’s flanging cassette hissing and simplistic organ, even if it moves on to a more clean cut sound as it moves along. There’s more, but you probably should check it out for yourself.
All in all, Erang deserves its place at the forefront of modern dungeon synth, and is probably a very good representation of the young genre as it stands today. For better or for worse, but mainly for better.
And, oh, check out Hollywood Metal’s interview with Erang.