Dark Age Production is quickly rebuilding its name as a, if not the, high class purveyor of atmospheric, top shelf dungeon synth. While slowly decaying old men like myself are mainly enthusiastic about re-releases of stuff we just barely heard on copied tapes a long time ago, the label has chosen to go beyond pure nostalgia and archive work. This means that parallel to all the reissues of amazing, in every sense of the word esoteric, tapes from the 90’s, there is also plenty of new talent making its way unto the D.A.P. roster. Belgian Vættur, previously reviewed here on A.T. is one such young project. Another is this one, responsible for the present release, Vespers of Prideful Scorn. It is called Drochtuarach.
Founded in 2016, and having released the debut Along a Velvet Night the same year, Drochtuarach has already managed to get played on Belgian radio. The man behind the band has done a number of musical and artistic collaborations with Diemazz (in the project Dryad) and the multi-artist KasjaNoova. Here, it’s all about the dungeon synth/ambient, though.
Conceptually drawing upon the middle ages, the natural world and a Luciferian/Promethean notion of conquering “the gods and nature”, Drochtuarach paints with high quality synthesized brushes. There’s flutes, strings, percussion and organs sounding very natural, but there is no question of simply pretending to do classical music. When it fits, one or more layer becomes unapologetically synthetic, often mixed in with the more acoustic sounding instruments. Each song has a distinct character and atmosphere of its own, ranging from the cineastic pomp of opening “Widow’s Peak” to the bittersweet melancholy of “Mournful Souls Inside Broken Stones”.
This album occupies a very particular place on the imaginary underground/professional, dungeon synth/ambient political compass I just invented in my head. The structures, ideas and many melodies are classic dungeon synth, with tracks like “The Crooked Path of a Restless Will” and closing “Symphony of Autumnal Twilight” paying blatant tribute to D.A.P. founder Bard Algol’s seminal Cernunnos Woods. At the same time, the production and some very clever compositional solutions are slightly above your regular dungeon synth act. While there are plenty of upcoming DS artists who write great melodies, there are not at all as many who can really compose solid tracks in the way that Drochtuarach does, nor make the production work as well. Also, the regular but limited descents into almost-cheesy lo-fi feels very intentional, and as a way to make what could have been a “mere” neoclassical work or soundtrack music somewhat more authentic. A bit more punk, if you will. Or not, if you will not, because punk is largely terrible, and Vespers of Prideful Scorn is great.
The exact release date of Vespers of Prideful Scorn is still TBA, but it is available for preview on Bandcamp, and pre-order at the Dark Age Productions homepage. There will be a CD version, and there will be a Cassette version. Go get ’em, boy! Go get ’em!