These are busy days for dungeon synth artists and fans (which, let’s face it, are roughly the same people). A Bandcamp list article, such as the one that appeared a couple of days ago on the topic of DS, may be a small thing for your huge rock artists, or even for established indie scenes, but for a budding, scrappy little fellow like the dungeon synth community it is rather huge. I will not go so far as to suggest that the sudden appearance of the second Dungeon Synth Compilation, entitled Wand & Shadow, was prompted or hastened by the appearance of the Bandcamp article. But.
This time around, the number of bands previously unknown to this reviewer is quite large. Lyrcis and Erang both deliver, as can be expected. The former with a somewhat mournful, meditative track called “Veil of the Moon”, the latter with “King of Nothing, Slave to No One”, which sounds an awful lot like “King of Nothing” from his latest album. Which means it sounds pretty great.
Svarograd begins by sounding a whole lot like Erang, but quickly finds his own ground. With a title like “Miecz przodków (Sword of the Ancestors)” it is difficult not to think of Polish black metal like Veles, Graveland or early Behemoth, but there’s really more electronica and almost funky ambient going on musically. Argonath with “I Hail From the Emerald Isle” emulates and successfully captures at least a little of the old Dark Age Production tapes, with spoken word and primitive synth work creating plenty of atmosphere.
Tar Fu Nuin’s “The World Beneath” goes from rather generic, but pretty, High-Fantasy dungeon synth melody lines to a sort of tribal synth collage. Towards the end of the track, these two layers join together to create an interesting totality. Arathograd’s “Bravery and Honor – Execution of North King” sounds like a late 90’s computer game version of Summoning, with nice melodies and some clever marching samples added for good measure.
There is nothing like Einhorn or Mitternacht on this second installation of the dungeon synth compilation, which this reviewer finds a bit unfortunate. The contributions are generally more or less Fantasy inspired, epic or would-be epic and highly VST based, and some are basically tribute tracks to established DS artists like Erang. On the other hand, talking all too much about things being generic or derivative would really miss the point. Dungeon synth is just now establishing itself as a genre, and needs to establish certain ground rules, even if they are to be broken quite quickly by bands taking things in other directions. In fact, Dungeon Synth Compilation: Wand & Shadow is a perfect summary of the core musical and conceptual values of the scene as it now stands.
Speaking of core values, the best track on this one is Knell of Dawn’s “To the Splendor of Silvermere”. Not because it breaks rules, but because it incarnates the basic themes running through the compilation. Gliding between pseudo-epic VST compositions to epic proper, using a wide range of synthesizers to drive the 8 minute point home, it really shows what can be done without switching anything fundamental up.
Perhaps it is unnecessary to mention, though mentioned it will be, that this initiative needs to be supported, that you should pay at least something for it even if it’s pay-what-you-want, and that it is available from Dungeon Synth Compilation’s Bandcamp page.