The Dungeon Synth Forum is, along with the Facebook group Dungeon Synth, a central hub of the minuscule but beautiful dungeon synth scene. Besides lengthy discussions on the history, principles and ideas behind the music and its aesthetics, it has long been a gathering place for artists as well (DS artists and fans being largely the same people, as was recently pointed out elsewhere). This fact has yielded a number of compilations of tracks by musicians active on the forum, all of which have been reviewed previously on Archaic Triad (#1, #2, #3). Artifacts From the Shadow Realm is the latest installment in this series.
I must confess, I’ve long lost track of all the new artists storming onto the dungeon stage, but there are a few names here which I’ve spent some time listening to. Nahadoth continues their journey through minimalist, old-school synthesizer sounding drama, and “The Godswood Cutting” is perhaps their most minimalist, old-school synthesizer sounding track to date. Digre is also back, and are as always very welcome with their chiptune/famitracker based Eastern Christian take on the genre. “The Worn Komboskini”, referring to an orthodox prayer rope roughly corresponding to the Catholic rosary, plucks out dreamy little early-CRPG style notes with a spiritual undertone. Valschraun goes for a murky, early-Mortiis sounding piece of obscure dungeon synthery that has a beautiful, organic feel to it.
Numerous other artists I know only by name, or not at all, but that obviously just makes things more exciting. Snarling Clearing’s “The Map of Tunnelways” is one of the stranger track on the compilation, sounding like an Italian Sword and Sorcery film theme as heard from a CRT TV with a VHS player attached. There’s some nice noise to it too, but nothing like Einhorn. Still great, though. Moonolith, which by the way is a great band name for a DS act and a great pun in general, offers up a very foreboding track, full of mysterious pluckings, timpani and traces of occult voices. Ossa Coronata’s “The Mirrors of Drowning Sight” is another hidden gem of sorts – a meditative, surreal little piece of music that must be heard to be understood. All in all, there are 15 artists present on Artifacts of the Shadow Realm, and each of them does a good job, in several cases a great one.
Having finished the DS compilation, it must be said that this may be the best one put out by the Dungeon Synth Compilation folks so far. It must also be said that if focuses heavily on the lo-fi, minimal side of things, but in doing so it is a great complement to the more technically developed and professional (hrm) part of the scene. Being a a lo-fi buff myself, I don’t even need that excuse to enjoy this. Heavily recommended, this compilation is also free, unless you have the decency to pay for it, so go get it right now.