Tag: Dungeon Synth (Page 1 of 3)

Old Sorcery – Strange and Eternal – Review

Artist: Old Sorcery
Album: Strange and Eternal
Release date: 19 April 2019
Label: Garavluth Records
Reviewer: Matteo Brusa

Tracklist:
01. The Crystal Funeral
02. Fimbrethil
03. A Moss Covered Grimoire
04. Tears of a Dying Star
05. Tulessa Uinuva Kuningas

You put a spell on me

Hailing from Finland, Old Sorcery is a well known name in the current dungeon synth scene; its acclaimed debut Realms of Magickal Sorrow, an album which combined an old school approach with retro electronic music, drawing influences from the Berlin School, early ambient and trance (not the first of its kind – think of Grimrik‘s Die Mauern der Nacht – but still played out in a personal and engaging style), came out of nowhere in late 2017 and has since been released on tape, vinyl and CD by Garavluth Records, becoming a modern classic. After moving on towards a split with fellow Finnish act Haxan Dreams and an EP, both subtly adding ingredients to the formula, Old Sorcery seems to reach true mastery of spells with its sophomore full-length Strange and eternal.

Besides the extremely scarce liner notes, the first impression about the album comes from the monochrome, almost naively styled cover art by Sadist Stalker, depicting a castle in a vale. Fortunately, this is the only cliché Vechi Vrăjitor, the man behind Old Sorcery, chooses to indulge in, as the 11 minute long opener “The Crystal Funeral” immediately sets the bar pretty high: it is a masterfully written cinematic piece of music carrying an ambient, almost new-age-like feel, slowly evolving towards an epic buildup and finale, which wouldn’t sound out of place in Jim Kirkwood’s (maybe even in David Arkenstone’s) catalog. This stellar introduction is followed by the much shorter and concise “Fimbrethil”; based on a catchy keyboard riff and a simple structure, it showcases a more song-oriented side of Old Sorcery’s style. A trait which immediately catches the ear is the amount of care put in small details; the sound is built over layers of lush pads, dreamy synthetic leads, arpeggiated plucks and classic sampled orchestral instruments, each taking a carefully fleshed out role in the arrangement, never getting too dense and never over-playing each other; electronic music elements are subtly and tastefully employed to enhance the overall feel of the music, as shown on both the aforementioned first track and the hauntingly beautiful, evocative “A moss covered grimoire”, blooming with ambient flourishes over gorgeously deep pads and pulsating synths. The 15 minutes long final piece “Tulessa Uinuva Kuningas” (“The king sleeping in fire”) begins with a synthetic windy soundscape before turning into a dark, atmospheric and arcane sounding take on old school dungeon synth. While there are almost unintelligible vocals buried in the mix throughout the album, this specific track stands out among others because it features a very clean and forward-mixed recording of a poem written and recited with emphasis by Visa “Sikagowitch” Tikka, which perfectly complements the music, giving off a strongly epic and ritualistic feel.

“Strange and eternal” is a pretty fitting description to this album; the music is consistently excellent, written in the spirit of old school masters but with a creative flair, and it has an eerie, otherworldly and timeless quality, characters which sit well along with the genre’s tradition. This is a highly recommended listen; be sure to grab a tape or Digipack-CD copy from Garavluth before they run out.

Written by: Matteo Brusa

Bellkeeper – The First Flame of Lordran – Review

Editor’s note: As I continue to fight my way out of an unexpected and heavy depression, we luckily have Matteo keeping things rolling!  Here is his latest dungeon synth review! Enjoy and expect me (Michael) to be back to normal soon!

Artist: Bellkeeper
Album: The First Flame of Lordran
Release date: 6 February 2019
Label: Dungeons Deep Records

Not quite the first, but still hot

“In the Age of Ancients, the world was unformed, shrouded by fog. A land of grey crags, archtrees, and everlasting dragons. But then there was Fire and with Fire came Disparity. Heat and cold, life and death, and of course… Light and Dark. Then, from the Dark, They came and found the Souls of Lords within the flame. Nito, the first of the dead. The Witch of Izalith, and her daughters of chaos. Gwyn, the Lord of Sunlight, and his faithful knights. And the furtive pygmy, so easily forgotten. With the Strength of Lords, they challenged the dragons. Gwyn’s mighty bolts peeled apart their stone scales. The witches weaved great firestorms. Nito unleashed a miasma of death and disease. And Seath the Scaleless betrayed his own, and the dragons were no more. Thus began the Age of Fire. But soon, the flames will fade, and only Dark will remain. Even now, there are only embers, and man sees not light, but only endless nights. And amongst the living are seen, carriers of the accursed Darksign.”

Does anything of this sound familiar? Readers who are into role-playing videogames will instantly recognize it as the prologue of Dark Souls, one of the most acclaimed games of recent years, which constitutes the setting and premise for Bellkeeper‘s The First Flame of Lordran. I’m usually a bit wary in approaching RPG-based Dungeon Synth, which too often ends up coming off as a cheap soundtrack to shallow concepts, but what we have here is a far more inspired and charming affair. Within its short 28 minutes of length, Bellkeeper‘s debut manages to capture the spirit and feel of classic Dungeon Synth with enough variety and skill to avoid sounding like a mere imitation. While the sonic department is built upon rather usual fare, with the ubiquitous mix of synthetic and sampled orchestral sounds dominating the music (a very nice sounding pipe organ and bells being the most welcomed exceptions), the quality of compositions is top notch: through a skillful combination of repetition, layering and dynamics, each track succeeds in engaging the listener by recreating the atmosphere and moods of its source material, ranging from sinister and ominous to dark and majestic to decadently epic, evoking vivid imagery and creating a strong feeling of motion, which could connect with the protagonist’s quest. There is no real standout track or well-rounded album structure; the music finishes as abruptly as it kicks in in the beginning, more like painting a picture rather than telling a story; this sort of rawness, while perfectly adequate for the genre, makes the album, as a whole, sound a bit unfinished and lacking a proper closure, a minor flaw which doesn’t detract too much from the immersive listening experience, though.

To sum it up, The First Flame of Lordran is a powerful debut which can hold its own among peers in the scene, and will surely appeal to fans of raw sounding, yet well composed and imaginative old school Dungeon Synth. There is still plenty of material in the Dark Souls saga for Bellkeeper to write about, so we can only wait in excitement until the next chapter.

Written by: Matteo Brusa

Isegrimm – Ik Gihorta Dat Seggen – Review

Editor’s Note: We are very pleased to share with you the second review from the talented Matteo Brusa!  If you want to be notified of all our posts, be sure to sign up for email notifications, found in the right panel of the webpage (just scroll down and look to your right). Facebook is worthless for promotion these days and there aren’t a lot of other alternatives, so please consider signing up!

Artist: Isegrimm
Album: Ik Gihorta Dat Seggen
Release date: 18 January 2019
Label: Dark Age Productions
Reviewer: Matteo Brusa


This is what I heard, and it will blow you away

In the vast and mostly featureless landscape of contemporary Dungeon Synth, Isegrimm stands like a massive, towering fortress, one where travelers who dare to cross its path can always be sure to find a safe haven. Now reaching its third installment (plus a split with Irish fellow dungeoneer Argonath), Max Berger’s project has established itself as one of the most engaging and recognizable acts in the current scene, and Ik Gihorta Dat Seggen further consolidates its status.

As titles suggest, the album draws its inspiration from the poem Hildebrandslied, the only surviving written example of High German winileod (epic “folk song”) from the early Middle Ages. For those unfamiliar with the subject matter, the “Song of Hildebrand” (“Ik Gihorta Dat Seggen” being the first verse, roughly meaning “This is what I heard”) narrates of a father and son destined to fight each other to death, a recurring theme in Indo-European mythology: in the war between Theoderic king of the Ostrogoths and Odoacer king of Italy, two champions, named Hildebrand and Hadubrand, meet on the battlefield to engage in duel; Hildebrand, the eldest, soon realizes he is facing his long lost son and tries to reconcile with him, being rebuffed by Hadubrand. Bound by the ancient Germanic warrior code, he can’t reject the duel, so they begin to fight, Hildebrand lamenting his sorrowful fate. The manuscript ends here, but likely, as occurring in all other examples of the trope in European literature, the original poem would finish with Hildebrand prevailing and killing his own son, an outcome accordingly stated in the album’s final song “Hadubrantes Todliod” (“The death song of Hadubrand”).

With the aid of a number of guests, including Matt Seeb of the acclaimed Hedge Wizard, Daithí O’Mathúna of Argonath and Italian singers Paolo Ferrante and Chiara Gangemi from the experimental vocal act The Voices, Max Berger manages to create an outstandingly evocative and engaging soundtrack to such an epic and tragic tale. “Medieval ambient” could be the perfect description for the sound and feel of Ik Gihorta Dat Seggen: a sustained note introduces the listener to a masterful sonic representation of early Middle Ages Europe, which slowly unfolds through a variety of different atmospheres and moods, providing for an astonishingly immersive experience, greatly enhanced by Alex Crispin’s crisp (no pun intended) and polished mastering work. Arrangements are rich and dynamic, ranging from dense synthetic orchestral passages to quieter and sparser ambient sections; there is tribal chanting and drumming, full-on sampled horns heroically blowing, synthetic pads delicately weaving backdrops for piano and sampled woodwinds flourishes, and more. While the compositional style is mainly based on repetition and layering as is common in Dungeon Synth tradition, the use of vocals and percussions throughout makes this album really stand out: the vocals specifically are a highlight, adding a strong human presence and often taking the lead with choirs and chanting, giving off at times a distinct ethnic feel, at times evoking sacrality. Track number six, “Wettu Irmingot” (“God the Excellent testify”) is perhaps the most brilliant example: through juxtaposition of obsessive percussions with skillfully written, arranged and performed intertwining vocal parts, it manages to sound like a Gothic (literally) version of Enigma, yet in a way not so far removed from certain neoclassical darkwave (early Weltenbrand also comes to mind). Almost each song could stand as well on its own, but in the album’s context, they seamlessly fit together and complement each other, creating a very cohesive and tight opus. Even the closing track, which is kind of an oddball, being a slow atmospheric metal song with guitar, bass and drums, doesn’t sound out of place at all: on the contrary, it perfectly sits within the flow of the album, concluding it with a captivating change of pace.

By combining old school Dungeon Synth with progressive elements, Ik Gihorta Dat Seggen undoubtedly turns out to be Isegrimm‘s masterpiece, an album deserving widespread praise and recognition in the scene as an example of keeping things fresh while maintaining a strong connection with the genre’s roots and spirit.

Written by: Matteo Brusa

Mortiis – Era 1 North American Tour – Live Coverage in Baltimore

Last night I got to witness an event I would have never expected. Mortiis, playing exclusively Era 1 material, in Baltimore Maryland! After the Cold Meat Industry festival in late 2017, I figured I’d missed out on a once in a lifetime experience. But Mortiis has been taking the Era 1 material on the road recently and it looks like his upcoming album will be a return to this style. There is a new music video in the Era 1 style (which you can watch below) and he’s just kicked off his U.S. tour playing this material!

I don’t do much live coverage and I’m not a professional photographer. So take my account for what it’s worth. But I definitely wanted to share a few photos from my evening at the show last night, and to alert anyone in the relevant cities to the rest of this awesome tour!

The venue was the small/medium sized Metro Gallery in Baltimore. This was my first time attending an event there, but the sound and setting were very fitting for the show.

Before I get into the musicians that played last night, here’s the flyer for the tour and a link to the relevant Bandsintown.com webpage where you can find tickets to the rest of the events.

https://www.bandsintown.com/en/a/5204-mortiis


DJ Candy Corn

The event was DJ’d by Letitia Gabrielle Getka a.k.a. DJ Candy Corn, who started the evening off, and filled the void between sets with some proper dark dungeon music to keep the night moving appropriately. You can follow her on Instagram.


Worms of the Earth

I was almost as pleased to see Mortiis as I was to finally meet and witness a performance by Dan Barrett as Worms of the Earth. Dan is known through the dark ambient community for this project, as well as his wonderful zine Wounds of the Earth, which has been on a bit of a hiatus in recent years (hopefully not permanent, I always love to hear Dan’s opinion on recent releases!) Dan also releases music as Venal Flesh.

Worms of the Earth has been a rather versatile project over the years. Having started as a mostly ritual dark ambient project, it has moved in recent years into a goa-trance direction. This was predominately the style that he played last night, which I really really loved! However, I’ll share a recent quote from Dan which points him back in the direction of dark ambient.

“Started working on a new album over the weekend. After being largely directionless in the months that followed the completion of the Redux, a pathway has been illuminated to me. Soundwise, it is cinematic, ancient egyptian-themed dark ambient which I am writing during my rituals to understand the “deities” of old kingdom (and prior) egypt, mainly dhwty/Thoth and their esoteric knowledge. More info to come as it develops and takes shape”

You can also check out a (sorta) recent interview I did with Dan here.


STATIQBLOOM

This was my first encounter with STATIQBLOOM, as they fall outside the realms of dark ambient. This post-industrial electronics project consists of Fade Kainer (also known for his work with Batillus and contributions to the Theologian album Pain of the Saints) who seemed to mainly cover the vocal duties, and Denman Anderson contributing a glorious controlled post-industrial electronic chaos.

Their music should certainly be to the liking of those that love old-school post-industrial. I would highly recommend digging into their catalog and seeking them out at shows. (The gents hail from Brooklyn, New York.)


Mortiis

Mortiis delivered exactly what I was hoping to hear. A beautifully rendered set of tracks which all followed his Era 1 style, with classics from the Cold Meat Industry era as well as some new material from an upcoming album, which looks like it will be focused on the Era 1 style.

Check out his latest music video for the track “Visions of an Ancient Future”, which was performed last night.

At this point, anything I could really say about Mortiis here likely all of you will already know. So suffice to say, the performance was exquisite. The backdrops by David Thierree were perfect for capturing the dark dungeon and overall magical feel of the performance. Mortiis has returned to old-form like he never left CMI! It was beyond heart-warming to see him fill a venue in Baltimore Maryland focusing on an Era 1 style that has seen two decades since most of this material was last highlighted. If you are in range of the upcoming performances, GO!

Check out the interview I recently conducted with Mortiis, focusing specifically on his Era 1 material.

https://mortiiswebstore.com
Bands In Town (to buy tickets to upcoming shows)
Mortiis on Facebook
Mortiis on Bandcamp

Covered by: Michael Barnett

Aindulmedir – The Lunar Lexicon – Review

Artist: Aindulmedir
Album: The Lunar Lexicon
Release date: 21 January 2019
Label: Hypnagoga Press

Tracklist:
01. Wind-Bitten
02. Book of Towers
03. The Librarian
04. Winter and Slumber
05. The Lunar Lexicon
06. Snow Above Blue Fire
07. Sleep-Form

Aindulmedir is the latest project from Pär Boström, known to most in the dark ambient community for his work as Kammarheit and Cities Last Broadcast. Following in the aesthetic the label often presents, mixtures of solitude, mysticism, northern landscapes and nostalgia draw the listener once again into the esoteric worlds presented on Hypnagoga Press.

For this release we will quickly notice a new side of Pär Boström being unveiled. While he often focuses on northern and/or dream landscapes and mysticism in his works, Aindulmedir takes these concepts a little bit outside the confines of the dark ambient genre. Aindulmedir adds a healthy dose of dungeon synth vibes to the mix. But this will not be your standard dungeon synth. Comparisons to someone like Mortiis wouldn’t make much sense here. The sounds of Aindulmedir more closely align with something like Grimrik‘s debut Eisreich. The solitary northern vibes outweigh the fantasy elements here, allowing for a subtlety which is often sorely lacking in the vast majority of dungeon synth releases I hear.

Though I mention a lesser reliance on the fantasy motifs, Aindulmedir actually does bring its fair share of fantasy into the mix. However, this is more noticeable in the album art and theme than the music itself. (Though there are some great fantasy moments, like the track “Winter and Slumber” with its more jubilant vibe.) We can see, through album art and titles, that The Lunar Lexicon transports us to some lonely tower on a remote mountain pass. This tower must be filled with the slowly decomposing grimoires of centuries passed. In the middle of the tower sits the old wrinkled hermit, his white beard falling carelessly across his old robes. In his lap sits some book of knowledge and power, while blue flames dance and leap from within the stone hearth. This is a place I never want to leave…

The Lunar Lexicon is stated to have some connection to a novel Pär is currently in the process of writing. Now, we can all begin to obsessively wonder what mysteries might be in store for us within the pages of this novel. As far as I’ve seen, this is the only public mention of such a work, so we can be sure that frigid climates and magickal books (and maybe even a wizard?) will be part of this narrative. But as the album description says that the music is “crossing the borderlands of a novel Pär is writing”, we are left probably with more questions than answers. I, for one, am incredibly excited about this news.

The album is also said to be “winter music for bibliophiles and hermits”. For those of us in the northern hemisphere, that makes now the perfect time for enjoying such a work. As our world slowly shifts we’ve been seeing vast accumulations of snow across various and often random sections of the world. There is no better time to sit down with a great book, a cup of hot tea or coffee, and Aindulmedir on repeat in the background.

I continue to be surprised by the ability of Pär Boström to continue expanding his musical output into new projects, while also moving forward with the others. I get a bit of a Kammarheit vibe from “Sleep-Form” but really this album sounds nothing like any of the other releases I’ve heard from Boström (of course, not all his works are solo, some like Hymnambulae include his sister Åsa, and Altarmang includes Kenneth Hansson). It will be increasingly interesting over the years to come, as we see how these various projects will all advance and morph.

The album was released digitally as well as in 30 limited edition cassettes. The cassettes were sold-out in something like two hours, so it looks like the community is certainly keeping an eye on these limited edition releases. From their past statements, it seems we can expect to see more of these sorts of ultra-limited edition releases in the future. However, other releases like the Hymnambulae debut, Orgelhuset, were pressed in a much larger quantity, so I guess there will continue to be a bit of each.

Since I first discovered the genre of dark ambient, Kammarheit and Cities Last Broadcast have both been incredibly important to me. It’s great a few years later to see Pär Boström taking his work in new and varied directions, while still staying faithful to his original projects. The Lunar Lexicon by Aindulmedir is yet another utterly magnificent release to add to that already impressive list.

Written by: Michael Barnett

Mortiis – Secrets of my Kingdom: Return… – Review

Author: Mortiis
Book: Secrets of My Kingdom: Return to Dimensions Unknown
Release date: March 2018
Publisher: Cult Never Dies / Crypt Publications

Mortiis is a name that needs little introduction in the dark ambient community. His work on Cold Meat Industry in the 1990s helped to spawn a new genre, which he called dark dungeon music at the time. What was once a light scattering of artists creating music in this style has, over the past few years, turned into a blooming community of eager artists and listeners. These sounds have slowly been re-labeled as dungeon synth.

After years of keeping distance between his Era 1 sound and his current industrial rock sound, Mortiis has recently reexamined his Era 1 material. Understanding its impact and realizing its value to the dungeon synth community Mortiis has since started the process of re-releasing all material from that first era. New vinyl and cassette editions have been crafted for his Era 1 releases. All these vinyl editions have had their cover-art reimagined by David Thiérrée.

Secrets of My Kingdom: Return To Dimensions Unknown is the final element in the re-invigoration of Mortiis‘ Era 1. The first edition, originally titled just Secrets of My Kingdom, was released in 2001 on Earache Records in a limited leather-bound edition of 850 copies. By that time Era 1 was becoming a fading memory for him, and The Smell of Rain was driving him into new and uncharted territory. Nonetheless, those 850 copies found homes. Since that time, the book has continued a life of its own in the second-hand trading/selling world. Through this year, especially with the recent bloom of interest in Dungeon Synth, the original book was easily selling for $150+ in the used book and band merch markets. With all this excitement around the world about dungeon synth, multiple featured Bandcamp Daily articles, exponentially growing Facebook groups and message boards, high quality new record labels being established, Mortiis decided to reexamine this book to see if it still had potential and relevance 15 years on. Deeming its pages worth discovery by this new dungeon synth community, Mortiis went about the process of updating and re-releasing the book.

For those familiar with the original version, everything you may have liked about the content will still be intact. All the original illustrations by Juha Vuorma and Mark Riddick have been retained, as well as all the original text. But this edition has been expanded in many ways. Readers will immediately recognize the new, aforementioned cover-art by David Thiérrée. The book starts with some reflections on the original book and it’s re-imagining, before jumping right into the original material. This is then followed, starting on page 154, with a large section of original notes, handwritten lyrics, and unused texts. These are all direct photocopies of the original texts/sketches, and they are given explanation where needed for context. There is then an extensive interview with Mortiis, covering many topics related to his Era 1 work and its legacy. There are also interviews with artists Juha Vuorma, Mark Riddick, and David Thiérrée; as well as Mortiis‘ contemporaries Forgotten Kingdoms, Balrog, Chaucerian Myth, Proscriptor of Equimanthorn and Absu, Tomas Pettersson of Ordo Rosarius Equilibrio, and finally Albert Mudrian of Decibel magazine. The book closes with 26 illustrations by David Thiérrée which are based on the texts in the book, and were used for select Mortiis performances in 2017.

I didn’t truly appreciate the Era 1 work of Mortiis until well passed it’s prime. Like many, I didn’t fully discover dungeon synth until this most recent boom in popularity. Then, like so many others, I began working backward, discovering the material which has found such a warm place in the hearts of Mortiis fans for over two decades. Even Mortiis had to go back and sort of rediscover/reevaluate his own material, after so many years of disregarding Era 1. Whether you believe Mortiis sincerely returned to Era 1 out of a genuine longing to revisit his roots or, alternatively, you think this is all an opportunity for a cash grab, I don’t think this issue should matter too much to those genuine fans of Era 1 Mortiis. My opinion is that he is being genuine and is very pleased to see such renewed interest in his early work. But even if he isn’t being genuine, we cannot deny that it is wonderful to have access to new cassette and vinyl editions of some of his classic albums. A new edition of Secrets of My Kingdom will be very welcome to newer Mortiis fans that discovered the original book, but found that they could not possibly afford to curate a copy for themselves. It will also be welcome to any longtime fans that may have sold, lost, or destroyed their original edition, and have since had a longing for its return.

Critically, Secrets of My Kingdom: Return To Dimensions Unknown has its ups and downs. The original text by Mortiis isn’t necessarily the most eloquent or engaging material. Reading through the poems, I’m not surprised that Mortiis continued with his music career and set this written medium aside. Nevertheless, the original text accounted for the sales of the original edition, and is the main attraction for this reissue. What Mortiis lacks in poetic technique, he makes up for in depth of content. Those that are interested in gaining a deeper understanding of the greater story and framework behind Era 1 Mortiis albums will find this collection indispensable. The second positive element, and a reason I was interested in buying a copy, is the addition of context and commentary. Reading Mortiis‘ reflections on this book, years after its inception, and seeing how it has impacted others helps give new fans a better idea of Mortiis‘ history from an emotional standpoint, rather than technical. I was also very impressed with the work of David Thiérrée on the vinyl re-issues, so I was eager to see the final section of the book with his graphical interpretations of Era 1 events, characters, and scenery. I would have liked to see Thiérrée’s illustrations in a larger format, rather than two per page, but this is understandable, as Thiérrée likely intends to sell these works as original art and so his section of the book should be seen more as a catalog of his Mortiis works rather than a section of full size prints, like we would expect in a proper art book dedicated to his work. In regard to the physical book itself, I haven’t held the original, but I gather that the original leather-bound edition may have looked a bit nicer than this new – hardcover but not leather-bound – edition. Of course, this can be easily explained away by a preference for availability over obsession with quality. The fact is that a second leather-bound edition likely wouldn’t have seen as many copies manufactured, and would also have cost a good deal more to purchase.

I would recommend this edition to any true fans of Mortiis‘ Era 1 material. There is a wonderful array of material to enjoy here. Even if you have already read the book’s original text, this new edition comes with so much extra material that it should still be worth the purchase price. I haven’t sat down to a deep reading of the original text, but I enjoy reading a few passages here and there, especially while listening to his Era 1 material. The large sections dedicated to interviews are really helpful for giving older fans a look at Mortiis current mindset on Era 1, but they also give the younger fans a deep look at where Mortiis fits into the great world of music. If all this sounds enticing, then I highly recommend Secrets of My Kingdom, but if you are likely to feel that the original text isn’t up to par, and also don’t care much for the added insights, then I would recommend you stick to books by authors that have dedicated their lives to creating fiction. This is, undeniably, a book for the dungeon synth community.

Written by: Michael Barnett

The Inner Sanctum – A Dark Ambient Vlog: Episode 4

Joseph Mlodik, of the dark ambient project Noctilucant, is back with the fourth episode of his dark ambient vlog, The Inner Sanctum. On this episode Joseph speaks about dark ambient projects Svartsinn and Infinexhuma along with some other projects which we would call “On the Periphery” here. As usual, it’s great to hear the thoughts of a long time dark ambient fan, one with an inner perspective as well, since he also releases music within the genre. We’re proud to continue sharing his vlog episodes here and we hope you are enjoying them!

Michael Barnett

Episode 4 of The Inner Sanctum has arrived! This time around I talk about a dark ambient classic from Svartsinn, and then diverge a bit and talk about some more experimental electronic, noise and even dungeon synth related releases, before jumping back to form with a relatively new and exciting pure dark ambient release. Enjoy the darkness!

Joseph Mlodik

Episode Chapters:
Intro 00:00
Svartsinn 01:23
Nothing 10:42
Wilt 18:18
Arvo Zylo 22:36
Intermission 26:30
Infernum 27:21
Infinexhuma 33:29
Outro/End Credits 42:43

Links To Featured Artists:

Svartsinn:
svartsinn.bandcamp.com

Nothing:
jwalton.bandcamp.com

Wilt:
wilt314.bandcamp.com

Arvo Zylo / No Part of it Records:
nopartofit.bandcamp.com

Infernum:
infernumds.bandcamp.com

Infinexhuma:
infinexhuma.bandcamp.com

Previous Episodes of The Inner Sanctum

Episode: 1, 2, 3

Mortiis – Interview (Era 1 focused)

 

Mortiis is hailed by many/most as one of the greatest originators of the now greatly expanding dungeon synth genre. His Era 1 releases considered classics, and highly sought out by the dungeon synth community, as well as by fans of the Cold Meat Industry label, in general, which was home to Mortiis Era 1. With a new round of concerts featuring Era 1 material, a re-issue of his book ‘Secrets of My Kingdom’, and re-issues of many Era 1 albums, it seemed like a great time to have a conversation with the man behind Mortiis and pick his mind about the new book, his re-emergence within the Era 1 context, the Cold Meat Industry 25th anniversary festival and more!

Interviewee: Håvard Ellefsen a.k.a. Mortiis
Conducted by: Michael Barnett

Michael: The last year or so has been pretty crazy for you, it seems. Since your re-emergence in 2015, there has been a simultaneous flow of new fans to your Era 1 material, which culminated in the recent tour and appearance at the Cold Meat Industry 25th anniversary festival. In general, how have you been feeling about all this change?

Mortiis: Good. The only regret I have is that everything should have happened sooner. Especially the release of The Great Deceiver. But a lot of shit got in the way of that, so it wasn´t so much that we were dormant or inactive prior to 2015, we were just dealing with a ton of crap in the background. All that bullshit culminated in us getting rid of some, let´s say, obstacles in the “organization”, that had been wasting a lot of our time, especially in the couple of years leading up to the release of The Great Deceiver. From that moment on, you could almost physically feel the shifting of gears and actual forward movement.

Michael: More specifically, are you pleased to see your old work coming back to prominence so many years later?

Mortiis: To be honest I think it´s cool that people like my music, regardless of when it was made. I just think it´s cool to see people dig my stuff…I didn´t always feel this way…A few years back, I wanted people to feel the way I did, which was, invariably, that my latest music was the best…That´s not realistic, obviously. But I wanted things to be like that. Needless to say, an artist should always feel that the latest work is the best, but it´s not realistic to expect everyone else to agree.

Michael: After this round of 1st era re-issues, the touring, and the re-printing of your long sold out, and greatly sought after “Secrets of My Kingdom” book, what is next for Mortiis? Will the full focus return to Mortiis, the band, as opposed to Mortiis, the dark dungeon music guy?

Mortiis: We´ll have to see about that. I´d like to get another album out of the Era 1 style stuff, but brought into the light on current times. The band will resurface, because so much of my heart and soul has been vested into it, and the music and energy that it inspires in me, so I could never let that go.
As of right now. I am committed to a lot of shows for the rest of the year, and beyond that, I have many plans and ideas, and I´ll just reveal that along the way, when the time is right, haha!

Michael: Your own music aside, what are your feelings on this huge re-emergence of dungeon synth?

Mortiis: It sort of happened in my absence, and I wasn´t really made aware of it until I peronally came to terms with my musical past, which I had a lot of personal issues with up until about 2-3 years ago, when my mind became less foggy and judgemental about it. By that point, it seemed to have been growing to a decent size…It´s interesting that its happening now. Because, I don´t think my reissues had anything to do with this emergence. I think it´s a monster all on its own, so to speak. So it would appear it´s really just a very cool coincidence. I still haven´t been able to check out a lot of it. Although, I have done shows with projects like Old Tower recently, which sounds pretty cool me.

Michael: You’ve marked your stamp of approval on several recent dungeon synth releases, including Machina Coeli’s Gnosis, and at least one other that escapes me at the moment. I’ve also seen your name in the “thank you” sections of many artists’ albums. What do you think your position is within this new dungeon synth community? Are you keeping an eye on new projects, or do you mostly ignore these trends/communities and focus on your own work?

Mortiis: I don´t ignore them, I´m just not as good as I should be on checking them out. It´s all about lack of time really. I´m pretty swamped at the moment, and have been for some time… I see the forums online and I notice a lot of these names. So, I think a good portion of what´s out there, at least I´ve seen their names around, if nothing else. As for my position, I don´t know, I don´t really want to speculate in that. And, it´s not really up to me anyway, to place myself in any sort of hierarchy. If that makes any sense. I think I´m well respected by most people into dungeon synth. Although, I remember one douchebag being very personally offended at me for posting in a forum that was for French DS people only, which I missed. He got all worked up about it. Maybe he hoped for some sort of response. He never got one, so he was probably punching a screen somewhere. Hopefully it broke.

Michael: If you had one piece of advice to give new dungeon synth artists, what would that be?

Mortiis: Don´t post on French DS forums, haha! Nah, the French are OK, except this one dude, haha! To be honest, I´m not a DS expert, I don´t have it “all figured out” or anything. When I started out, I took a lot of shit for being an outsider visually, and making music that was hard to pigeonhole, so my best advice is to just keep at it. If it feels right, then let the world burn, fuck the critics, be yourself.

When I started out, I took a lot of shit for being an outsider visually, and making music that was hard to pigeonhole, so my best advice is to just keep at it. If it feels right, then let the world burn, fuck the critics, be yourself.

Michael: I mentioned earlier the CMI festival. How was that experience for you? Was it surreal to come back together with so many of these people from your formative years?

Mortiis: It was cool to meet guys like Tomas from Ordo Rosarius Equilibrio, Peter from Deutsch Nepal and Peter from Raison d’etre, as I hadn´t met them for years. Jouni, from In Slaughter Natives, I worked with a few years ago on mastering some of my music, so it hadn’t been that long since we´d last met, but of course it is always nice to meet Jouni. The experience was cool, I mean kind of scary, since it was my first Era 1 show in about 18 years, and I was doing things a bit different than the past anyway, so in a sense this was almost like a debut show. I think a lot of people got into it, but of course CMI attracts a lot of somewhat elitist types, with very specific tastes and with strong opinions on what they like and don´t like, so I think there was a clique of guys like that that probably had no time for me, to put it that way, but I knew that was going to happen. In that sense nothing has changed since the old CMI days when I used to go out and do shows with Ordo Rosarius Equilibrio, Raison d’etre, In Slaughter Natives, and so on.

 

Michael: You have been taking Era 1 on tour recently. What are your general thoughts on live performances of dungeon synth / dark dungeon music? Do you think this is an important aspect for any musician, or is it personal taste?

Mortiis: I think it´s all personal. Either you want to go out and play live, or you don´t. I´ve gotten used to it, so I´m always up for doing a show, as long as the promoters aren´t trying to pull quickies and pay peanuts and fuck you over, but I usually catch those fuckers out before the 3rd email, so they´re goners if it doesn´t feel good. We´re done at that point.
Regardless, I think all music deserves a shot at proving itself on stage.

Michael: You’ve re-released “Secrets of my Kingdom”, now entitled: “Secrets of my Kingdom: Return to Dimensions Unknown”. How has the response to this been from fans?

Mortiis: Very good. I think people really appreciate the additional work we put into it. There´s about 100 pages of bonus material consisting of unpublished texts, artwork, interviews, and so on…The response has been nothing but positive, from where I´m standing anyway.

Michael: Are you personally pleased with the final product and working with Cult Never Dies?

Mortiis: Yes, totally. Dayal is a pretty passionate guy about the product he makes, so he really pushes to make it the best it can be.

Michael: This book re-issue, as well as the era 1 album re-issues, contain artwork by David Thierree. Are you personally acquainted with him, or did you two only work together on these releases? Will you be planning to contract him for work again in the future? Also, I wonder if you have a favorite of his re-imaginings?

Mortiis: We´ve known each other for a long time, but we only really reconnected over these reissues I guess about 2 years ago. We´ve been in pretty steady contact ever since. He also worked with me on a bunch of pieces for my live show. There will be at least one more release coming shortly, that includes his artwork, and that one may well be my favourite. Other than that, it´s a hard choice. I think the Født til å Herske artwork looks brilliant, but the Keiser Av En Dimensjon Ukjent artwork has so many hidden signs and symbols and references, it´s kinda hard not to pick that one as a current favourite.

Michael: In your interview within the new book, you mention that most of this body of work comes from your teenage years, and that you don’t fully appreciate it as much as you might like. What were the changes/arguments made that brought you to re-release this book? Do you feel that this newer version has been redeemed of any potential flaws you saw in its original form?

Mortiis: There´s the intro from the original 2001 version, that was written at some point during the year 2000, and at that point I was very disillusioned with my ’90s output. All across the board: music, lyrics, etc… That had more to do with me sinking into a depression that was deeper and darker than I realized at the time. I can see that now, in retrospect. In the interview, in the book, that I did with Dayal across several 2-3 hour phone conversations, I did probably touch upon this a lot, too. Because, it´s the main reason Era 1, to me, was locked away in some deeply hidden mental closet, and I threw away the key, just to use a worn out cliché.
I don´t think the original book was flawed, it has many things about it that I like. But the new edition is better, improved in the sense that it´s physically larger, it has more content, and I personally shed a lot of light on those days, which we thought would be interesting to the hard-core fan, if no one else. All the material was written between 1992 and 1999, though the bulk would have been written between 1992-1996, so I would have been 17-21 years of age when most of that was written.

Michael: Are there marked differences between your fan-base for Era 2/3/0 and those of Era 1? Would you say one group or another has a sort of darker mentality?

Mortiis: Not sure. I mean, if I was to point anything out, I think metal people, for a reason I still can´t properly understand, beyond the fact that they may be connecting with some sort of primal atmospheric element in the era 1 stuff, seem to like Era 1 a lot more than everything else that came after. But it´s not a rule of thumb. I get people that are fans of everything I´ve done, then I get the sort of industrial/electronic/goth person that got into Mortiis post- Era 1. It really varies, but it´s not like I could point at a guy in the room and tell you what Mortiis records he´s going to be into.

Michael: I recently discovered your 25 minute music video ‘Reisene Til Grotter Og Odemarker’. Those dark and smoky corridors and stone towers were the perfect accompaniment to your sound and your image. Would you be open to doing something like this again? Or is this something that you lost respect for over the years?

Mortiis: I didn´t lose respect for it. VENOM did shit in castles, so how can I lose respect for it? Haha! I just completed filming for a new video to be used for some Era 1 stuff down the line. It´s not in a castle, though, but it´s pretty damn dark stuff anyway.

Michael: Can you remember back to a time when these ideas of “Mortiis” first came into your mind? Were you a child, imagining these dark images and soundscapes, or did this come to you later as you began discovering black metal and the darker side of the global community?

Mortiis: The first lyrics I wrote that became the Mortiis mythology, in the summer of 1992, were all supposed to be used for a planned Emperor concept album. That never happened obviously, since I didn´t last very long in the band after that. I had sketched out a dark otherworld in those 10-12 lyrics, and I brought them all with me, because I knew I wanted to base my music around them. That´s how it got started.

Michael: Politics are on everyone’s minds these days. No need to give an affiliation or ideology, but I wonder how you generally feel about this political landscape? Will it all calm down, and life go back to the mundane boring nature of the last 30 years, or are we headed for darker, more uncertain times?

Mortiis: Well it´s steadily been becoming more and more uncertain, and increasingly hostile and violent, and we have world leaders that seem more occupied with feeding fear and stroking their own egos, than actually going to work, so as it stands right now, I don´t think it´s looking that great. I hope things will get better. I have kids, and I don´t want them to grow up in some sort of dystopian, cynical future. But when people think they can run the world like a company, with no real interest in ramifications and the ripple effects of your actions…Who knows where things will end.

Michael: Thank you so much for your time. Is there anything else you would like to tell readers, which I have overlooked?

Mortiis: Thanks for your interest. Check out www.mortiiswebstore.com for vinyl, CD, shirts and other merchandise. Thanks!

Mortiis Links:
Official Website, Facebook, Youtube, Instagram,

Matteo Brusa (Medhelan/La Tredicesima Luna) – Interview


Matteo Brusa is the man behind the dungeon synth project, Medhelan, and the dark ambient project, La Tredicesima Luna. Hailing from northern Italy, Brusa’s cultural and geographical histories have played a big part in his identity as a musician. I was able to pick Brusa’s mind for this quite extensive interview, which will look into the background of the man, as well as the beginning and future of his musical projects. 

Michael: What sort of music inspired you to become a musician?

Matteo: I’ve been exposed to several music genres since a very young age, but if I have to name those which most inspired me to become a musician, I’d say classic rock, progressive rock and electronica. I discovered Black Sabbath at age 12 or 13, while Italian 1970s progressive rock is the reason why I picked up bass at age 14. At almost the same time I discovered electronic music from the 90s, especially European trance, minimal techno, downtempo and breakbeat, and developed an interest in electronic music production.

Michael: When you realized you wanted to start making music, how did things evolve leading up to Medhelan and La Tredicesima Luna?

Matteo: As mentioned before, I grew up in a very music-friendly environment. My father was an amateur keyboards player and used to own several different instruments, among which a prized Roland Juno-106 which is now in my care. As a kid I spent a lot of time toying with them and eventually teaching myself how to play a bit of keyboards and some guitar;at age 14 I began studying music theory and bass guitar, and started producing my first raw electronic tracks on a simple tracker software. Since then I’ve tried my hand at several electronic music styles, I’ve played bass in a number of underground bands through the years, and I created my first full-fledged musical project KRiOS, active from 2006 to 2014, which started out as a industrial dark ambient/noise act and eventually grew to encompass all my musical influences, including folk, shoegazing, dreampop and electronica. The major turning point was when I came in contact with extreme metal in my teens: I was particularly impressed by Black Metal, its counter-cultural significance, Weltanschauung and aesthetics, and how these same characteristics were applied to electronic music by the likes of Burzum, Ildjarn, Neptune Towers, Mortiis and Wongraven. Black Metal derived Dungeon Synth and Dark ambient became my genres of choice, those which most resonated with my self, when I felt the urge to create something carrying a deeper, more personal meaning. At that point it wasn’t “just music” to me anymore.

Michael: Outside of music, are there any other things for which you are passionate?

Matteo: I have a solid interest in European history and culture, both ancient and modern, and in metapolitics: I’m intrigued by everything that puts our social, economic and values system, deemed untouchable by most, into question. I highly value doubt and critical thought over given truths and conformity. Moreover, I support any cause that aims at preserving differences and natural diversity over homologation, and as a consequence I’m very passionate about the preservation of rural traditions, folk lore, legends, tales and the gallo-italic native Lombard language of my homeland in northern Italy, all things endangered by the slow destruction of traditional communities and cultural identities.

Michael: How has the history of your particular region affected your way of looking at life?

Vigevano Castle

Matteo: I grew up on the border between Lombardy and Piedmont, and I have half Lombard, half Piedmontese ancestry. It’s a place rich of historical traces spanning from the proto-Celtic cultures of Golasecca and Canegrate to World War II. A land dotted with feudal age castles and keeps, still functioning abbeys and monastaries, medieval villages perfectly preserved in their core structure, churches, monuments and works of art from all over the centuries and so on, up to the modern age. The place where I was born and where I lived for 25 years, Vigevano, is brimming with history. It was part of the Second Lombard League in the 13th century. It holds a complex castle system, complete with an innovative elevated passageway, built between the 13th and 15th centuries by the powerful Visconti and Sforza feudal families, which includes one of the finest plazas in Italy. At the time, Leonardo da Vinci worked in Vigevano for Ludovico Sforza, Duke of Milan. It’s also the place where, during the First War of Italian independence, the Salasco armistice between Austria and Piedmont was signed in 1848 and where in 1849 the battle of Sforzesca was fought. In the industrial age, it flourished with the most renowned shoemaking industry in Italy and it’s still a tradition. Eleonora Duse, renowned actress and lover of Gabriele D’Annunzio, was born there in 1858. When you grow up surrounded by history like this, you can’t just ignore who you are and where you come from, which people and events influenced your ancestors, and how it cascaded to you. This is the lesson I learned from the history of my region. My roots are firmly and deeply radicated in this place, and I’m proud to collect its heritage. Sadly, the majority of people just seem not to care anymore.

Michael: When did you first take an interest in the history of your region?

Matteo: I could say it’s always been there, as I remember being a kid in primary school and listening in awe to the teacher recounting the history of my hometown, as I mentioned before, from Celts to Roman age, to Lombards’ and Franks’ rule and then to the Visconti and Sforza families in feudal age, and again from Spanish and Austrian domination to the Savoy royal family’s reign, straight into Napoleonic era and then through the First War of Italian independence towards modern age. But if I had to pick the moment when it actually became a conscious, fully developed interest, that would be in my late teens/early twenties, some time before I set on composing what would eventually become the bulk of Medhelan’s “Ticinum Insubria” album, a time when I started feeling the need to embrace my cultural roots rather than downplay them.

Michael: You have released several albums now in the cassette format. Why do you think this renaissance in cassette releases has happened and what is the most important aspect of them to your music.Matteo: As far as I can tell, the renaissance of compact cassette is mainly due to the “nostalgia factor”, to put it this way, harking back to things instantly reminding of a “golden age” of sort. While this could have been enough of a reason for reviving them in the general context of underground music and its current retro trends, I believe the return of compact cassettes holds a deeper significance to our scene: it is a powerful statement of independence from the mainstream, against the rise of dematerialized digital music, in favor of an iconic, old school, analog physical alternative. Philosophical issues aside, tape gives a recognizable sonic quality to music, a depth and warmth which is a very welcomed enhancement to certain styles of music, such as ambient.
To sum it up, I like cassettes both for how they sound and look and because of their cultural significance.

Michael: You’ve released albums now through Deivlforst Records, Lighten Up Sounds and Haftvad Records. Were these all good experiences with these labels? Will you continue working with some of them for future releases?

Matteo: I’ve had great experiences with all of them. I first got in touch with Deivlforst through Grimrik, who eventually became a friend and mentor to me, and deserves all the credit for tutoring me on taking Medhelan to “Fall of the Horned Serpent” level. I feel close to both his and Murgrind’s vision and philosophy about music and the scene, and consider Deivlforst as Medhelan’s natural home;Medhelan’s next album will be released by Deivlforst. Matt Himes of Lighten Up Sounds is a great and extremely hard-working guy, who took La Tredicesima Luna under his wing to provide it with the best presentation, promotion and distribution available. I have only positive things to say about my experience with him, La Tredicesima Luna is likely staying with Lighten Up Sounds. Finally, Haftvad was Medhelan’s first label, and a very good collaboration, despite inexperience and some difficulties not depending on either me or the label. We never did anything again together, but I was impressed by Ramin’s dedication to the Dungeon Synth scene and community.

Michael: You’ve also had several self-released physical editions, including the beautifully crafted Ticinum Insubria re-release on cassette. Do you prefer leaving these physical releases to labels or was it equally enjoyable to create the releases yourself?

Matteo: While I enjoy self-releasing and being in full control when creating the entire opus from scratch, producing and distributing it, working with a label has a number of advantages that significantly reduce workload and costs, while usually making for a more professional final result. “Ticinum Insubria” itself was kind of a hybrid, as Dan Capp did the whole design and layout work while I only took care of production and distribution. I’ll probably keep releasing both ways, but if I had to choose one, today I lean more on having a good label take care of the process.

Michael: Does religion play any major role in your life and/or music?

Matteo: Rather than religion I’d say spirituality plays a major role in my life: I follow a Celtic Pagan reconstructionist path which permeates my life and gives perspective to my music. I try to live my daily life as an all-encompassing ritual, living in the world and embracing its beauty and chaos without ever straying too far away from things that really matter, always caring for those who walked here before me, those who walk by my side and those who’ll walk my steps after I’m gone.

Michael: I know this question has already been answered in a previous interview for Masmorra’s physical dungeon-synth zine, but for those that haven’t had the pleasure to browse that edition, what does Medhelan mean, and why did you decide on this name?

Matteo: Medhelan is the ancient Celtic name of the town Romans called Mediolanum, which is present-day Milan. According to Roman historian Livy, it was founded around 600 BC by the Gaulish chieftain Bellovesus, nephew of the legendary king Ambigatos, who gathered people from several different Celtic tribes to establish a settlement in northern Italy; this particular endeavor, while based on obvious tangible needs, is also loaded with spiritual significance if interpreted as a “coming of age” quest. I picked Medhelan as my project’s name because it perfectly relates to both my love for my homeland with its rich history and my Celtic spiritual path, while at the same time it speaks of the reward coming after the struggle, and of a ritual rebirth.

Matteo: All Medhelan albums were created on software synthesizers and sample libraries only. “Fall of the Horned Serpent” is entirely recorded on Propellerhead Reason 3.5 factory soundbanks! Grimrik was able to squeeze gold out of twelve years old entry level libraries, which seems an amazing feat to me. I like to expand my sonic palette and avoid repeating myself though, so future releases will likely include some hardware synths and possibly some real instruments.

Ticino River

Michael: Some of your tracks use field recordings, I wonder if you’ve had any interesting experiences while on field recording expeditions?

Matteo: This might come as a surprise, but I actually almost never employ field recordings!The wide atmospheres swelling and rumbling underneath my songs are mostly generative soundscapes, synth drones playing dissonant chords, or stuff I create myself by heavily manipulating bits of sampled sounds, different pieces of music and such. For example, one track from “Ticinum Insubria” (I won’t reveal which one!) stands atop a completely unrecognizable sample of an alpine choir song. I like to experiment with such techniques.

Michael: Are there any new releases in the works for Medhelan? Has a label been decided for the release, which could be announced publicly?

Matteo: As previously mentioned, a new Medhelan album is in the works, albeit very slowly. It will be quite different from the previous one, and again it will be released by Deivlforst Records.

Michael: Medhelan is obviously a very fantasy oriented project, especially on Fall of the Horned Serpent. What were some of your favorite fantasy stories/mythos/sagas? Do any of them play into the works of Medhelan, or are you working within a framework totally of your own making?

Matteo: To be honest, while “Fall of the Horned Serpent” and “The minstrel’s fireplace tales” are fantasy-oriented in appearance, I’ve never considered the fantasy element to hold such a primary importance in Medhelan; for example, the story in Serpent unfolds in the form of an episodic fantasy tale, ridden with echoes of northern sagas (anyone familiar enough with the subject matter will find clear connections), but it merely serves as an allegorical means to express my views and vision of life and the world, to speak out about things I care for. While I like fantasy settings, I’m not much of a fantasy reader, besides my love for Tolkien’s whole opus, but I’m very much into epic poems and literature: my must-reads include Homer’s Iliad (Hector is a figure I strongly admire and relate to, his human virtue and flaws make his tragedy the most poignant in the whole story) and the Odyssey, the Arthurian cycle, Beowulf, von Eschenbach’s Parzival, the Chanson de Roland and more.

Michael: La Tredicesima Luna translates at The Thirteenth Moon. What is the significance of this name?

Matteo: The thirteenth moon of the year, sometimes called blue moon, is the second full moon occurring in a single month, like a “bonus” moon round. It’s an event occurring only once in a few years (hence the expression “once in a blue moon”) and it’s held by certain traditions as a time favoring divination and magick. I picked the name because of the latter implications and how they relate to La Tredicesima Luna’s concept.

Michael: How long have you had the idea to release an album as La Tredicesima Luna?

Matteo: The idea for La Tredicesima Luna first came to me in 2012. It was initially supposed to be a Pagan neofolk project with dark ambient leanings. I recorded a few demos back then, which were subsequently discarded. When I decided to split Medhelan’s ambient side from its new Dungeon Synth path, it was a natural choice to revive La Tredicesima Luna from standby.

Michael: Do both projects follow similar themes, or is there a vast difference in the thematic core of each project?

Ticino Woods

Matteo: While both take a Pagan stance in concept, Medhelan is mainly based on history, Celtic culture and spirituality handled in different ways, ranging from the simple historical soundscaping of Ticinum Insubria to the full-fledged allegorical storytelling of Serpent, while La Tredicesima Luna holds a more abstract, ritual approach focused on Pagan symbolism, mysticism and contemplation.

Michael: What is next for La Tredicesima Luna? Are you working on a follow-up to Il Sentiero Degli Dei or giving the project a momentary rest?

Matteo: The follow-up to “Il sentiero degli Dei” is currently release-ready and will likely see the light some time next year through Lighten Up Sounds.

Michael: What do you think the long-term future will hold for you musically? Will Medhelan and/or La Tredicesima Luna continue to be your main focus or do you have other ideas which you would like to explore?

Matteo: Medhelan and La Tredicesima Luna will likely remain my primary focus; that said, I enjoy making different styles of music and I constantly find new musical interests, so I wouldn’t exclude anything.

Michael: Thank you so much for your time Matteo, are there any final words you would like to say to readers or anything I missed, which you would like them to know?

Matteo: Thank you Michael for this in-depth interview. I’d like to say a huge thank you to all fans, friends and fellow musicians I could get in touch with over these years, to all people who contributed their work, dedication and criticism for making Medhelan and La Tredicesima Luna shine, and to the Dungeon Synth community as a whole, for constantly caring and supporting. I’m deeply satisfied and grateful for all that. Behold the strength of the community.

Medhelan Links: Facebook, Bandcamp
La Tredicesima Luna Links: Facebook, Bandcamp

Eislandschaft – Tales of the Frost – Review

Artist: Eislandschaft
Album: Tales of the Frost
Release date: 13 October 2017
Label: Lighten Up Sounds

Tracklist:
01. I Found Them Buried in the Ice
02. Demented and Lost in the White Plain
03. There’s Something Out There, In the Middle of the Winter Night
04. Ten Thousand Footsteps in the Snow
05. The Iced Plateau
06. The Tombstone Under the Aurora Borealis

Lighten Up Sounds‘ recent release, Tales of the Frost, is the latest by up and coming dungeon synth artist Friedrich Curwenius of Argentina. In March of this year, Lighten Up Sounds released Curwenius’ first album Tunnels Under the Forest, under the moniker of Goblintropp. Now his latest release, Tales of the Frost, takes his dungeon synth style into a totally different territory, often transcending that genre itself, with this polar ambient / winter synth amalgamation.

Tunnels Under the Forest was a proper dungeon synth release which showcased Curwenius’ ability to create a spectacular and enchanting atmosphere within the tried and true style of previous dungeon synth masters. The album nods to the sounds of artists like Murgrind, and of course the forefather of the genre Mortiis. On Tales of the Frost Curwenius goes by a different name, Eislandschaft, which can be roughly translated to mean ‘icy landscape’. This is an appropriate title for the new album which can find comparisons to works by Vinterriket, Northaunt, Elador and Foglord among others.

While comparisons to these aforementioned artists would be helpful in describing the general direction of Tales of the Frost, it only begins to cut the surface of this brilliantly realized and well-honed release. The album could easily fit into the confines of the polar ambient or winter synth styles, but where it really stands out from the crowd is in its use of straightforward piano sections. Indeed, the album is heavily laden with this neo-classical flavor. Looking no further than the opener, “I Found Them Buried in the Ice”, the piano work sounds and feels as if it is the real deal, not a synthesizer version of a grand piano. One can almost imagine Curwenius sitting behind a beautiful Steinway, in the midst of a deep winter whiteout, winds whipping the fine granules of snow into massive drifts against the window of a cabin, high in the mountains.

The piano work is certainly the highlight of this album for me, but there is still plenty more to be said for Tales of the Frost. When incorporating the more conventional droning synth styles of other winter synth artists, like on the second track “Demented and Lost in the White Plain”, Eislandschaft proves to be a worthy competitor with some of the greatest of the style. The synth notes find that perfect balance between mid-range and a shimmering high-pitched timbre.

By the third track, “There’s Something Out There, In the Middle of the Winter Night”, we are presented with the last element which makes Eislandschaft such a successful project. As the synths take on a more subtle drone style, there are equally subtle field recordings layered in the background. These field recordings, unlike those of many winter synth artists, are perfectly balanced with the track. There is no overbearing attitude forcing this wintry atmosphere upon us. The layers of drone and field recording commingle exquisitely, making for a track which is as incredibly relaxing as it is isolating.

The original release by Eislandschaft in August 2017 would have been the middle of winter for the southern hemisphere, so we need not think of this as a summer release. The October re-release on Lighten Up Sounds gives the physical album the perfect amount of time to find its way around the world, before the winter months of the north commence. The beautifully realized cassette version of this release by Lighten Up Sounds fits the soundscapes splendidly with the cassette, cover-art and Norelco case all in white and the lettering on the cassette itself in a shimmering silver.

Tales of the Frost is a combination of winter-synth, polar-ambient and neo-classical at its absolute finest. The album makes for the perfect background to a cold winter night, nestled in one’s favorite chair in front of a blazing fire. For me, this album will be getting plenty of play through the coming winter months of the northern hemisphere. I would highly recommend the release to anyone with a deep love and respect for the frigid months of winter. Tales of the Frost is close to a perfection of its musical equivalent.

Written by: Michael Barnett

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