The sounds of victory and wild fantasy are brought to life in this dungeon synth project.
Words by Jake Sanders (@themetalscholar):
It's a lore-driven river that feeds life into the sea of ambient music that has terraformed the landscape of the genre of dungeon synth. Battered by years of questing in multiple artistic mediums, glorious nerds of the recent past bring the wonder and excitement of literature, movies, tabletop battles, and video-games to forefront of creative composition by designing a freehand soundtrack to the imagination, and camaraderie of the world of high fantasy.
That composer is Wraith Knight, the newest innovation engine from Nick Superchi, our conductor from the PNW. It's a cleverly executed foray into the wilderness of synth, a genre dominated by sounds from artists whose name is synonymous with the phenomenon, such as Mortiis, Lord Wind, Pazuzu, and Wongraven. The difference in this exercise in acute transformation is how subtle and on-theme the album feels, because in the end, that's the key to how successful one's dungeon synth experience is; the artist must convince the listener that they're transported to an alien environment, a medieval one, that inspires visions of dragons, magic, swordfights, and monsters that lurk in the dark corners of the world.
That's where Deep in the Dungeons of the Dragonlord takes flight.
Sound diversity is on-point in this excursion, the tolling of bells and chimes in cavernous holds spirits audiences on a trek through miles of endless subterranean trails, the winding and twisting sounds of an endless journey echo with each timpani build, and staggered movements that are bookended by layered phrasing that will have many clutching their headphones to feel the richer depth of sound.
Gloom takes over at several junctions in this album, a kind of morose atmosphere that is tempered only by the even plucking of strings that trace the concern and indecision of a hero caught between victory, and certain doom.
At many points, the seamless structure of the album strives to paint a Frazetta-like background to a living world that breaks free in ascending and descending scales that shine through the cracks of the ceiling that showcase Nick's unwavering need to not just compliment an existing sound, but craft a catchy hook that players, readers, and active listeners can clutch to when they've moved on to the next activity, the next page, the next dungeon. It's hardly dramatic, but it doesn't need to be. The charm of the Dragonlord is its willingness to be whatever it needs to be without dictating the action to the listener.
This album is a gauntlet wielded by hands that appreciate both the beauty, and serenity of its visual arts. Abrupt choral eruptions echo from below, a voiceless choir of blind monks, and ancient beings that guide heroes and villains to a final confrontation in the realms of chaos, the pages of a grimdark novel, or the world of the Maidenless.
Those who savor the scores of their favorite games will be pleasantly surprised by well over forty minutes of mystic ambiance, and mythical lore from a guy who has made it his business to dive deep into a genre that is only recently gaining a significant mainstream following, as well as an artist who has plunged his hands into three genres now, and has come out the other side of them all with a healthy respect for exercising both competent minimalism, and utter grandiosity in his delivery.
With inspiration and sound similarities that share a common ground with over-the-top artists like Jeremy Soule, and electronic experts like Simon Chylinski, it's a refreshing dip with elements people love injected into a genre that is criminally-obsessed with Lo-Fi sound. This reviewer would liken the unique difference to the sounds of another such innovator, the legendary Hole Dweller. There's a specific sound that's being channeled here, and it sticks to the fringes of one's nostalgic itch.
If you've ever been locked into a multi-hour Dungeons & Dragons campaign with your closest friends, if you've ever been on the edge of your seat at Medieval Times, if you've ever been completely immersed in the beauty of a walk through the woods of Tamriel in the Elder Scrolls: Oblivion, you've felt what Wraith Knight has come to wave the banner for, and this soundtrack is for you.
The question is — do you seek adventure?