There are perhaps few genres more niche than dungeon synth. This strange love-child of black metal and dark ambient music was birthed in the early 90s, often tracing its roots back to albums by Burzum, Mortiis and Summoning. On an aesthetic level, dungeon synth is deeply indebted to the black metal scene of which its early pioneering artists were members, and frequently draws on many of the same themes and concepts: high fantasy literature, melancholy and sombre moods, nature, and — of course — dark, mouldy dungeons. But the means by which it creates these sometimes ominous, other times triumphant, atmospheres could not be more different. Even today, artists still more often than not rely on ancient analogue synthesizers and little else. There’s an enormous sense of respect for the old ways of doing things — an ethos one can of course trace back to the genre’s roots in black metal.
The deep love of many black metal musicians for the fictional work created by J. R. R. Tolkien is well-established at this point, and it goes back almost to the birth of the genre itself. Thangorodrim is in fact named after the three enormous volcanoes within the Iron Mountains which Morgoth raised during the First Age, while his third album’s title means ‘Star of High Hope’ in Sindarin. Since his last album, Taur Nu Fuin, Thangorodrim has been spoken of in tones of reverence among the dungeon synth community, and as such the anticipation for Gil-Estel has been high.
I wanted to remind everyone of Forndom’s EP ‘Flykt’ and put together a few thoughts on it. Forndom draw particularly from Norse culture and folklore, nature, and Scandinavian history. What this results in is music that blends elements of dark ambient music with tribal, ritual, folk and neofolk music (and even a tiny dash of black metal) to create a highly engrossing, meditative set of songs. There’s even a dash of black metal here, from the atmosphere to some of the harsh vocals on the track ‘Flykt’. That track and ‘När Alvkungens rike faller samman’ are the highlights for me, but every track on here is phenomenal and truly unique.
Though this blog is called Metal Void I think it would be disingenuous and limiting to focus solely on genres of music that might be described as metal. Neofolk is a style of music with a significant overlap with fans of metal, so I feel it’s not inappropriate to cover said genres on this blog. For me, a lot of metal is about a certain feeling, regardless of how a particular artists decides to express that feeling. It’s a feeling of a connection with nature, with the world around us, giving us a sense of place in the world and within our lineage and ancestors. Paleowolf is a solo project from Belgrade, Serbia that aims to channel this feeling.
‘Primordial’ is their first official release, an EP of four tracks totaling 34 minutes in length and featuring two brand new tracks. As I mentioned, Paleowolf are about channeling a certain kind of feeling; in particular they focus on a kind of sound that brings to mind prehistoric hunter-gatherer societies. In Paleowolf’s music, the sole musician ‘A.W.’ brings together influences from genres such as dark ambient, neofolk, tribal, and ritualistic music to create a compelling soundtrack to prehistoric times. Among his repertoire of instruments are natural instruments from drums to whistles, haunting chanted vocals, throat singing, and natural field-recordings, as well as minimal but tasteful use of electronic sounds, usually only as background effects. And ‘soundtrack’ really might be a better description than ‘album’ or ‘EP’ or even ‘song’; there is of course no traditional song-structure here: no choruses or even lyrics, verses or riffs. This music paints pictures and scenes, and tells stories, conveying its emotions and messages through the music itself.
This album really does achieve what it sets out to do. This is really a form of musical escapism, much like their contemporaries in Wardruna. Their music calls to mind ages past, and try to paint as vivid and natural a picture as they can. Its ritualistic, trance-like pace, repetition and droning passages draws you into and fully immerses the listener into Paleowolf’s prehistoric world. The sterling use of natural instruments is a large part of why Paleowolf succeed: where many of their contemporaries rely on garish artificial synthesisers which often serve to break immersion, the very instruments Paleowolf make use of enhance the sense of immersion. A hugely enjoyable and immersive experience, Paleowolf deserve your support.