Published on Wednesday, 28 September 2016 23:32
Album title: Taur-Nu-Fuin
Release date: 31 July 2016
Label: Deivlforst Records
01. In Hills Of Shadows Bleak And Cold
02. Non Stirred The Listening Leaves
03. Twilit Fogs On Tarn Aeluin
04. Gwindor's Rest
I haven't reviewed a dungeon synth album since last fall. But, in the meantime I have been finding an increasing number of high-quality releases, which are pushing themselves closer to the top of the list as the months pass. Deivlforst Records, the largest exclusively dungeon synth label, has been pumping out some great products over the last 2 years or so. Grimrik, Murgrind, and their collaboration Arath have been giving fans plenty of high quality dungeon synth releases to sink their ears into. But, when Thangorodrim released Taur-Nu-Fuin I knew it was absolutely necessary to write about this album.
The label was quick to pick up on the awesome talents of Thangorodrim. After discovering the project, Deivlforst signed Thangorodrim for the release and Grimrik gave it his elite mastering treatment. Soon after re-releasing the album on Deivlforst, Thangorodrim found a huge audience of fans who loved his old-school dungeon synth sound. Thangorodrim has produced an album here which is full of the high adventure feel. Something that would seem fitting around the table playing some Dungeons and Dragons. But, the album has much more substance than is immediately noticed. Field recordings are minimal or non-existent here. Where many dungeon synth artists blend their styles into areas that feel increasingly like dark ambient, Thangorodrim has managed to make a stand out record which fits squarely within this genre.
"In Hills Of Shadow Bleak And Cold" shows off a bit of darkness in this project that I find lacking in many dungeon synth releases. The synths are dreary and almost sinister at times. The vocal elements blend perfectly into this sound, making for something that could almost be related to some old Cold Meat Industry albums. "Non Stirred The Listening Leaves" starts off with a hollow sounding drum beat, something that feels organic and almost orcish. Yet, much of the track is built on a synth foundation, so the overall feel becomes more fantastic, more unreal. These elements all come together to give us imagery of an adventure through the darkest corridors of Middle Earth. As the track winds down, a brilliantly executed acoustic guitar line takes over, diving back into the surreal yet organic feel. "Twilit Fogs On Tarn Aeluin" begins in a way that any fan of dungeon synth will find familiar. The slow icy feeling synths bring to mind early Burzum. Again this dark and sinister feel holds us in its grip, refusing to fully give way to feelings of bravery and honor, as is often front and center in dungeon synth. There is doubt here, darkness, magic which the gods would rather we forgot. Yet within this darkness there is a beautifully rendered song. The track flows smoothly, feeling at once sinister, cold, and relaxing. "Gwindor's Rest" is quite a dynamic track. Beginning with the most minimal of synth lines, "Gwindor's Rest" slowly evolves into something that at times becomes almost jubilant. Maybe this is the point where good has finally overcome the evil of the land.
Often described as a sub-genre of a sub-genre, I think dungeon synth is coming into its own. Albums like Taur-Nu-Fuin give us an example of how these latest additions to the genre look reverently back to the past. Yet, the beauty of Deivlforst Records is their ability to incorporate multiple styles within the label, keeping it dungeon synth and keeping the quality extremely high. This is a huge part of the reason that their limited-edition physical merchandise sells out within days of being posted. Fans have quickly come to rely on Deivlforst for all their dungeon synth needs. With the exceptional mastering talents of Grimrik behind the curtain, and the beautiful album art and packaging, it is no wonder that they have so quickly found themselves at this point. Recently Deivlforst secured all 5 top positions on Bandcamp's dungeon synth sales charts. Quite a feat for a label that is still extremely young.
On Taur-Nu-Fuin, Thangorodrim has given us an essential dungeon synth album. All the hallmarks of the genre can be found at some point within this album. Yet, the thing I liked the most about Taur-Nu-Fuin is its level of darkness. There is something to this album, something sinister, which many dungeon synth projects fail to grasp. So often dungeon synth albums descend into territory which is already over-done or just down-right cheesy. Deivlforst has no tolerance for this, they are clearly attempting to take a stand and push their high quality version of the genre out into the world, for fans of all varieties to discover. This album shouldn't be written off as something to play in the background during your role-play game. Thangorodrim has shown the ability here to hold the listeners attention all the way through the album, giving them a lesson in the old-school sounds of dungeon synth along the way. Yet another magnificent release from Deivlforst. I would highly recommend Taur-Nu-Fuin to anyone looking to test the waters of dungeon synth. I haven't heard a better album in recent years which encompasses all the old-school glory without sounding dated.
Written by: Michael