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 Review archive:  # a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z

Bannwald, Uruk-Hai, and Druadan Forest - Kingdoms Long Gone [Antiq - 2020]

At the dawn of the Black Metal genre, some bands added in quiet, atmospheric, majestic & largely guitar-less musical passages created with the use synthesizers….and this was the origins of the Dungeon Synth genre. The first true & pure Dark Dungeon Music project(later given a simpler name - Dungeon Synth) was Mortiis (formally of Emperor) , and in  1993 he released his debut album The song of a long-forgotten Ghost. The album was completely recorded using synthesizers and consisted of gloomy and atmospheric passages with obvious black metal / Viking / fantasy aesthetics. Over time, Dungeon Synth has developed, transformed and experienced various influences of many musical genres, turning into a large-scale layer of the musical underground structure.

In 2020, the French Antiq label released the 3-way split album Kingdoms Long Gone featuring Dungeon Synth projects Bannwald, Uruk-Hai, and Druadan Forest. The album was released as a CD, audio cassettes and digitally. All these options are available for order on the label website and on its Bandcamp page.
 
The album cover is a hand drawn monochrome picture, . It depicts an old dried tree standing surrounded by forest and grass. Above, on a black background, the names of the projects are written, made in the stylized Gothic font of a gray color. At the bottom of the cover, on the same background, the name of the album is written, made in the same style as the names of the projects. Despite some infantility, the cover seemed pretty atmospheric to me. In general, it feels like it could be an early black metal album cover.
 
The album consists of six tracks with a total duration of just over fifty-one minutes. It is worth saying that split albums in the Dungeon Synth genre are relatively rare. At least I can’t remember a large number of albums in this category. Given the fact that over time this genre has absorbed many different influences, it was interesting for me to hear and compare the different approaches to writing music from different musicians.
 
The first three tracks on this album are from Bannwald. The tracks are called "Fortress I", "Fortress II" and "Kingdoms Long Gone". Unfortunately, I did couldn't find almost any information about this project. Bannwald, besides this monitored split, participated in only one compilation of the label Antiq, with the track "Fortress I", which is also present on this split. The music of Bannwald is a Dungeon Synth with a great influence on medieval and folk music, as well as obvious moments reminiscent of the musical style of classical music called "baroque". In general, this is a piece of rather intense music with an abundance of interwoven melodies and arrangements and a rich rhythm line. Speaking of analogies, the first to come to my mind was the Austrian Epic Black Metal band Summoning. I can’t say that Bannwald is copying the style, but I felt a clear influence from this band. Despite the generally positive impression, I still made out some unsuccessful and dissonant moments in the arrangements of Bannwald.
 
The fourth and fifth tracks belong to the Austrian project Uruk-Hai. I think this is one of the most respected projects within the Dungeon Synth scene. The project was formed in 1999 and its discography currently has almost 200 different releases. In my opinion, the inclusion of Uruk-Hai in the Dungeon Synth scene is a rather controversial issue. Alexander "Hugin" Wieser, the sole participant and founder of the project, is too diverse in his composer work to classify his project. Uruk-Hai's discography included black metal albums and Ambient albums, as well as works close to New Age and classical electronics. The projets two track here are Uruk-Hai presented two tracks - "Orkish Hymn" and "The Birth of an Uruk-Hai". The stylistics of both tracks I would describe as Progressive Electronic with a touch of Dungeon Synth and Ambient. Here there are quite complex and thoughtful compositional solutions and unobtrusive melodic structures. In their mood, these tracks are more like a soundtrack to a movie or video game, which brings Uruk-Hai music closer to classical music.
 
This split ends with the composition of the Finnish project Druadan Forest called " Tuhat Tähteä Ikuisuuden Viitassa". Druadan Forest is a project of the Finnish musician Kalma, who characterizes the style of the project as J.R.R. Tolkien inspired black metal. The discography of Druadan Forest has four full-length albums, three demo releases, and two compilations from 1998 to present days. Seemingly at one point the project was more Black Metal focused, but it's very much pure Dungeon Synth, which is very clearly indicated by the style of the track presented here . This is a long, almost twenty-minute track, made at the junction of Dark Ambient and the classic Dark Dungeon Music. It sometimes even seemed to me that I hear passages from the Mortiis albums "Fodt Til a Herske" and "Anden som Gjorde Oppror", which undoubtedly is an indicator of the high quality of Kalma's composing abilities. However, the track seemed a little tightened and monotonous to me.
 
So in finishing here, we have a rather strong and very interesting album, showing the versatility of the Dungeon Synth genre. I think that if your not familiar with this style of experimental music, then this split will be interested to start  your acquaintance with Dungeon Synth. And for fans of this genre, Kingdoms Long Gone will be a very nice gift

Rating: 4 out of 5Rating: 4 out of 5Rating: 4 out of 5Rating: 4 out of 5Rating: 4 out of 5

Sergey Pakhomov
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