ROTW: Stellary Wisdom!

Our last couple Records Of The Week have been loaded with synthesizers – the South African bubblegum boogie-synth of Gumba Fire! last week and the spaced-out kosmische cassette-culture synth of The Nightcrawlers the week before that. And at the beginning of the year, we made the Japanese video game synth soundz of the Diggin In The Carts comp a Record Of The Week too. So sue us, we like synth. Now this week, the question is: have you gotten into 'Dungeon Synth' yet?

We definitely had dungeon synth, and proto- dungeon synth, stuff at aQuarius, but mostly before it became a 'thing.' Don't think we ever used the term in any of our reviews (not even when we wrote up the awesome Cave Evil Radio Mix). Now, it's a entire burgeoning, Mortiis-lovin' underground genre of minimalist, medieval-sounding lo-fi electronic music that has a lot in common with DIY one-man black metal bands, but, like, consists of the intros only. Those troo cvlt nerds over at Bandcamp provided a great listener's guide last year, a good place for noobs to dip their toes. And the first act mentioned in that article is the one responsible for our Record Of The Week now – the 'Wampyric Specter' himself, Dutch dungeon synth maestro Old Tower, definitely one of our faves in the genre. The Profound Lore label are obviously also fans and jumped in to bring us Old Tower's first ever cd release (dungeon synth is usually more of a cassette or digital-only phenomenon, so glad to see some now on our favorite format – in this case, appropriately packaged with its "slipcase and booklet on matte cardstock for that old/decrepit feel").

What exactly is so special about Old Tower and new album Stellary Wisdom? Well, absorb about five minutes of the first of the disc's two lengthy tracks, "Deep Within My Somber Castle Halls" and you won't have to ask. Instead you'll be imagining crumbling stone passageways beneath an ancient fortress, lit by flickering torchlight, haunted by the specters of slain warriors, that sort of thing. Like a lot of the best dungeon synth, not surprisingly it's good, solemn ambient organ music for playing D&D – not for fighting battles, so much as for after the battle when your party is taking a 'long rest' to mourn fallen comrades, recover lost hit points and study spellbooks, keeping watch for any horrid wandering monsters that might intrude from the darkness.

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