Kobold – The Curse of the Ancient Abbey (2018)

My introduction to the dungeon synth genre was Heimat der Katastrophe’s first Kobold album. This is the second, The Curse of the Ancient Abbey. I love the stuff HDK puts out, so I have largely stuck to their brand of DS, but I am slowly expanding out. This is a tape cassette, by the way. I am buying cassettes again. Who’d a thunk? It is worth it for the retro art and the tray card maps and all that, even if I don’t have a tapedeck.

I am hardly an expert, but dungeon synth apparently sprung out of the black metal scene. You know how the first track of a lot of black metal albums is often ambient and moody and minimal and sometimes kind of folky with medieval instruments? That’s sort of what dungeon synth is, but with a focus on synthesizers instead of string instruments. It never gets into blast beats or screaching vocals. A lot of it harkens back to 1980s videogame music – one of the reasons I love Kobold so much is because it reminds me of the soundtrack to the original Shadowgate game.  

Despite the black metal thing (and maybe because a certain shitty fascist black metal project gets a lot of credit for trailblazing dungeon synth), I think the real origin lies further back with Wendy Carlos, Brian Eno, John Carpenter, Tangerine Dream and that whole gang. I listened to a Switched On Bach record not too long ago and there isn’t realllly a whole lot of difference. So maybe it is more accurate to say dungeon synth is what happened when black metal folks got a hold of the TRON soundtrack. I’ve not really explored too much outside of my HDK comfort zone, but that’s kind of what Neptune Towers (an amazing, two album dungeon synth solo project by Fenriz of Darkthrone) sounds like to me…

You can check out Kobold and the other HDK releases on their Bandcamp page.

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