A few months ago I had never heard of dungeon synth, a sort of marriage between dark ambient and video game music. After doing my research and finding a plethora of bands, I believe I can safely say Barak Tor is my favorite of the bunch. There are so many influences I can hear in the music, and even though I have never heard Barak Tor before, I feel nostalgic. Listening to Barak Tor takes me back to the days of my youth when I would wake up extremely early on a Saturday to play Final Fantasy II (I didn’t know it was really IV until years later). There is a great story in this music. It’s regal, majestic, with hints of melancholy but overall an adventurous spirit, something so much music today is lacking.
Ræv Jäger has created a very simplistic yet highly enjoyable album with Silent Passages and Hidden Realms. According to his page he is inspired by the board games HeroQuest and Dark World, both of which I have never had the pleasure of playing but after listening to this sweeping opus I feel like I have to at least look into them.
Something in the music stirs my heart, I truly feel as though I am being drawn off to a new world with dozens of races to interact with, countrysides to explore, and castles to visit. There is adventure everywhere. This music takes me there and makes me want to set out over this new landscape, follow the sun and the wind. It is difficult, actually, to put into words how it makes me feel but these will do just fine I think.
Unlike ambient music there is no soundscape here, no minimalistic approach to create a certain sense of dread or foreboding, the music is very crisp and clean, harkening back to the days of 16-bit video games. It has its dark moments. But even though these slightly sinister passages there seems to be a glimmer of hope. More so than the sounds, I think the only true difference between dark ambient and dungeon synth is the emotions stirred.
Barak Tor, at times, even has a Summoning feel to it, the grandiose, cavernous drums and the repeating melodies that play over songs lasting in excess of ten minutes. Listening to Barak Tor makes me feel as though I have stumbled upon an undiscovered RPG from the early 90s that is just waiting to explode. As I said before, the sound is simple and the production is crisp which adds to the illusion of a brand new world to explore.
Interlaced with the music are themes of different races: dwarves, elves, men, wolfskin, and a few others. Ræv has given each race its own culture in which to create their own sound. Elves are light and breezy, atmospheric as if the music is wafting on the wind, while the dwarves are cavernous, the music seems to echo off of stone the deeper we go into their realm. This is a unique piece of music, a rare gem that truly just happened to stumble on whilst searching through the pile of music at bandcamp. I believe myself to be very lucky to have found Barak Tor, and I also believe that you will find yourself in a similar position once the music begins to play.
Listen and support nostalgia!