The line between dark ambient and dungeon synth is a blurry one. The rawness of production is often the contributing factor when I decide whether I consider something dungeon synth or dark ambient. The more lo fi and fuzzy the sound, the closer the music is to dark ambient than dungeon synth. Until recently, I had never truly explored the actual line between them. That changed when I was recommended Caverne, a dark ambient/dungeon synth project from the cold reaches of Quebec. The album Dans les cendres du Mordor, for me at least, represents the very edge a project can be called dungeon synth. For me, this album is the line.
The album does a very good job of tip toing that line, sometimes hopping over the line into dark ambient (using both industrial and ritual sounds) then back to lo fi but cinematic dungeon synth. I was not sure I was going to like the rawness of the album at first, it was good but sometimes the fuzz felt like it was getting in the way of the experience. Dans… likely won’t be everyone’s cup of tea but I think it’s still something to which we should all listen and give a chance. After a few minutes my head and mind adjusted to the lo fi production and I was able to really start to enjoy and analyze it.
The album has some familiar names (even if you don’t speak French) that point pretty directly to the source of inspiration. Gorgoroth and Mordor can only point in one direction, if you’re me at least: Tolkien. Yet this is not your typical Tolkien synth album, It’s not beautiful or rich of sound and imagery. Dans… focuses on the most minimal sounds possible and pumps sound up, making it dark and twisted and nasty. There are vocals used throughout the album that seem reminiscent of orcs screaming out in the darkness. In fact, the album has a lot of similarities in terms of sound quality to Burzum, not the prison albums but the black metal albums. The quality is harsh and unlovely, every sound, even the quiet ones, have a sort of hard, sharp edge to them. It’s bleak and stark but the sound somehow has an atmosphere. It’s not much, but it’s there.
As I said, this album represents the very edge of what dungeon synth can be. At times it departs wholly from what I would have called dungeon synth and fallen into something that I’m not even sure what to call. Despite the wandering genre, Caverne remains consistent in the sound quality, giving the listener heaps and heaps of lo fi, harsh synth music. In typical black metal and dungeon synth traditions, Caverne is about as obscure as you can get, I only found it because it was recommended to and even though a quick search to do some preliminary research brought up the bandcamp page. However, I think knowing that the project originates in Quebec is enough to interest me, nearly everything I’ve found in that region of Canada has been at the tops of all my lists. Dans… might not be for everyone, but for those of us who have found enjoyment here it’s a gem hidden in a pile of burnt out charcoal. Check it out if you will, and let me know what you think of this project that toes the line.
Listen and support the music!