Throw drone and dungeon synth together and what do you get? You get Undead Magic User, my latest Bandcamp gem find. Just a week ago, Undead Magic User released Master of Dungeons, the perfect marriage of SunnO)))’s guitar drone and the fantasy realms of dungeon synth. It’s not a quick listen, it’s not an easy listen. But it is a must listen. It has everything you could want in both drone and in dungeon synth, the songs are long. Lo-o-o-o-o-o-o-ng, most of them averaging out to fifteen minutes with the final track “Triumph of the Demilich” crawling along at nearly forty-nine minutes. This is not one of those albums for the faint of heart. It’s a mad, dark world in here, but someone has to go.
A few stray thoughts before we get on with things first. One, that album cover looks like it could go on a black metal album, an epic doom album, a drone album, or a dungeon synth album; whoever picked it deserves a prize. Two, I’m half convinced this actually is SunnO))) disguising themselves as a dungeon synth outfit for kicks. Three, if there will ever be an Undead Magic User concert, I am going to need a lot of craft beer. Four, Dungeon and Dragons is going to take a whole new image after this album, “Mindflayed” is right.
I’ll admit, the role playing aspect of Dungeons and Dragons is not as appealing to me as the books that pour out of the press from Wizards of the Coast. While I enjoy a good session as much as the next man, I have always found it easier and more relaxing to sink into a story of someone else’s creation and imagination. I am a particular fan of the Drizzt novels. I know, I know but listen. The novels of the Underdark, that creepy underground world where everything is about to kill everything else, is at the heart of this album and that’s where the first Drizzt novels take place. They take place in an expanse of blackness and stone, of slime and spiders and death. It’s filled with murderous elves, evil dwarves, and monsters that would make Howard Phillips cry with delight. You get the picture, it’s not a nice place, it’s creepy. It’s the perfect place to set a dungeon synth album. Undead Magic User creates the most dreadful atmosphere with drones that seem to echo on and on endlessly, giving the listener the feeling that the world they are in is vast beyond comparison but so dark at the same time that they can’t see two inches from their face. It’s a terrifying feeling that Undead Magic User uses wields with absolute supremacy. The drones are keyboard driven instead of guitar which makes them feel much richer, fuller, and perhaps a little less nasally. I love the raw production of the album, it’s not lo fi but it’s definitely minimalist in the extreme.
The listener travels down in the dark, but to what point and purpose? Do they succeed? Do they succumb to the madness and terror that dwells hungrily in the dark? If the track titles are any indication, I don’t think the listeners are meant to make it out alive in this one. It’s a depressing tale of glory seeking fools who rush into the abyss without realizing the abyss has been waiting for them. I love dark fantasy and that’s exactly what this tale is. No matter what the listener-protagonist tries to do, they fail. Death is not even an option down here (because of, you know, undead magic users). Soon enough all of us will falter from the path and end up lost and alone, surrounded by living shadows and monsters so terrible that the light itself hides from them. The music is very clear throughout the entire album: we are at the mercy of the dungeon.
Would I recommend this album to everyone? Probably not, it’s not an easily accessible album with a little something for everyone. No, this is what I would call an expert level dungeon synth. Are you worthy of it? Are any of us?
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