Don’t get me wrong, I love Tolkien related music as much as the next guy, but every now and then you need a break from the constant trips to Middle-Earth. Sometimes you need to go to a place that is a little more horror than fantasy. Naturally, Lovecraft and his world of cosmic horror is the place to go. I’ve been a Lovecraft fan for nearly a decade now and whenever I find good music that brings his writings to life I feel on top of the world. Dungeon synth, while normally focusing the fantasy or medieval styles of music, has some of the best Lovecraftian music I have ever heard. Lovecraft has found a home in dungeon synth the same way that Tolkien has and artists like Voormithadreth and that project’s latest album The Quest of Iranon.
Voormithadreth was one of those projects that I didn’t know anything about, not even the name, until it was staring me right in the face demanding to be listened to. Once I did hear about it though and heard The Quest of Iranon a few times I began to see Voormithadreth all over the place. You can blame algorithms or the Old Ones for that I suppose. Whatever the reason, I knew I needed to review and analyze this album. It was too good, too original not to. The Quest of Iranon is the only Voormithadreth album I’ve heard up this point so many conjectures and conclusions might later prove false. The Quest of Iranon is a four track, but very much a full length, album, each of the four tracks details a different city, and short story, within the mythos. Voormithadreth does a good job, though, staying away from the famous Lovecraftian cities we already know far too much about in Dunwich, Innsmouth, and Carcosa. Instead he goes to Aira, Polaris, Celephaïs, and Zakarion. Not exactly prominent places on the map but it’s about time we go to the less popular locales and explore them.
And do we ever get to explore them! Voormithadreth is a very old school dungeon synth project, with very nostalgic atmospheres and grainy, but still well developed, production. I cannot say enough good things about the sound quality of the album. It might sound odd but sound quality has recently become very important and very noticeable for me. If I found an album that isn’t clean but it’s not raw that I can’t feel the music I’m over the moon. The Quest of Iranon has just the right amount of grain to make it sound as though it’s ancient. Many of the stories that Voormithadreth uses to create this album are stories that take place a long time ago (24,000 BC by some counts). The music reflects that with its singular sound. There are several melodies woven together but the listener can tell it’s still on one instrument.
Each song stands out, able to tell the story of their city without outside help. If you listen to each song individually, as I have a few times, you aren’t left with the feeling that there is something missing, that the songs could have been longer or that they were empty somehow. Each song is full of life and emotion but that life and emotion is perfectly summed up in that song. Each song, too, has a very distinct sound, none of them blend together in a way that makes them forgettable. There are myriad themes and motifs that appear in one song, that don’t appear again in any of the others. Like the cities themselves, the songs are utterly unique. Some of the melodies the songs are founded are have similar patterns but the ways in which those patterns develop is unique to the songs.
Each song has an emotion attached to it as well. The Quest of Iranon has hope mixed with adventure that turns out to be hollow and nihilistic, just like the short story itself. Polaris is full of fear and wonder, the urge to see what lies behind the dark side of the moon. Ex Oblivione is melancholic and sad, the pacing of the song makes it feel much longer than the track is. Celephaïs is soft and quiet, almost content but still tingled with melancholia.
The Quest of Iranon is not an album that features the cosmic horrors and madness that Lovecraft has become so synonymous with, but rather the stories of ancient people. I would label these stories, at least in the way that Voormithadreth portrays them, as tragedies rather than horror. Cosmic tragedy, is that a thing? If it’s not then Voormithadreth is pioneering it. The Quest of Iranon is the tragedy of the human condition, of life that wonders in meandering circles and goals seem always just out of reach.
What stroke me the first time I heard The Quest of Iranon for the first time was how cinematic it felt. The music would soar for a measure or two before lowering into a soft drone then swelling to a height again, the same way a good movie soundtrack does. It heightens the listeners emotions and connection to the film they are watching. For that reason, each time I’ve listened to the album since, number at least in the three to four dozen by now, I feel like this album is the soundtrack to an unmade movie about Lovecraft from the 90s. An animated movie done in a similar style to the Rankin Bass films I grew up on, that’s the film I see in my head. Great swaths of color that give off a vaguely sci fi feel and a vaguely fantasy one but never going over into either. Voormithadreth has written one of the best dungeon synth album not only of the year but one of the best I’ve ever heard. It’s beautiful and understated, it’s quiet and subtle but at the same time it opens to the door to an enormous and magnificent world worth exploring. I truly hope that Voormithadreth continues this kind of music. Lovecraft comes to life with these melodies and themes as he hasn’t for a very long time. Keep up the good work!
Highlights: The Quest of Iranon, Ex Oblivione
For Fans Of: Trogool, Sequestered Keep, Cryo Chamber Collaborations
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- The Quest of Iranon
- Ex Oblivione
The Quest of Iranon was released independently through Bandcamp on April 13th, 2017