Saturday, February 14, 2015

Introducing: CJ, current Malicious Intent Host at KJHK 90.7FM

Hey there folks,

I arrive bearing good news! Despite a brief absence, Malicious Intent is live once more at KU and after connecting with Wulf a couple of weeks ago it became apparent that my presence in the extended MI family was an absolute necessity. I'm glad to be a part of this blog, and even more glad to be a part of the MI revival.

I began hosting the show back in August at the request of an old friend and current programming director at KJHK. My passion for music has always been best explored in my love for metal, so it's hardly something I could say no to. I'll not bore the lot of you too much of those details, but I'll at least explain my connection to the genre and how I approach hosting the show.

I’ve been an avid metal fan since I was a wee lad, and moved into the more extreme realm of its existence during middle school. I guess I’ve never really looked back, and while I’ve certainly branched out to other genres since that time, I still barrage my ears with wall-of-sound rhythms, buzzsaw riffing, blistering solos and machine-gun drumming at least 80% of the time.

As a hobbyist musician, I know that what I appreciate about the genre of metal most is its relation to classical, jazz and blues stylizations. There are so many talented artists out there who are attempting to reshape music as we know it, and I believe that comes from the ability to take so many influences to an extreme and abstract fruition. That makes my time as the host of Malicious Intent that much more enjoyable because I can simultaneously enjoy such a visceral genre and still discuss intricate compositional qualities on air.

As far as Malicious Intent goes, my goal from the beginning was to represent the genre of metal in the same way that I listen to it: all of its sub-genres capture my attention in some way or another, so what you hear is a reflection of that. I also like to be sure that I'm not simply playing the things that I enjoy. For example, I don't play much deathcore, but I don't shy away from it for the sake of "trve"ness. We’re currently rebuilding our metal collection in the station based upon what I can bring in every week. This has limited request potential to some degree, but I'm doing my best!

One other bit of important information is that the show time has actually changed - it now runs from 10 p.m. - midnight on Saturdays as opposed to the Sunday schedule it used to be on. Wulf had a nice suggestion that I'm trying to follow up on that will allow me to rip the streams of the show and republish it as a podcast - stay tuned for more on that in the near future. Until that time, you can check the show out on 90.7FM in Lawrence or online at! 

I'll be popping up here pretty regularly now, so cheers until next time!


Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Interview with Crow of Lord Lovidicus!!

Interview conducted via e-mail, February 2015.

Listen and support Lord Lovidicus' music:
Keep updated about Lord Lovidicus:
Lord Lovidicus' Youtube Channel:
Mithrim Records:

WULF: So from what I can tell, you haven’t done too many interviews. Tell us a bit about yourself and your music. How did you get into the mysterious, intriguing world of dungeon synth?

CROW:  I'm just a human that likes to keep himself busy. I've developed many hobbies that I undertake in my spare time, one of which is music. For me, growing up in a musical background with a father who is a musician, I've always had a passion for composition. I started writing Lord Lovidicus when I was 15 years old, and now I'm 20. I've come a long way, and what started out as musical expression turned into something that I could share with others through social media. Of course, this isn't something I've strived for, it's something I've incidentally stumbled upon. Particularly, dungeon synth was not in my mind when writing my music. I wrote music inspired by what I was surrounded by: video games and fantasy books. Eventually my music developed into what could be considered dungeon synth, but I never intended to write dungeon synth music.

WULF: Maybe I’m, crazy, but I feel like there’s been a drastic improvement in the quality of your music ever since you released “Forgotten Ruins” in June 2013. The following album, “Kyndill og Stein” was great as well. However, shit really got kicked into high gear with your most recent album, “Waldervogel des Waldes” (released in November 2014)! In my opinion, that’s one of the greatest “neo”-dungeon synth albums of all time, and is bound to be a classic! While I do appreciate the more “old-school” dungeon synth style of some newer artists (such as Splendorius or Murgrind), I feel like both you and (fellow dungeon synth conjurer) Erang are redefining the genre with your newer music while simultaneously demonstrating that this kind of music doesn’t necessarily have to sound like it came out in 1991 in order to belong. How do you feel about this evolution in your style? What brought about this drastic change in sound?

CROW:  This decision was purely a matter of composition in my mind. I loved the authentic, lo-fi sounds of my earlier work, but it became a limitation as far as composition. With a keyboard full of MIDI sounds, I was able to get the different sounds that I thought of as sufficient, but what I could actually play on the keyboard, I felt, limited my ability to compose. Writing in an electronic interface fixed this problem, and I was able to reinvent my project and limitlessly compose to whatever my mind could conjure. This is where my view of music sort of clashes with most people's views. I feel the essence of music is in the composition, and the medium that it is played through is just a way of conveying the abstract. Many people think that the mixing and production of the music is the most important thing. No, to me it is the notes. The notes themselves are like the words of a book. People may argue whether paperback or hardcover is the best, but in the end the words are the reason you buy the book.

WULF:  Is there a particular concept or storyline that you draw inspiration from for your songs / albums, or do you just kind of improvise in that respect as you write? In a previous interview, you mentioned a kind of loose storyline that you had in mind when you composed the “When the Mountain Falls” EP (September 2012), but has been the case for your music after this?

CROW: To answer the first question, it's a mixture of both. If there is something I read or saw that particularly inspired me, I would write a song in its respect. Most of the time it is improvised. That EP was the first time I tried doing a full length story concept for an album. I did it mainly because a friend recommended I should try it out. I may try that again in the future. It was an interesting experience.

WULF: Are we ever going to see a Lord Lovidicus music video? What about the possibility of a live show? If this was something you’d be interested in doing, what would your ideal show be like?

CROW: My music is instrumental for the same reason that I would not make music videos or perform live. Music, to me, is about what can't be explained through words or visuals. I had a conversionation with one of my fans and he asked me what visions I thought of through one of my songs. I told him my ideas, and then I asked for his. They were fairly different, and that is what I love to get out of my music. It should stimulate everyone's imagination differently. It's much of the same reason why people play tabletop games as opposed to triple A video games. People like to use their imaginations rather than be force fed super specific visuals or commentaries.

WULF: Your music would fit quite well in a short film or video game, even though personally I think its best as a soundtrack to an evening of D&D / Pathfinder. What do you think it is about dungeon synth that separates it from just being atmospheric video game or movie music? Have you ever had any offers to compose game music or anything like that?

CROW: I think your first question ties in a lot with what I had to say in the previous question. Unfortunately I've never had offers from people asking me to compose music for their video games or anything. I would love to do that. I'm almost done with my degree in computer science and plan on making video games. If I did make video games, I would definitely write the music for it; possibly even through some Lord Lovidicus in there.

WULF: Does the music of Lord Lovidicus represent a personal philosophy or belief system of your own? You’ve mentioned that you have a sort of apathetic, nihilistic, misanthropic view towards mainstream society / humanity. You’ve also talked a bit about how for you personally, your music acts as a sort of temporary escape vehicle out of this reality. Does this also reflect your personal philosophy towards overall existence in general? Being a black metal fan, what are your views towards the occult, the supernatural, etc.? Also, I highly doubt you’re a religious fellow, but I think it would be really cool if you would release an Old Testament-themed cover album of some of your own music and then release it under the name Lord Leviticus. Just putting it out there. 

CROW: This is a highly in depth question so I'll try to tackle this piece by piece.

First off, I like my music to be as far removed from philosophy and beliefs as possible. It's fantasy music. Fantasy shouldn't have to deal with philosophy or belief systems, those are for reality where the actual questions need to be asked. Again, with my music being an escape from reality, it really shouldn't associate itself with the concerns of existence.

At the time of that interview, when I was 17, I was going through a lot of psychological problems. I ended up suffering from depersonalization disorder from which I've emerged a completely different person. Interestingly enough, that's when I began my switch to electronically produced music. My thoughts on existence at the time were hopelessly nihilistic. I viewed the world as a meaningless and empty place filled with arrogant, oblivious, and egocentric drones. My views on the state of the world have not changed much, and that reality that I have recognized has not changed; however, my perception of that reality and the way it affects me has changed, drastically. I stopped viewing the world in a purely objective and detatched state, to one more subjective and in tune with who I really am. I spent most of my life training my mind to analyze the world in a rigorous, objective light. Now, I am doing the opposite, for my own sake and sanity. It has led me to an existential crisis in which I emerged the master of my consciousness; however, I think psychological and philosphical development never ends and it is something to be developed upon the further we travel through life.

It is true that I was an avid black metal fan some time ago. I've lately become somewhat detatched from the scene. I still listen to it here and there for old times' sake, but as I develop my musical tastes I realize I really don't like vocals in my music. That's probably why black metal was so appealing to me because the vocals are incomprehensible from face value and serve as a sort of instrument themselves. I feel like vocals, lyrics specifically, bring an unwanted element into music that detracts from the purpose of music in the first place. It ties in with my other answer about playing live or making a music video.

I find the occult silly. Stylistically, it has its aesthetics, and they are fairly attractive, but inherently I find it silly. The supernatural on the other hand is a realm that does intrigue me; particularly metaphysics. At the same time I haven't decided whether such a philosphy is probable because it is founded in biased human egocentricism along with the physical manifestation of something abstract (i.e. a soul), but there is no evidence against it so I remain open minded.

It's funny you bring up the whole Lovidicus - Leviticus thing. I've thought about that many times in my mind and all the time I think "Damn, I should've come up with a better name."

WULF:  You’ve covered music by Erang (and vice versa), and have also released a split together as well. I would argue that right now you guys are arguably the two most popular contemporary dungeon synth artists. The world is not big enough for the both of you. In a duel to the death, who would emerge victorious… Lord Lovidicus or Erang?

CROW: I know Erang was inspired by a lot of my earlier works, and I became inspired by his works as well. I had a great time collaborating with him and hope to do more in the future. He is a great guy. In direct response to your question I would say Erang. He has the production quality that people crave and the stylistic visuals to aid with his music. In all seriousness, I think me and Erang have our differences and we are both trying to acheive different things with our music. I can tell that Erang is trying to perfect some stylistic archetypes that exist in music genres. For me, I'm just trying to uniquely express myself in a way that I've never heard before. It's really hard, and I get a lot of backlash for it because people wish my music was more "true" to the scene. I'm sorry, but I'm not going to plateau and reinvent the wheel. I want to go places with my music that people haven't gone before, and whether people like it or not does not concern me.

WULF: I’m actually really interested in creating my own dungeon synth as well, but all I have is Garage Band for my iPad and it’s not working out too well. Do you have any advice or tips for newbies like me? Feel free to get as technical as you want regarding hardware, software, musical equipment, songwriting, etc.

CROW: It's a pretty hard process. It takes a certain level of dedication. I feel there is no general formula to writing this music because it should be a methodology that is unique to each artist. I could explain how my methodology has evolved over the years but I'm not sure if that would have any use to you. Essentially, if you are using an electronic interface to write music, you need two types of hardware. Something that specializes in MIDI's and VST's so that you can dynamically modify synthesizers on a tracklist of plotted notes. If you want your music to have a more authentic sound, you could hook up a keyboard through a computer with a MIDI adapter. I know in FL Studio you can record notes in real time and then set those notes to a synthesizer that you customize. The second type of software that is necessary is a sound processing software that can import and export most sound files and can modify their equalization, pitch, reverb, etc. For this I use Audacity.

As far as songwriting goes. It's really your own formula. For me, I usually envision some sort of landscape or scenario in my mind. Then, I paint it with the notes. It's really hard to explain how that is done. I guess the best way I could explain it is that in my own mind there exists a library of connotative and associative sounds or melodies that coincide with different sceneries. It's a very abstract model that I use to pick and choose different note sequences to represent specific things in a scenery. Of course, this is just my mind's interpretation, and on a listener's mind it has profound results that end up in largely different interpretations.

WULF: The name Lord Lovidicus comes from “The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion” video game. Obviously, you’re an Elder Scrolls fan, so just out of curiosity, what was your opinion of Skyrim? Also, how do you feel about “The Elder Scrolls Online”?

CROW: I have no thoughts for Elder Scrolls Online. Honestly, the series died for me once Skyrim was released. I'm a fan of highly strategic RPG's with an in-depth meta to them. Skyrim has fairly limited RPG elements and requires little skill to create powerful builds. Not to mention, Skyrim was a vast, desolate, bleak, and empty world based off of low-fantasy realism while Oblivion was a vibrant and magical realm based off of high-fantasy imagination.

WULF: It’s already been established that computer and video game RPGs are a big influence, but what about tabletop RPGs? Also, do you currently play roleplaying games? If so, which games?

CROW: I used to play a lot of D&D with my friends in high school. I'm hoping on trying out D&D 5e soon because it looks pretty awesome and took care of a lot of the problems I had with 4e. Currently, I've been playing a lot of Guild Wars 2, I'm also a big fan of 4X strategy games and have been really into Endless Space and Endless Legend.

WULF: It’s only been a few months since you’ve released the last album, but have you got anything planned to come out in the near future? What’s currently going on in the realm of Lord Lovidicus? I can’t wait to hear some new music!

CROW: I've already tried to write more music since the release of my last album. My last few albums have been similar in composition style, so this time I'm really trying to change it up again. I'm still not sure what direction I want to go in. I've written quite a few melodies here and there but they're just bits and scraps of what will come. The problem is, I want something new. I can't write another "Wandervogel," or even another "Trolldom" for that matter. I want to head in a completely new direction, and I'm still not sure where that will lead me.

WULF: Those are all my questions, sorry I had so many! Anything else you’d like to say?

CROW: Thanks for the interview. It was a great oppurtunity for me to really think about my musical career and focus on some of my objectives. Again, thanks, and thanks to all of my fans who love my music.

You can read about Wulf's favorite Lord Lovidicus albums here!

Friday, February 6, 2015

Dungeon Synth Explorations - Part 3 - Deivlforst Records

You can read Part 1 of the series here, and Part 2 here.

For this part of the series, instead of exploring the works of one particular artist, I'd like to look at a group of artists that make up a black metal / dungeon synth collective that are also the brains behind Germany's mysterious Deivlforst Records.

So from what I can tell, our story begins in the mid-1990s when a dude named Grimrik (I think his real name is Erik, so grim + Erik?) starts up a dungeon synth project called Nazgûl.   It's pretty short-lived, but gets the ball rolling.   Grimrik then joins up with another guy named Nargor (he goes by Solvalt nowadays) and they form the black metal band Dysterwald.   They released only one demo (on their own label, Dark Forest Productions), before disappearing.

Anyway, fast forward to 2011.   Grimrik has returned to the scene, this time starting a new project called Arath.   It looks like Arath originally began as a solo endeavor, but Grimrik was soon joined by his buddy Murgrind.   Dark Forest Productions is also resurrected, with its name changed to Deivlforst Records.   Arath's first record (self-titled, "Arath" (2013)) is a dungeon synth album, but by 2014 it looks like Grimrik's old pal Nargor (now known as Solvalt) joined the band and began to play grim black metal.   "Ungedul" was released in 2014 as a follow-up to their self-titled debut, and, while it has some dungeon synth instrumental tracks, it's more of a black metal album than anything else.

So why am I explaining all of this?   Well, I guess when Solvalt joined Arath they decided to make Arath a spiritual successor to their old band (Dysterwald) and both Grimrik and Murgrind started releasing their own dungeon synth solo albums!   Pretty cool!   As a bonus, all of these albums have their own conceptual storylines and shit. Let's get to it!!

Arath (2013) - Arath

Wow!  What a way to start the journey!!   This is some really killer epic dungeon synth in the "old-school" style!   According to the Bandcamp page for this album:

This epic medieval synth adventure is the first part of a trilogy - the story of Arath!

...All lyrics and titles are written in a complete fantasy language.  Understand CD I as an introduction with the first parts of his journey and challenge. At the end of the CD, you´ll see that the mood is changing into a more dark feeling... Arath goes over to "Ungedul" ("Att Ungedul" means "To Ungedul")

Of course, "Ungedul" is the title of their next album (released in 2014), but since it's black metal we're not going to go into that (at least for this post). Anyway, it's obvious that these dudes are serious!  An epic medieval synth adventure?   A trilogy of concept albums?   All lyrics and titles are written in a complete fantasy language?   Sign me the fuck up!! But does the music actually stand up to the hype?

It does indeed!   This is top-notch old-school style dungeon synth in the vein of the godfathers of the genre (Mortiis, Wongraven, etc.).   It's fairly simplistic in its approach, opting more for an ominous, foreboding, majestic atmosphere.   You are immediately transported to a realm of crumbling castles, starving peasants, and plague-ridden villages, all hoping for a group of heroes to save them from their sorrow and turmoil.    Highly recommended as background music if you're playing an old-school D&D module or some other epic low-fantasy RPG with a Crapsack World setting.   Truly great stuff, one of the best of the old-school style dungeon synth albums that I've ever heard so far.
All of the songs are great, but my favorite is definitely "Nattdraemr: Hergrim oev Langrim".
You can listen to the album here.

Journey Through the Mountain (2013) - Murgrind

As I mentioned before, since I guess since Arath is now just a regular black metal band, both Murgrind and Grimrik made the decision to continue making dungeon synth music as solo artists!   In early December 2013, Murgrind released his debut album.   We know that with the first Arath album, it was more or less a joint production between Murgrind and Grimrik, so how is the music going to sound when you take Grimrik out of the equation?  Before we get to that though, let's look at the info for this album on Murgrind's Bandcamp page:

On his debut album MURGRIND concerns himself with the mood of ritualism, secret depths and archaic barbarity.  Journey Through The Mountain is a soundtrack to a long dangerous trip through the biggest of all mountains in MURGRIND's fantasy world.  The listener is supposed to have the feeling of wit-nessing exactly this trip - but at the same time creating his/her own imaginary world.
The story is just slightly explained in the booklet to give the listeners space for their own interpretation.

Hell yeah!! This is exactly what I'm talking about!   But can Murgrind handle pulling off an epic dungeon synth album all by himself???

Murgrind definitely lifts, bro!
YES!!  This album is fucking awesome as well!   It's kind of strange that within the past couple of years these dudes just came out of nowhere and immediately started releasing really high quality dungeon synth.   For most musicians (regardless of the genre), usually they need a few demos or a couple EPs or a full-length album under their belt in order to really get the ball rolling.   This doesn't seem to be the case with the Deivlforst crew so far, at least in terms of their dungeon synth output.  The mood of this album is quite similar to Arath's self-titled that I was talking about earlier in this post.   You could honestly put this on right after the Arath record and I doubt anyone would be able to notice the difference.   Very high quality, excellent, mysterious and intriguing old-school style dungeon synth.   Another killer release!! Highly, highly recommended!!

If you want to check this album out, I recommend the songs "Into the Magic Abyss" and "Legend of the Ancient Horde"!  Oh, and if you buy the album on their Bandcamp, as a bonus you get a couple tracks that are tributes to Mortiis (that sound fucking awesome), AND a "Seamless mix" of the whole album (whatever the fuck that means)!!  

You can listen to the album here.

PS- If you're going to have horn leads in your dungeon synth, both Arath and Murgrind get it just right!   THIS is how you want your horns to sound!

Eisreich (2014) - Grimrik

Not to be outdone by his Arath bandmate, Grimrik released his own dungeon synth debut in early March 2014.   I wasn't sure what to expect, since the press release for this album on Grimrik's Bandcamp page was a little bit different than the ones for Murgrind and Arath:

The music of GRIMRIK is inspired by the arctic / polar myth. The subject of this first album is the descending of the impalpable ethereal ancestors of the primordial race of mankind. 

The enlightenment should proceed alone.

Hmm... interesting! Anyway, let's talk about the music!

While I definitely appreciate the creativity and conceptual vision of the album and all of that stuff, I'm definitely not feeling it as much as the Murgrind and Arath albums.   While I suppose this is still dungeon synth, as background music for an RPG sesh it would definitely work better for a hard sci-fi campaign (like Blue Planet) or Call of Chthulhu rather than your typical dungeon exploration game of choice.   Do you remember that one ambient track off of Burzum's Filosofem ("Rundtgåing av den transcendentale egenhetens støtte")?    It kind of sounds like that.   It's certainly not bad though!  It just makes me think of exploring glaciers on an ice planet of a faraway galaxy or something.

You can listen to the album here.

Ash Nazg Durbatulûk​.​.​. (1996) - Nazgûl

I didn't want to end on that note, so as a bonus let's check out Grimrik's pre-Dysterwald dungeon synth project, Nazgûl!!

Unfortunately I haven't bought this album off the Deivlforst's Bandcamp page so I can't listen to all of the tracks, but if you decide to check it out, don't let the wacky intro turn you off.   The next available song, "Boromirs Begräbnis" is a lot better...even if it's still nowhere near as good as the stuff these guys are putting out now.   Oddly enough though, I like this a lot better than Grimrik's "Eisreich" album haha.   This is pretty straightforward, lo-fi dungeon synth that wouldn't sound out of place on an early Mortiis record...which is meant as a compliment!   It's not the most original stuff in the world, but definitely gets the job done in terms of being great background music for fantasy RPG grognards.   Minimalistic, primitive, and perfect for a night of dark dungeon exploration!

You can listen to the album here.

Check out all of this music at Deivlforst Record's Bandcamp:
Keep updated about Arath:
Keep updated about Murgrind:
Keep updated about Grimrik:

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Dungeon Synth Explorations - Part 2 - Lord Lovidicus

You can read Part 1 of this series here, and Part 3 here.

I feel like it wouldn't be appropriate to write a piece about Erang without talking about his American counterpart, Lord Lovidicus!   Apparently, the dude behind Lord Lovidicus is a mysterious fellow known simply as...Crow. Crow (who hails from the forsaken mountains of Idaho) also has another project called Jotun, but that's not really dungeon synth so we're not going to get into that here.   Anyway, I don't know too much about dungeon synth, but from what I can tell there are basically two styles (in my opinion): "old-school" and "neo".   The old-school dungeon synth style (OSDS) is essentially an emulation of the original pioneers and explorers of the genre, such as (era I) Mortiis, Wongraven, Burzum's ambient shit, (earlier) Lord Wind, cheesy 1990s black metal intros and outros, etc.   Neo-dungeon synth, on the other hand, certainly draws heavily from OSDS, but has also been heavily inspired by video game and movie soundtracks.   However, I would argue that it's this core essence of OSDS that's still present in the overall atmosphere, style, and presentation that keeps it from just being a wannabe Diablo or World of Warcraft soundtrack. For example, just go onto Youtube and look up "epic rpg music" or whatever and you'll see what I mean. It's either overblown, overly-cinematic and distracting (if you're using it as background music for tabletop RPGing), or it's like a sad piano piece that sounds like it's from a JRPG.   While those aren't necessarily inherently bad characteristics, it's not dungeon synth.   I feel like the Dungeon Synth blog actually offers a pretty accurate, concise description of what dungeon synth is.  
Anyway, what I'm trying to say is that at least in my own mind, Erang and Lord Lovidicus are duel emperors of the "neo-dungeon synth" scene.  Below, I'm going to explore my favorite LL albums, and hopefully you'll check them out too if they seem like something you'd enjoy!          

Forgotten Ruins (2013)
Much like the case with Erang, I'm not into a lot of Lord Lovidicus' earlier stuff (everything from "Windbuchen" (2009) to "Autumnal Winds of Yore" (2013)).   However, shit finally got real for Mr. Lovidicus when released this album.   I feel like all of his stuff before was just kind of amateurish and cheesy (similar to Erang's stuff before "Another World, Another Time"(2013)), but for whatever reason the quality finally got kicked into high gear and he was able to really tap into the essence of truly great dungeon synth for this album.   What we get on this release are two tracks, each almost 30 minutes in length!  Definitely a departure from his earlier works.   

The first track, "The Mountain Stronghold Shrouded in Fog and Shadow", starts off typically enough, with a sort of "tiptoeing through the mysterious evil temple" vibe, complete with an ominous synth melody, majestic, vaguely annoying horn leads (more on those later), and a gong.   However, the song really turns into something special around 12:10, which I feel like is the moment when Lord Lovidicus' music finally transforms into elite dungeon synth.   My imagination really takes off here, as the music, crowned with a killer lead melody, really becomes cinematic, evocative, and inspiring.   There's still an atmosphere of ominous foreboding, but the feeling is now more melancholy and introspective.   Then, BOOM! 18:45!!  The spell is broken! With a triumphant, glorious lead melody, it's as if the adventurers are witnessing something truly spectacular, like they've just found some dragon's treasure trove (see the album cover) or have accidentally stumbled upon a mysterious cult in the middle of an elaborate, grand ritual.   Then it goes back into the melody from 12:10 and blah blah you get the idea.   This was the first Lord Lovidicus song that really got my attention and made me want to listen to more of his stuff.

The second track, "Scaling the Crevasses of Fyrelight Cave", isn't quite as good as the first one, but it's still very well-done and great RPG background music.   As the song title implies, this is perfect for exploring some dark dungeon crypt from a 1980s D&D module.   Kind of a similar vibe to the first track.

Overall, I believe that up to this point, this album is wayyy better than anything LL had released before.   A milestone in the discography!   

Kyndill og Stein (2013)

This album sounds quite similar to "Forgotten Ruins", except this time around he opted for nine shorter tracks.   It's on this album too that LL takes some departures from the typical "dungeon exploration" vibe and starts to include other emotions and atmospheres (this progression also foreshadows how much of a departure stylistically his next album will be from his older stuff).   One of the best examples of this is the song "Fog of the Autumnal Forest".   All the usual LL instrumentation is there (ominous synth atmospherics, that slightly annoying synth horn lead, the percussion), but this time around we also are treated to a beautiful, haunting grand piano that's introduced at about a minute in and really takes the music to the next level.  As I was saying before about "neo-dungeon synth", this is a great example of it!  It's still definitely dungeon synth, but has also begun to forge its own path in terms of experimentation and incorporating other instrumentation and moods that would sound out of place on an old Mortiis record.   I don't know if at this time Erang's music was beginning to be an influence or not, but I would say this stuff sounds like a mix between the two, as around this time Erang's stuff was arguably the most "neo" of neo-dungeon synth (in terms of experimentation and originality).   Other songs that stand out to me are "Majestic Temple of Engraved Fluorspar Crystals" (which kind of reminds me of the music for Zeal in Chrono Trigger) and "Trudging Beneath the Snow Covered Trees".   The more I listen to this album, the more these songs seem like they would go well with a video game.

Wandervogel des Waldes (2014)

One of my favorite dungeon synth albums of all time!   However, it's far from perfect:
1.   It takes a few songs to really hit its stride.
2.   I don't really like the Franz Schubert cover.
3,   I'm not really feeling the cover art compared to some of the earlier albums.
4.   I don't like it when the percussion emulates a "real" drum kit (like around 5:00 in "The Necromantic Stronghold", for example, and are all over his entire discography for that matter), which happens on several of the first few tracks.
5.   I still don't like that synthesized horn that he uses all the time.   I don't know why it bothers me, I guess to me it just sounds kind of "cheap" or slightly out of place.   It just doesn't sound right, especially on this release where everything else sounds great!

BUT, it's the three tracks on the second half of this release (starting with "A Hall of Trees") that I was the most impressed with, and it really makes up for the first half.  Don't get me wrong, the first half is still pretty good!  It's got some cool melodies and atmospherics, plus I really dig the harpsichord and other new effects that made their debut on this album.   However, the second half is where the true strength of this album lies.   It's actually about halfway through the fifth track, "Naught but Seas and Rains" that the album begins to transform, around the 4:00 mark.   The change in sound and tone seems to almost give a preview of what's to come in terms of style and atmosphere (and overall quality) on the following tracks--   "Hall of Trees", "The Mead Hearth", and "The Overgrown Belfry", all being brilliantly executed and LL's best songs to date.   Absolutely genius stuff.   "Waldervogel"'s not too bad either, but not quite as good as the others.

Also, with this album the sound quality has also really improved drastically compared to his earlier material.   The orchestral synthesized strings sound amazing.    I also really love that he scaled back that mildly annoying, cheap-sounding synth horn that I keep talking about (it still pops up every now and then, and is prominent in a few of the songs (such as "Mithril Mines" or "Icebound").  It's obvious with this release that LL's music has drifted even further away from the old-school dungeon synth style, similar to Erang's "experimental" latest album, "We Are the Past", which also came out around the same time.

Overall, this album is as creative, evocative, and inspiring to the imagination as anything else out there within the genre.   I still have a tough time making up my mind as to whether or not this was the best dungeon synth album of 2014 (so far it's between either this or Erang's "Within the Land of My Imagination I am the Only God").   I can't wait to see what Crow has in store for us in the near future!!

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Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Interview with Ghost Bath!!

Interview conducted via email in January 2015.

WULF:  Your new album, “Moonlover”, is due out next month.   While “Funeral” is an excellent record on its own, I feel like if this new record is as good as the teaser track (“Golden Number”) that you've just released for it, it’s going to be an early contender for one of the best metal albums of 2015. You must really be feeling the pressure! I feel as if your band is one of those “post”-black metal bands that has the potential to appeal to fans of other genres of music outside of the metal world (such as Deafheaven, Wolves in the Throne Room, Liturgy, etc.).  How do you feel about all this attention you've been receiving lately in popular media sites such as Stereogum and Pitchfork Media?    

GHOST BATH: No pressure. Any reaction is just that, a reaction. It doesn't matter if it's good or bad as I don't believe in those qualities. At the end of the day, we took the time and effort, and the little courage we had, and put a piece of ourselves -our very being- into the public eye (or ear)- for anyone who wishes to listen. What they get out of it is subjective to them. To us, it is only a natural creative process of release, whether it be stress, depression, or emotions entirely different that we don't wish to write about.

WULF: I know you’re busy preparing for the release of “Moonlover”, but do you have any plans for anything else to go along with it, such as a music video, promo pics, etc.?   I feel like there is so much non-auditory art that would go quite well with your music.

GHOST BATH: A great deal of writing, prose in particular. The aesthetics presented in a well written piece can bring endless subjective images to a person's imaginative being.


You can expect a lot more to come. The idea of a music video has been passed around, but we feel it may not leave enough open to personal interpretation. A promo photo has been attached of --无名 (Nameless.) We are all nameless.. Nameless is all, and nameless is none.

WULF: Obviously, musical themes of the band involve death, suicide, depression, etc.   Is this correct?   Where do all these feelings come from?   Also, there are a ton of really cool pictures on your Facebook page that are perfect to look at while listening to your music.   Besides these painters, photographers, and visual artists, I’m curious about any literature or film that may have inspired your songwriting as well.   

GHOST BATH:  Isolation, loneliness, introversion, nocturnal existence - all of these are influences on the new record. Funeral focused more on the implications of death itself. Death being the final release of the Thanatos -the death drives that exist in all humans. Moonlover is a more realistic exploration of a life on earth and among other humans. You could say it is our most grounded effort to date. The focus is not the moon itself, but our gaze upon the moon from our stranded existence upon the planet.

WULF: Many black metal artists adhere to beliefs that are inherently Satanic, nihilistic, or occultic.   Do the members of Ghost Bath share a unified belief system, esoteric philosophy, or spiritual vision?   What are your thoughts about death, life, existence, and the universe?

GHOST BATH: This question is far to broad for a satisfying answer, so I will elaborate where I prefer at the current moment. No one shares a unified belief system no matter what they try to tell you. The loneliest realization is that no matter how hard you try, no one will ever FULLY comprehend your own thoughts and ideas. You may try to convey them in a detailed manner, but in the end, another human will always bring their own perspective and experiences in deciphering your communications.

Death can be viewed in many different lights. The view put forth by Ghost Bath is one of ultimate peace. A final resting place that relieves all stress and pain. Some may seek to end their daily stresses early. Personally, we are too big of cowards to commit to any such actions (at least thus far.) Death seems like the destination of a long journey, not the end. It will be a welcoming and comfortable change of state. Will this belief live on through our lives and with us in our death beds? I don't think anyone could make such a prediction.

WULF: What are your plans for the future after you put out this new album?   Any ideas for more albums, live shows, tours, manifestos, etc.?   What do you hope to ultimately accomplish with Ghost Bath?

GHOST BATH:  Live shows would have to be crafted perfectly before we performed. A visual representation embodies a larger scope on our process and ideals. If such a time came in which we felt ready, we would tour.

As for albums, we always work hard. The next album after Moonlover is already half written. One thing I can assure you is that it will not be a copy of any previous work we have done, and certainly not what anyone else has done. While Moonlover sits around 42 minutes, I believe the plan for the next album is set to clock in over an hour.

The approach will be more of celestial quality, than of the earthly nature of Moonlover.

WULF:   Those are all the questions I have!  Any final proclamations, rants, or blasphemies you'd like to share with the world?

GHOST BATH:  As much as we hate every being on this earth, it would be impossible to despise others to the degree that we loath ourselves.