Three new dungeon synth interviews are posted with Barak Tor, Ekthelion and Frostveil! The next update should feature material from a special guest contributor who recently joined the Barbarian Skull staff – stay tuned for more!
Frostveil is a black metal band that caught my attention upon first listen with a preview track he posted featuring dungeon synth material. After months of waiting I am pleased to find his dungeon synth album Antediluvian Majesty out on tape via Out of Season and pending a CD release with Dark Adversary Productions. In this interview I speak with Frostveil about his history in black metal, black metal’s connection to dungeon synth, and his vision as an artist.
- Greetings Frostveil! Thanks for taking the time to answer this interview with Barbarian Skull. Please introduce us to your project and the history of Frostveil.
Hails Barbarian Skull! Thanks for having me here! Frostveil started as a side project of mine in 2014, with the intention of having something to pour my more sombre musical and lyrical ideas into. But, as time passed and likeminded individuals all around began paying attention to my music it quickly grew into a full time and very personal project of mine.
- Frostveil began as a black metal project, tell us about your earlier material. What similarities and parallels do you see between black metal and dungeon synth?
You’re absolutely right, when I started Frostveil I had never even heard the term dungeon synth haha! My first demo ‘Void of Memories…’ was very eerie Striborg influenced BM and the two BM splits with KIPU (Finland) and Trample the Cross (USA) touched on these influences but drew more influence from more powerful and emotional artists such as Woods of Desolation and Drowning the light. When I was around 14 I started making instrumental MIDI music just for fun, this stopped when Frostveil was born but I eventually decided to combine the two and include synth in my BM, and over time this lead to exclusive synth tracks. Dungeon synth, to me, can produce a striking resemblance to the atmosphere of some forms of BM, and with the aesthetics and influence from ancient times, fantasy literature and film, and the overall darker sides of nature and humanity, I find that the stories and messages portrayed in BM and DS fit hand in hand, hence why many DS artists have a background in metal and vice versa.
- Your latest release ‘Antediluvian Majesty’ is very strong and epic dungeon synth, what inspired you to begin to explore the dungeon synth genre? What projects were your biggest inspirations?
My favorite DS artist at the time of composition was without doubt the great Depressive Silence, but I drew my influences from a vast range of artists. These included Arath, Lord Lovidicus, Corvus Neblus and Til Det Bergens Skyggene. I was already very familiar with the dark ambient/keyboard works of many great BM artists like Burzum, Striborg and Drowning the Light, so it was already in the back of my mind that I would like to try something similar, but when I discovered DS, which at the time had begun its current resurgence, I had a huge, almost instant kick of inspiration.
- Antediluvian Majesty explores a range of atmospheres, from epic war marches to majestic solitary wanderings. What concepts and themes do you wish to convey with your synth music?
This release is a very nostalgic thing for me as I have actually included several melodies I composed many years ago into these songs. Obviously there are undeniable atmospheres typical to DS throughout the whole EP, and this was somewhat of a personal challenge for me as I wanted to see if it was possible for me to recreate the atmospheres of the amazing DS artists I had recently encountered. I tried to make every song a little different as to cover several of the main atmospheres closely associated with DS, as well as (even if it never reached the ears of the public) create something I could listen to and enjoy and be proud of and, for old times sake, put my past compositions to good use and create something whole.
- Tell us about your composition process. Do you find it advantageous to be the sole composer behind your music? Do you prefer working with software or hardware synthesizers?
It definitely has its perks being a one man project. I have the one and only say of how the songs work, and I get the gratification knowing that no matter what happens with Frostveil’s music, it is totally of my own accord. It is also peace of mind knowing that I can take whatever direction I like, whenever I like without anyone questioning what I’m doing. Antediluvian Majesty is the prime example of that! So far the only hardware I have used has been with my metal work, all the DS has been entirely software. Theres no real reason for that though, I just use whatever is available at the time, because to me it is the musicianship which is important, not having the top notch expensive synthesizers or anything like that. Antediluvian Majesty, for anyone who is curious, was made solely with the MIDI instruments in Mixcraft 4.
- Considering the ties between black metal and dungeon synth, do you plan to continue to release dungeon synth as Frostveil or will you work with synth music under another moniker in the future?
This was a very experimental release, but because of both the positive response to my DS work, and the recently growing DS scene and emergence of countless amazing bands/projects to draw influence, I can safely say that this will NOT be the final DS you will hear from Frostveil. In fact, I have already began composing (and in some cases, completed) more DS which I can see putting this EP to shame. But at the same time, I am currently overflowing with BM ideas as well so it is not set in stone which genre the next Frostveil release will adhere to.
- Antediluvian Majesty was recently released on cassette via Out of Season Records, and as I understand as CD version will be available under the legendary Australian label Dark Adversary Productions. How did you come in contact with these two great labels? How has the response been to the tape version so far?
I was very fortunate to cross paths with Out of Season thanks to the word getting out in the DS community about me looking for a label. I had been in contact with OoS briefly before this but it wasnt until the last few months where we had properly connected and secured the release of this EP! They were an absolute pleasure to work with, their efforts to truly support the DS scene are enormous and I would strongly encourage anyone into DS to visit their site and browse through what they have in store, you will not be disappointed! The tape version, from my understanding, has been very popular so far! Each day I see new people posting pictures of their copy arriving which is totally surreal, the support has been overwhelming! In regards to working with DAP, I had also been in contact with Azgorh briefly over the last few years and he has always shown an interest in what I was doing musically at the time. Of course, with Frostveil being a very Drowning the Light influenced project, when Azgorh expressed interest in releasing the EP on DAP it was a huge honour. But, now that we have discussed things much more in depth I can safely say that DAP has well earned their brilliant reputation in the BM scene as they also do their absolute best to support the up and coming black metal bands of today. Same deal as OoS, please make sure you head over to the DAP website and show them as much support as you can, they really deserve it and you will not regret it!
- What is your opinion on the current state of dungeon synth as a genre?
The resurgence has definitely had its ups and downs. Some brilliant projects have emerged over the last few years and watching them mature has been absolutely incredible! However, being an up and coming genre, naturally there is a swarm of projects which, in my opinion, do not quite grasp the beauty of the music and who I expect see it as more of an aesthetically pleasing novelty genre. I wont go into detail because this seems to be the case with every kind of music at some point in time haha, but this is by no means me speaking negatively about the DS community as a whole. The support I have got as mentioned before has been very overwhelming and the people I’ve connected with recently have all been extremely honest, educated and open minded musicians, seeing fellow musicians as friends rather than fans, which I think is brilliant!
- Thanks again for the interview! Any last words are yours!
Thank you for having me here and for all the constant support!! Please, whoever is reading this, go buy a tape, an LP or a CD of some up and coming bands, hit up their Bandcamp pages, check them out of social media, just do whatever you can to keep the black metal/dungeon synth scene thriving!! You haven’t heard the last of Frostveil…
Barak Tor is a dungeon synth project I have enjoyed since the very first release, Silent Passages and Hidden Realms (which I reviewed on the zine in April 2016). Since then his music has progressed very much in sound and composition. Barak Tor’s unique brand of barbaric dungeon synth is very appropriate and fitting for this zine for obvious reasons, and in this interview I interview the mastermind Barbarian Wraith King about his project, history, progression and vision.
- Greetings Barbarian Wraith King! Thanks for taking the time to answer this interview with Barbarian Skull! Please provide us with the history of Barak Tor. What is the meaning behind the name?
Hails Warrior Nathan! I thank you for dedicating time to my project and for this interview/presentation. Barak Tor established in December of 2015. My aim was to perform epic dungeon synth, since I was a “fan” of the old 90’s scene. I’ve already had a dark ambient project but this time I wanted to remove from obscurity and absurdity and explore the epic side of thy self which I always found fascinating. As a reader of Sword and Sorcery literature and huge fan of Conan The Barbarian, this change came very natural. Barak Tor is fictional place derived from an old board game back from the times of my childhood named HeroQuest. It was the resting place of an evil wizard, who after his defeat was recruiting his power.
- Barak Tor plays a unique style of dungeon music which combines orchestral influences with atmospheric passages. What are your main influences for the project, both musical and otherwise?
As a listener I am coming from the black metal sound, a genre that I follow and serve close to 20 years now. I discovered dungeon synth from black metal. Mortiis, Wongraven, Erevos, the dungeon moments of early Burzum and some more . So I guess that a big part of inspiration springs from there! Soundtracks I believe have also a big impact to me. Conan The Barbarian, Braveheart, Red Sonja, Bram Stoker’s Dracula, The 9th Gate, The 13th Warrior, Lord of The Rings, Excalibur, Ben Hur, just to name a few epic ones and some classic stuff like Wagner or Prokofiev (who actually I believe lives in the music of Poleidouris, Kilar and Shore)…Besides music I love reading horror and sword and sorcery literature of the previous century. Now for Barak Tor I subconsciously derive pictures and ideas from R.E.Howard, Karl E. Wagner, Michael Moorcock, Tolkien, Tanith Lee.
- Barak Tor began as a project heavily inspired by the game Hero Quest, but has since seemed to evolved into more barbaric and warlike themes. Can you speak more about this evolution? How much of a role does Hero Quest play in your newer material?
When I first saw HeroQuest when I was a kid, I was captivated by the Barbarian who stood in the front cover of the game. From my early age I was obsessed with Conan’s figure so I instantly connected this figure to Conan. Also Barbarian was the hero I always chose when I was playing this game with some friends back then. I started this project when I was at my parent’s house and saw the game box forgotten in a closet and covered by dust. A storm of fond memories conquered my brain and I decided to give birth to Barak Tor. I didn’t want to use once more a name from Tolkien’s universe. So HeroQuest was a cool source of primal inspiration. I saw though that many new artists dedicate their projects and built their music not only to Tolkien themes but also to role playing games games, which is completely fine by me, but it is not for me to follow. To be honest I was never a maniac game player so I couldn’t find the course that my inspiration will follow in order to expand. So I decided to make a slight turn and focus only to the Barbarian figure .I describe my music as ‘Barbaric Dungeon Synth” not only because of the concept but also because is simple, straightforward and quite monolithic as barbarian prehistoric civilization. In my new effort you can find not only in the music but also in the titles a straight connection to Howard.
- Your latest release March of the Triumphator came in several different special editions, can you let our readers know more about these different editions? How successful has the album been thus far?
I am in the pleasant position to say that all the copies are long gone. Actually the physical material gone in a very little time, something that I didn’t see it coming. I thank all those warriors and brothers in arms who supported me by buying my music. On the other hand this fact “scares” me a little bit, because I don’t want people to support Barak Tor because DS became a short of trend lately, but because Barak Tor’s music have really something to say to all those people. Anyway, there were three different editions. All the versions included a quality shaped metal pin (I wanted everybody who gives his money at least to possess a jewel like the pin), an idea which I stole from Oldenhelm. The other 2 versions were a standard jewelcase including a patch and a pin and the digipack version including a pin and a battle banner. Except the physical material there’s the digital version which has a bonus track (I En Svart Kiste – Satyricon Cover).
- March of the Triumphator is by far the greatest Barak Tor release to date. One thing I noticed is that it seems that you are no longer using synthesizers primarily, but may be working with virtual orchestra libraries. Is this correct? If so, will this be a permanent change in your sound?
Thank you Nathan for your words. Yes it’s absolutely correct. I don’t know if this is going to be permanent, since I cannot tell what future will bring and which will be my future needs. When I was composing “The March…” I wanted to give a Grande kind of sound. To give a majestic perspective on my music and come closer to epic soundtracks that I always loved , something that I couldn’t do by using only keyboards. There are demo recordings of the album played only by keyboards and it sounds completely different. Still good but far away from what I wanted to give. Many tracks sounded like a Zelda tribute haha! I tried to find something fitting to my appetite. So I reconstructed many parts, rearranged the tracks and of course I recorded everything from the beginning. I have a sense that I achieved my goal and I glad for it.
- March of the Triumphator and your previous compilation CD The Black Citadel of Bellthor featured artwork by Abigor Mugerza, who is known for his art for the legendary band Elffor. This has offered a new level of depth to your physical presentation. Will you continue to work with him in the future?
Abigor Mugerza except of an amazing artist is also an amazing guy, deeply rooted in the underground and d.i.y. philosophy which I always respect and hail. I found always his art in all Elffor’s albums extremely captivating. I love the way he uses the colors, the style of the landscapes, the figures, the whole presentation. All his paintings have something really bleak and grim. I think that too, that the whole result ascended and artwork played a huge role to it. Continue working with Abigor is something that I want to and I think that this unholy alliance will endure time.
- What is your opinion on the current state of the Dungeon Synth genre?
There are many good projects out there. There are some guys that take it very serious, running small dedicated labels and give to the people high quality efforts and this is really nice, because this kind of attitude help all of us to raise the level of the scene higher and higher each time. As I fore mentioned the sad thing is that DS became a kind of trend nowadays. So I really hope that people that are involved in projects (and this goes to the young ones), to do it because they have an inner need and urge to express themselves through this kind of music and not because it is an instant fashion.
- What can we expect from Barak Tor in the future?
New quests and battles are laying ahead for the Wraith King…when the time is right I’ll strike again… For now I enjoy the Triumph among the heads and the corpses of my enemies. Let the fires burn and bards sing, join the feast and join our Legion…The Strong will Survive!!
- Thanks again for taking the time to answer this interview, any last words are yours!
I thank you Nathan for this interview and supporting Barak Tor from day one! Have a great luck with Barbarian Skull and all your great projects!!! I thank all those who supported my new effort and made “The March of The Triumphator” sold out in a blink of an eye! I hail you! Haters and those who oppose shall feel the wrath of my Axe! Hail and Kill !!!!
The cult Greek dungeon synth act LAMENTATION is one of the best examples of the dark side of 90’s synth, which focused on vampyric and gothic themes that were not as heavily explored as the fantasy and medieval realms of their contemporaries. Surprisingly, these themes continue to be less common in the modern dungeon synth ‘scene’. Ekthelion is a Greek project that has captured the sound of Lamentation better than any other project I’ve encountered thus far. In this interview I speak with Ekthelion about the project and latest release, MoonRealms.
- Greetings Lord Thornophox, thanks answering this interview with Barbarian Skull. Please tell us about the history of your project Ekthelion.
Greetings my fellow friend and to the mighty readers of Barbarian Skull ! Ekthelion were created by me and Prince Losdir around mid 2014 but no material was released till 2016 . We took the name inspired by a character from Tolkien’s World but we never intented to do music with its concept
- Your latest album MoonRealms is inspired by gothic/nocturnal legends as well as the musical concept created by Lamentation in the 90’s. What inspires you most about Lamentation’s unique style of dark dungeon music? Why did you choose to continue their musical tradition?
When i discovered Lamentation it was a complete new experience for me in the world of synths . I loved the dark and macabre atmosphere in it . It wasn’t common back then to make music like this i suppose so it was something different from other dark ambient projects . Nowdays the same thing happens , not many projects seems to follow that path , so our love for this kind of music and to do something different in today’s scene made us follow this path in our music .
- From what I understand, you used the same electronic organ that Lamentation used on their demos to record MoonRealms. Can you please shed more light on this? How were you able to track down the exact instrument used?
I knew that it was somekind of theatre organ and i did lots of research in both real synthesizers and VST’s to find what fits my needs for Moonrealms . I remember i did find an ad online someone selling an organ , a used Yamaha Electone HC-2 for a ridiculous price so i immedietly purchased it , which happened to be i think a model very near to what LAMENTATION used which it was i think a HC-4 . The organ just came to me when i needed it , haha .
- Which song is your favorite from MoonRealms, and why?
If had to choose based on emotions i would say “White Lady’s Lament” which i wrote all by myself under a lot of grief for a beloved person of mine that recently passed away . Many people compared it with “Whispers From Carmilla’s Tomb” which is insane cause nothing will touch that masterpiece easily , but it honors me anyways . If i had to choose based on what fits the concept and its more atmospherical i would say “Midnight Passion” or “The Shining Darkness of Void”
- MoonRealms will soon be release by the new label Ancient Recollection based in the USA. How did this deal come about? Do you plan to continue working with Ancient Recollections in the future?
“D” contacted me first to check out my project and he said he liked it . By then i had already sent some emails to some labels and i was on hold . We discussed it a bit and after a while we agreed on working together on it . “D” the owner of the label is friendly guy and do what he does with passion and of course and most importantly he has a good taste of what Dungeon Synth means .Even though the final product isn’t done yet i have high trust on this guy that he has done a good work . I’m definitely gonna consider it again to work with him
- Greece has a history with dark dungeon music which goes back to the 90’s, what other Greek artists inspire you?
I’m glad that Greece had (has) a major role in the scene . One is of course Lamentation and an another i would say is Erevos . I think hes underrated but his “Shadows of Storming Nyx” is a masterpiece and he has something that many Dungeon Synth projects avoid …. Vocals! We don’t see many ds projects with black metal vocals or even simply clean vocals and that upsets me . It’s sure one element that we consider a lot to add in the future and i hope other artists will , too ! A honorable mention will be Barak Tor of course , he creates panic in the scene with his releases , very talented guy and a great friend of mine. It’s kinda sad thought that i can’t think any other “modern” GREEK DS project except me and him .
- Several new projects such as Crypt of Carmilla and Catacombs Enshadowed have listed Lamentation as a primary influence, although MoonRealms remains the most successful Lamentation styled music that I’ve heard so far. Will you continue with this sound in the future? What else lies ahead for Ekthelion?
I didn’t have time to listen to Catacombs Enshadowed yet but as for Crypt Of Carmilla , really good atmosphere and obviously inspired by Lamentation’s 3rd album . I’m glad that he follows this path with his music . Your words honor me , maybe it’s in the greek blood , i dont know , haha . Yes we will continue with those kind of aesthetics , we are thinking adding vocals aswell in the next release . I’m also thinking to add 2 cover tracks from “Age Of The Faceless Demon”, the previous album, because i always wanted those 2 specific tracks (which i wont reveal right now) to have the “Moonrealms” sound .
I think we are through a period of crisis right now . Personally i don’t like the 80% of the stuff that bandcamp has under the tag nowdays . Maybe it’s just me but i have people/artists that i agree with me . Maybe people are confused about what DS means anymore . It seems that multiple mentalities in such a small scene seems to tear it apart . People embrace mediocre stuff and i don’t like that . People are proud of composing albums in 3 days etc . They dont give the time needed to make a proper release and that saddens me . Maybe i should do what my mate and friend Prince Losdir does , keep away from social media and groups and if something its good you will hear about it 😉
- Thanks again for this interview, any last words are yours!
Thanks for inviting me to your magazine ! Keep The Ancient Flame Alive! Hails!
The zine has been inactive for quite some time due to focusing on several music projects, but I am pleased to announce a strong update – featuring reviews from Trogool, Rabor, Crypt of Carmilla, and Morketsvind. I am also happy to present the Legendry special – a double review of the demo/album and an interview from this epic traditional metal band. Definitely one of the best interviews on the zine so far, be sure to check it out and look for more updates in the coming months!
Legendry is an epic traditional metal band from the United States, which hearkens back to the glory days of Manilla Road, Cirith Ungol, and Omen. Having already been in contact with guitarist/vocalist Vidarr after covering his black/heavy metal band Defeat in the zine, I was eager to discuss Legendry and publish this long overdue interview. You can read my review for the Legendry demo and full length album here: http://www.barbarianskull.com/wp/reviews/legendry-iniation-rituals-mists-of-time-reviews/
- Greetings and thanks for taking the time to answer this interview with Barbarian Skull! Please tell us about the history of Legendry, what does the band’s name mean to you?
Thank you for the opportunity!
Legendry came from jam sessions between me and former bassist, Choo. We had originally gotten together with the thought of forming a live band using the material from my solo project, Defeat. We began working through the songs, and found that we were writing a lot of interesting music, so we decided to develop a new band and concept. Choo introduced me to Kicker, who became our drummer, and it all went in the current direction. My original thought was to start a kind of first-wave black metal band in the style of Hellhammer, but my growing interest in bands like Manilla Road soon took center stage in the writing process.
Coming up with an original band name these days is a difficult thing, most new bands having to resort to the unpronounceable or multiple word band names in order to differentiate themselves. I searched and brainstormed for quite some time, turning up the name Sky Burial (which became the title of the instrumental jam on our Initiation Rituals demo). This name was found to have been taken by what I can guess is a hardcore post-rock outfit of sorts, so I reluctantly searched on. At the time I was reading a lot of Robert E. Howard Conan stories, and in his essay, “The Hyborian Age” (which the song, “Winds of Hyboria” is based on), I came across the word “legendry”, and it stuck. The name, of course, refers to a collection of legends, which is exactly what our albums can be called.
- Traditional Metal is one of the least common ‘subgenres’ for new bands to adopt today, what appeals to you most about pure heavy metal?
The level of honesty in true heavy metal of the late 70s and early 80s is one of its most appealing qualities. There are countless undiscovered gems of NWOBHM and weird one-album bands that you might find on LP or cassette in the dusty basements of real record stores; these are what I’m after. I have a fascination with these artifacts; these bands are long gone, in most cases. I won’t ever see them live, but the music they recorded will always be there.
Apart from the appeal of capturing moments in time, the atmosphere is something appealing about these albums. Both in lyrical subject matter and in the production/recording techniques used to capture the performance. Often, the lyrical themes revolve around medieval fantasy, and the most enduring bands achieve a sense of that fantasy atmosphere with only the use of guitar, bass, drums, and vocals, without relying on keyboards or any obvious sound effects. Bands like Brocas Helm are extremely medieval sounding, yet they only incorporate the traditional metal instruments.
- Legendry creates epic atmosphere like the old masters, such as Omen, Cirith Ungol, and Manilla Road. The United States has a long history of playing traditional metal in this style. Does this have any significance to you or your creative process? Do the American bands influence you more than European bands do?
We try to achieve an old-school sound in our production, paying very little attention to what might be considered “modern” or “good” metal production (loud mixes, clicky bass drums, pitch correction are not tools I will be using any time soon!). The old masters, as you put it, have a huge influence on what we are doing. The American heavy/power metal bands have an aggressive quality in their performance that can be found to be lacking in some European bands of the same genre (especially once you get into the 90s and 00s power metal bands). Don’t get me wrong though, geography has little to do with it in most cases, its more style and intent.
- Your first demo Initiation Rituals was released on tape via Haftvad Records, how did you land a deal with Haftvad? What was your experience dealing with this underground label?
Actually, I contacted them after seeing that they distribute Barbarian Skull, and it went from there. They were very enthusiastic about the material, and very helpful/professional through the whole process. I think the finished release looks and sounds great.
- The first Legendry song is ‘Phoenix on the Blade’; a song based on the first published Conan the Cimmerian story by the mighty Robert E. Howard. What other authors do you take influence from? Why does Conan make the perfect subject for metal songs?
So far, I have avoided using many of the obvious choices for literary subject matter, a major one being Tolkien, as well as references to Viking Age history and legend. At this point, Howard is the only author I have referenced, the rest of our songs deal with original subject matter and loose concepts.
Conan is a symbol of barbarism, which Howard considers the natural state of man: barbarism is depicted as a symbol of freedom and honesty, while civilization, its opposite, is depicted as a symbol of slavery and wicked dishonesty. Metal, as barbarism in this context, embodies freedom of expression, and has an animalistic power which appeals to its fans. In addition to being stylistically related, the Conan stories work very well for songs because they are short stories: they can be reasonably condensed into a few verses for a song.
- Your first full length album ‘Mists of Time’ has been released by Non Nobis Productions. Tell us more about the creation of this album. What exactly are the ‘mists of time’? How has the album been received thus far?
Just before recording the album, our bassist, Choo, left the band. We had been preparing to play shows, and this turn of events caused us to look to recording an album while looking for a replacement. Choo rejoined for a short time, but we have found a more permanent replacement.
The album was created in my home studio. While I am using a DAW (digital audio workstation) to track instruments, we have done everything possible to capture analog sounds from analog gear. As far as the actual production of the album goes, we used a variety of instruments and experimental setups; we even had congas and a doumbek for the intro to “Attack of the Necromancer” and I recorded some sword sound effects for “Phoenix on the Blade” using some historical swords from my collection. Another strange effect we captured was the sound of wind (or mists) using a wah pedal and a distortion box.
The song “Mists of Time” tells the medieval fantasy story of an unnamed protagonist who is called forth to slay a demon who stalks a labyrinth beneath a city. The mists of time refer to the hazy recollections of legend which tell of the warrior who will ultimately defeat this ancient demon.
The album has received a positive response, overall, and has gotten several positive reviews.
- The ‘Mists of Time’ album artwork is very impressive and deserves to be printed on a LP jacket! Any chance of this album being released on vinyl?
Thank you! The original is oil on canvas, 48”X24”, quite a large piece, intended as gatefold LP artwork. We had originally planned to do an LP release, but as of right now at least, there are no plans to do a vinyl release of Mists of Time (maybe sometime in the future!).
I have begun work on the cover painting for our next album recently. I cannot reveal the scenario depicted, but I will say that the faceless barbarian has returned to this album cover. We haven’t come up with a name for him yet, but he has become basically the “Eddie” of Legendry, and will probably be on every album cover from here on out.
- Your first cover song ‘Necropolis’ by Manilla Road was featured on the Mists of Time album. Of all of the songs in Manilla Road’s extensive discography, why did you choose this one? Do you plan on doing more covers in the future?
It is in many ways an obvious choice to cover “Necropolis”, but that is also the intention. “Necropolis” was the first Manilla Road song that I heard, and many other people could probably say the same, I’m sure. Hearing Manilla Road for the first time changed essentially my entire musical direction and covering one of their songs is a tribute to the band. In the future, we will definitely include more covers; many of my favorite metal albums have cover songs on them and I like that tradition.
Where Mists of Time had more of an obvious choice for a cover song, our follow-up album will have a rather obscure cover track called “Sword of Zeus” by The Lords of the Crimson Alliance. For those readers unaware, LotCA is a band who released one album and essentially disappeared, no band photos, stage names, no shows, nothing, quite a mystery. There are actually no lyrics printed or available for the album, so I had to decipher and re-write some of the lyrics myself!
- Has Legendry been able to perform any live shows? One thing I noticed from your Facebook page is that your main guitar is a classic Fender Strat with single coil pickups, are you willing to discuss your gear setup for any gearheads reading this?
Having finally stabilized our lineup, we are organizing some shows in the Pittsburgh, PA area, and will be playing at the Legions of Metal Festival in Chicago in May alongside some really great bands, some of which I’ve listened to for many years (Armored Saint, Ross the Boss, Diamond Head, Brocas Helm, and so on!).
We use a lot of vintage gear in general, and certainly favor anything analog. The guitar I play is an American Standard Fender Strat, through a vintage Musicman 210 tube amp and 212 RH cabinet. I use the neck pick-up, as opposed to the bridge pick-up, which is the one you “should” use when playing metal. This is a blues rig, so naturally it will bring a different tone to the guitars, which I find to be something unique to our sound. The only effects I use are wah pedal, vintage analog chorus, vintage analog flanger, and a distortion box. Our new bassist is also using my 70s Fender Tele bass. This setup is what gives Legendry that “round” guitar sound; we’ve often joked that we could record a blues album.
- What can we expect from Legendry in the future?
We have been working on the follow-up to Mists of Time for the last several months. I don’t want to reveal any specific details about this album, but you can expect a much greater 70s prog influence on this album, improved production values, and some other surprising elements.
- Thanks for taking the time to answer this interview! Any last words are yours.
Thank you, and all the fans who have reached out to us over the last year! We are only getting started, and can’t wait for you all to hear the new music we’ve been working on!
Title: Initiation Rituals
Rating: 3.5 / 5
Genre: Traditional Metal
Label: Haftvad Records
Legendry is a traditional heavy metal band inspired by classic American metal bands such as Omen, Manilla Road, and Cirith Ungol. This short demo released by Haftvad Records features live tracks recorded during studio rehearsals. Despite being a simple live demo, Initiation Rituals establishes Legendry as a unique force in modern heavy metal.
The opening track Phoenix on the Blade features very fast riffs and structures that instantly bring to mind Omen’s mandatory Battle Cry album. The lyrics (which are based on the first Conan the Cimmerian story written by Robert E. Howard) set the stage for Legendry’s themes; sword and sorcery, warriors, epic battles and barbarism. The raging speed is reduced during the guitar solo which has a very emotional and melancholic feeling, which brings to mind the guitar work of Mark The Shark Shelton. While the primary focus of Legendry is epic heavy metal, this is far from just another generic metal band. The track Mists of Time show a more improvisational feeling, with long guitar solo passages before returning to the traditional heavy metal bulldozer established on earlier tracks. This moves into territory not often explored by bands of this nature, and creates an adventurous atmosphere perfectly fitting for the sword and sorcery themes of the band.
The tape version also features a bonus track (Sky Burial) which is not featured on the digital copy or the full length album. While Initiation Rituals is a simple rehearsal demo, the material featured as well as the outstanding musicianship of the band already shows that Legendry is a force to be reckoned with in the realms of epic traditional metal.
Title: Mists of Time
Rating: 4.5 / 5
Genre: Traditional Metal
Label: Non Nobis Productions
Legendry’s full length album Mists of Time is one of the most underrated metal albums I’ve encountered in some time. While their demo Initiation Rituals displayed the bands technical musicianship and sword and sorcery atmosphere, everything is turned up several notches on the full length album. The album begins with a narration of Robert E. Howard’s poem “Cimmeria”, before the second track For Metal, We Ride begins. The song starts with a mesmerizing clean/acoustic guitar passage, which sets a strong mood for a solemn ride into battle. When the electric guitars kick in the lead guitar continues the same mood set up by the acoustics, followed by riffs that command you to headbang. Guitarist/vocalist Vidarr’s unique vocals are also worth mentioning here. The vocals remind me of a nasally mix of Mark The Shark Shelton and Tim Baker from Cirith Ungol, with lyrics that are easy to understand. This approach to heavy metal vocals is rougher and tougher than the typical clean vocals many heavy metal bands take, feeling as heavy as a broadsword compared to the razor thin falsettos other bands use. The chorus is also one of the most memorable moments on the entire album. This 9 minute heavy metal monster is the perfect opener to the album.
Songs from the Initiation Ritual demo are also found here, except we get to hear them the way the band intended. Slight differences can be heard, such as the addition of an electric organ to Phoenix on the Blade, again with the guitar solos soaring over the mix with feeling and power. True heavy metal cannot exist without great guitar solos, and Legendry can hold their own with the best of them. The solos do not focus on speed and shredding, but on delivering memorable and epic melodies that hearken back to the glory days of Ritchie Blackmore. Compared to other contemporary heavy metal acts such as Eternal Champion or Savage Master, Legendry has the best guitar solos in my eyes.
The diversity of the album continues with the tribal percussion opening of Attack of the Necromancer, which creates images of the barren land of Stygia in the mind of the listener who is well read into the world of Robert E. Howard. Necropolis is of course a Manilla Road cover, which really displays how similar Vidarr’s vocals are to Mark The Shark Shelton. The cover is well executed and I’m sure would make Mark and the band proud. The album closer, Winds of Hyboria, is a 12 minute epic which mirrors the style of the poem Cimmeria found in the album intro. This track combines acoustic and electric guitars, giving some sections a heavy Falkenbach feeling, with soaring folkish guitar solos. The band could not have closed with a stronger song, the spoken word outro mirroring the album intro.
Legendry stands next to contemporary American metal bands such as Visigoth and Eternal Champion as keepers of the ancient ways. While the band is firmly rooted in classic bands from the old days, they are far from being generic and are not lacking in enthusiasm, talent and creativity. The album artwork (which was painted by Vidarr himself) is a testament to the ancient metal power of the album. For those who like their metal with chainmail and battle axes, this album cannot be missed.
“I remember the forests, glacier haunted earth
I remember the mountains, and the tales of great mirth
I can see the ravens circling overhead
I can feel the spirits of the honored dead
My ancestor’s calling, from Valhalla’s hall
Their voices do linger, after nightfall
Elemental and strong, the unbowed clans
Oh, the Riddle of Steel, the strength of their hands”
Title: Wandering to Nether World
Rating: 4.5 / 5
Genre: Dungeon Synth
Label: Paa Gamle Stier
I have been a fan of Morketsvind since the Morketsvind I release, which I reviewed when this zine was first created. Morketsvind I presented very strong militant Dungeon Synth, which felt like a siege upon a stone stronghold. With the next release, Age of Lord, Morketsvind expanded his sound to include more medieval atmospheres. With the latest Morketsvind album Wandering to Nether World, Morketsvind combines both atmospheres to create an album that is both warlike and medieval, and is supremely epic in feeling and composition.
From the intro Big Ritual of Gates Opening the mood is already set for the album with heavy brass melodies which remind me of the glory days of Basil Poledouris. At this point Morketsvind has the best synthesized brass sound I’ve heard; which sounds more like a synthesizer than a virtual instrument. These brass sections invoke images of mounted kings riding to glory over a desolate battlefield. The militant power of the early Morketsvind material is perfected here. Synthesized key instruments break up the warlike brass sections with adventurous medieval melodies, before returning to the crushing battlefield.
The Basil Poledouris influence is also present in the strings (the track ‘Nether World’ being a prime example). These string sections are both melancholic and powerful, hearkening back to an age of legend. The ability to create music that is both powerful and somber is no easy feat, yet Morketsvind constantly accomplishes this. Many of these melodies stay in my memory for days after each listen, each time bringing images of fortresses and ancient legends.
Not only is the music here excellent, but other aspects of the album are as well. The production is crystal clear and gives power to each instrument, nothing is lost in the mix and every synth is easily present. The CD version of the album (which this review is based on) also includes hand drawn letters and text, something rarely seen in Dungeon Synth today. The album also comes with a story explaining how the songs weave the tale together (I highly encourage everyone with any remote interest in Dungeon Synth to buy the physical version to get full appreciation of the album).
As RaevJager once said, Morketsvind is the siege weapon of Dungeon Synth. Completely original and crafted with excellence and mastery, Wandering to Nether World is not only the best Morketsvind album, it is one of the best Dungeon Synth albums that I’ve ever heard. Welcome to Hyboria.
Title: Master’s Chalice
Artist: Crypt of Carmilla
Rating: 3.5 / 5
Genre: Dungeon Synth/Dark Ambient
A rotting castle in an ornate Victorian frame is perched upon a hill, the sunlight dulled into shades of grey by the black and white filter resembling an old Xerox cover. Dissonant organ lines creep in the wind and lightning strikes crash as a voice echoes in a deep chamber to drink the blood of the Master. Whispers fade with the wind, as haunting strings sparsely crawl through the speakers at the pace of fog enveloping a corridor. An evil presence is lurking near…
Crypt of Carmilla is a new Dungeon Synth/Dark Ambient project taking influence from the works of Lord Byron, Sheridan Le Fanu, and Charles Baudelaire, as well as the music of Lamentation, Depressive Silence, Old Tower, and 90’s black metal intros. While the opening paragraph of this review may seem as if Crypt of Carmilla is just another lo-fi blackened synth project, what sets this demo apart is atmosphere. From the one minute intro until the end of the demo, the mood is immediately set and never ceases, engulfing the listener in Crypt of Carmilla’s romanticized vampyric darkness. Powerful narrations reverberate as if coming from deep caverns, wolves howl within the wind, deep gongs and percussions crash, and organ lines carve ghastly images into the listener’s mind. However, none of these elements are performed at random. Each narration, each organ line, each percussion crash enhances the atmosphere and feels deliberately planned, giving the demo a cinematic quality. While countless projects strive to create this sense of darkness, Crypt of Carmilla feels authentic in it’s approach. The gothic theme is explored in a way that is not cheesy or feels like a cheap gimmick, much like Lamentation’s early material (especially As Shadow Kingdom Comes To My Sight). While listening to the demo I actually feel as if I’m in the presence of some form of immortal malevolence, from years long past, buried beneath centuries of lore and legend. I’m sure this is the composer’s intention, and this demo was a refreshing new presence in modern Dungeon Synth.
As I’ve mentioned in the past, the rating system used on this zine is strict, and a 3.5/5 is a great rating for a 15 minute debut from a new artist. The demo will also soon be available on tape for those who seek analog copies. Fans of old horror and dark dungeon music that isn’t plastic and insincere, come forth and drink from the Master’s Chalice.
Title: За Тридевять Земель
Artist: Рабор (Rabor)
Rating: 4 / 5
Genre: Dungeon Synth/Folk
Label: Out of Season
Rabor is a project that has been around for some time and has explored a range of different atmospheres, from straight forward ambient to epic battle music. The latest album За Тридевять Земель explores Russian folklore, with each song based on a Russian fairy/folk tale. The artwork is what first drew my attention to this album, as it is absolutely perfect for this style of music. Traditional Slavic style, patterns, and colors are used, with Baba Yaga’s hut and a personified sun smiling on a bear playing a lute. It is rare to see something like this in Dungeon Synth, and especially at this level of high quality.
Fortunately the music is just as impressive as the artwork. Rabor mixes synths with what seem to be acoustic string instruments, and arrangements that are light hearted in nature. Rabor combines the warm atmosphere of Fief with the folk elements of Kashmar to create a sound that is unique and captivating. While many Dungeon Synth projects are dark and mournful, Rabor’s music is like a long walk through a sunny Russian forest, where folk legends and superstitions are just as real as the mountains and the trees.
The album is not limited to the light folk ambient that compromise the majority of the tracks. Traditional epic Dungeon Synth tracks can be found here as well (the song Камень на Распутье being a prime example), as well as more somber songs (such as За Рекой Смородиной). However, the overall mood of the album remains jovial and warm, which is a welcome change. The majority of music covered on this zine is dark, and this album is the perfect contrast to that. Rabor’s unique mix of Dungeon Synth and folk music is a refreshing change of pace for us at Barbarian Skull. Rabor has created the perfect soundtrack to the age old legends of his culture, immortalizing them in music that even those unfamiliar with Russian folklore can appreciate. The tape version will soon be available on Out of Season and will be one album that I will immediately purchase.