The zine has been updated with reviews of Paleowolf and Splendorius, as well as interviews with Northumbrian Fog, Caoranach, and Iamí. This updated was intended to include more material, but unfortunately I have not been able to dedicate as much time to the zine recently. The next update will certainly be a much larger update, so stay tuned.
Iamí is a Black Metal/Dungeon Synth project from Brazil that focuses heavily on atmosphere and spirituality. The debut album Luz e Sombra is a great display of raw black metal and Dungeon Synth in the old tradition. In this interview I speak with project mastermind Rômulo about the project and his Dungeon Synth zine, Masmorra (the first printed Dungeon Synth zine in history).
- Greetings! Please introduce yourself and provide us with a history of Iamí.
Greetings! I’m Rômulo, mentor of Iamí and Masmorra, and I live in south of Brazil. So, Iamí started as a brief experience, in a moment I was really interested in black metal, for, although I always liked this kind of music, I listen to many things, for example, before Iamí I was in a mood more of psychedelic/progressive rock of the 70s.
And then I felt an impetus of creating black metal, so I did ‘Crença Profana’, my first demo. I was trying to create something that really reflected myself, and after one year I decided to record a full album, all by myself. And so, Iamí is here, evolving.
- Iamí’s music covers various topics such as shamanism, nature, spirituality and meditation. Are there any subjects or forces beyond these that inspire you to create music?
Let’s begin with the name, ‘Iamí’ means ‘Night’ in the ancient indigenous Tupi language, and also is a feminine name, it synthesizes much of my ideas with the project. But in fact, I don’t follow exactly any lyrical themes, although the band has an indigenous name, I don’t speak about Indians, but I have a high inspiration by their culture, also I have a high inspiration by other cultures, like Scandinavian, African, middle-eastern, or philosophy, like Nietzsche. So I try to find the essence of our spirituality, for I think black metal is about spirituality, and that’s why there’re lots of contradictions on it. And I try to work most with the dark side of all this, and to me dark doesn’t mean bad nor evil, for some people tend to deny our obscurity when thinking about nature, so that’s why I think black metal fits perfectly for these themes.
Human is nature, part of nature, and every culture, every nation, every being has common roots, and if we study ancient knowledge we will see shamanism as the ancient manifestation of human consciousness, for shamanism isn’t religion, it’s just practices involved in spirituality, since the most ancient animist religions. But I don’t follow any ideology and I contempt elitism. I speak about humans and our transcendence through time.
So, since I live in Brazil and, although I’m a vicious reader, I never travelled to any country, for that I tried to express all my pagan knowledge in a more Brazilian way.
- Your debut album “Luz e Sombra” features a great blend of raw Black Metal and Dungeon Synth. On your website you stated you wish to move more toward the Dungeon Synth style and further away from raw black metal. What caused you to want to focus more on the Dungeon Synth genre? I personally think the Dungeon Synth tracks on your album are very impressive and create a strong atmosphere, so I am looking forward to hearing more of this from you.
Man, my first album was totally raw! I recorded it using an old Casio toy keyboard with a cheap headset microphone attached to the small speaker, and the same for the guitars and vocals. Everything was done in my apartment room, without any mastering, just a lazy mixing to avoid ear bleeding, hahaha. I think that was cool, I tried to do everything very simple, no complexities in music, but I think that was just an experience, a good and necessary experience, but now I think I need to move on.
After I did Masmorra zine, I got more inspiration to make dungeon synth, so I won’t abandon black metal, but I think it’s necessary to separate both styles, so I’ll release this next album with dungeon synth only and release my black metal tracks in another album. It will have a very different composition process and production, but I’ll preserve that thing of the first album, everything will be connected, the lyrics, the music, the cover art, everything will work as a single piece, expressing all that I said in the last question.
- Your music is also written in the Brazilian Portuguese language, a special touch that I appreciate since Barbarian Skull is a big supporter of bands that create music in their native language. Will future releases continue to use Portuguese for lyrics and titles?
Yes, I intend to make things totally in Portuguese with Iamí (except the band’s name, it isn’t Portuguese, neither any language from Middle-Earth). I write some music in English too, but I think language is important if you seek true expression, so for all the themes involved in the compositions with Iamí I think I can’t do it in another language or I’ll be killing some part of the magic. You know, this isn’t anything like nationalism or something, for that’s another thing I contempt, it’s just expression and one way to work with my art.
- Iamí recently won a contest for “best cover song” from the German project Grimrik, covering the song “Der astrale Ursprung (Teil II)”. This is the first such contest that existed in the Dungeon Synth underground. What other contemporary Dungeon Synth artists are you most inspired by?
It was very fun to participate in that contest, I did that cover in one day, starting in the morning and finishing late in the afternoon. I admire Grimrik’s work so I really delved into his song and tried to put Iamí’s spirit on it.
I think one of the artists that really inspires me is Til Det Bergens Skyggene, I love all that simple and dark atmosphere of almost all Voldsom artists. Hedge Wizard and Foglord are both new artists that I like a lot also. Erdstall is a project that I really want to listen to new stuff, that heavy drone synths are great. And if we go to more epic dungeon synth, I would say Skarpseian, Gvasdnahr and Murgrind. And if we think on some classics I would say Burzum of course, Wongraven and the album Die Festung from Paysage D’Hiver. To be honest I’m not much inspired by Mortiis, although I like his works a lot.
And if we extend this list to black metal it will be a huge list, but if we make it through all my inspirations I would say its infinite.
- You also create the artwork for your albums. Can you describe the process for creating art that fits your music? How is creating visual art different from creating musical art?
I like to do that because, like I said, I try to connect everything in my works, so the artwork isn’t mere decoration nor anything, I create art! And art is serious, you put a part of you out and share with the world, so it doesn’t matter if it is musical or visual, the essence is the same. Of course they’re different, but in a more technical way, and when I do both, they complement each other, creating a whole. Sometimes I do the graphics first, sometimes the music, and so I get inspired by my own art, which is a manifestation of a higher level of consciousness.
- You recently created the first printed Dungeon Synth magazine in history, Masmorra Zine. The zine was very well done and I was pleased to see an actual Dungeon Synth zine become reality. The zine seems to have been very successful. Can you tell us more about the zine? When will future issues be released?
I don’t know exactly what I can say about the zine. Like everything I do, I did it with much love, caring with all the details by myself. I was very pleased with the final results also. I want the dungeon synth scene to grow stronger, for I really dislike some things I see in heavy metal scene, specially black metal, so, since it’s a small scene, and yet, international, what I really think is beautiful, I think I can do my part with the zine, supporting the artists, the genre in general and spreading my art.
For now I intend to release 2 issues per year, in the same format I did this one, with the same sections, for I planned it very well before releasing, I thought a lot on how many ways it could go in the future. But it’s an independent zine, so, there’re no strictly rules, many surprises may come in this chaotic universe.
- In your opinion, what is the reason that Dungeon Synth has remained underground for the most part, despite its origins in black metal (a genre that has lost its underground status by now)?
I don’t know, but I think dungeon synth doesn’t have many elements which can be explored by the media nor anything that could please a mass of fans. There’re no dungeon synth concerts, very few physical material, so it’s hard for a genre like this to get out of the underground, even now it has its own zine, spreading its contents worldwide, it will remain “unknown”. And, like this, I follow many kinds of musical genres, and I know that there’re lots of other underground genres and small scenes around there, some really nice, other totally weird, it’s a contemporary world you know. I think the time for the “rock stars” are coming to an end, and music industry will follow a very different path. The world is always changing…
- Thank you for taking the time to answer this interview! Any last words are yours!
I just want to thank you for the opportunity, I loved answering these questions. Know that Barbarian Skull has a strong ally which gives total support, both Iamí and Masmorra.
To check my work, just go to https://iamimusic.bandcamp.com/ . There you can find my music and buy my CD. And I’m working on an official website for Masmorra, but for now just look for it on Facebook.
Respect nature, practice love! (I think this wasn’t much black metal, right? So… Hail Satan! =D)
Caoranach is an obscure Dungeon Synth project with incredible composition and strong Celtic themes. While the project remains extremely underground, it is one of the better Dungeon Synth projects in the modern “scene”, and seems to improve with each new release. In this interview I speak with the project mastermind Keegan about his inspiration and songwriting process.
- Greetings Keegan! Thank you for this interview with Barbarian Skull. Can you introduce yourself and explain the history of Caoranach?
Caoranach is a Celtic dungeon synth project I began in early 2013 when I began to find out more about the DS genre . I was a big fan of the Burzum prison albums, but that was my only exposure to that style of music for years. I eventually came across Forgotten Pathways while delving into more obscure black metal projects and saw it tagged as ‘dungeon synth’ which intrigued me to look into. Luckily, this was around the time the DS community was starting to grow online. I learned about Mortiis, Lamentation, Olgerd, other older artists and soon learned of Abandoned Places, Lord Lovidicus, Erang. I was inspired to start my own project and Caoranach was born.
- Aside from your bandcamp page, I have not been able to find any information online regarding Caoranach. Do you prefer the anonymity of not having a website, or have you simply not yet had the chance to put more information online?
I have a lot of projects that I’m always working on; between music, writing, and other hobbies, I don’t have very much time or interest in cultivating a name for myself or spreading Caoranach around too much. It’s there for people who want it, and I suppose people who would be interested in it will find it eventually. I don’t have a need for anonymity with Caoranach. I definitely understand and respect artists who use pseudonyms, especially in black metal and dungeon synth due to the otherwordliness and atmosphere of the music, and how they’d rather people focus on the music rather than it’s creator or creators. I have a very Celtic name anyway, so I guess it fits well enough with the music.
- The name “Caoranach” comes from Irish mythology, and your albums and song titles are in a Gaelic language. Why did you choose these themes for your music? Can you explain the meaning behind your album titles?
In a way, I use Caoranach to explore my heritage and ancestry. My mother’s side of the family is very Irish and my father’s side is very Scottish, going back to William Wallace’s mother. The songs names come from creatures, gods, or legends I learn about and I transform them into songs. Damh Geal means ‘white stag’, a messenger from beyond. It made sense for the first appearance of Caoranach. The second album translates ‘enchantment (or sorcery) of the water horse’. The each uisge is similar to a kelpie. They appear near the water’s edge waiting for someone to mount them, and then ride into the water where the person is drowned and eaten. It was a piece of folklore that interested me. The album has some very dark themes but the music isn’t very brooding. I felt that it fit. I kind of go between Irish and Scottish Gaelic.
- Your first album “Damh Geal” featured very complex melodies, while the second album “Drùidheachd de a’ Each-uisge” closely resembled classic RPG soundtrack music. What inspires you musically to create the music of Caoranach? Are there any artists that directly inspired your sound?
I love the crude CRPG dungeon crawl sound and I love more elaborate celtic sounds. I try and mix them together, or at least have songs of each variety on the releases. I’m inspired by the interactive aspect of older RPG games, you get to participate in a world that is impossible and imagined or at least far away, historically or physically. There’s a spirituality that goes into fantasy works of any sort whether it be a video game, painting, book, or otherwise. Music is a way to translate that hard to describe feeling you get from the fantastical. Mythology evokes that same spirit but more in an historical sense, these myths and legends were actually part of peoples lives through metaphor and religion.
As far as musical influences, I’ve listened to Celtic music since I was a little kid. The flutes, harps, and the like you hear in my music come from that. The older Lord Lovidicus releases are big for me, The Forges Fire EP is my favorite. The game music that inspires Abandoned Places inspires me as well.
- As mentioned in the previous question, Damh Geal features some very developed melodies. Do you have any training with music theory or are you a self-taught musician? What is your typical process for recording music?
I’ve taught myself everything I know. I taught myself guitar when I was maybe nine years old, mainly through reading tablature in guitar magazines or from Power Tabs when the program was still widely used. I learned a lot about melody, keys, patterns from these. It’s hard to disassociate numbers from music now since they’re the language in which I learned music. I’m not very interested in music theory, I know how to make what I want to make so I don’t bother. I usually think of a theme or sound I want to play with in a song and let it develop from there, finding other instruments and sounds I think would work well with each other. Some songs end up being very DOS sounding and some end up being more folk sounding.
- Caoranach definitely creates a DOS based RPG sound and atmosphere, do you use hardware synthesizers or is your music created with virtual soft synths?
Everything is made with VSTs in a sequencing program. I have some keyboards but they don’t make sounds that I’d like to hear in Caoranach. I might eventually incorporate some real instrumentation.
- What is it that you aim to create with your music? What goals do you have in mind for Caoranach?
I don’t really gave a end goal with Caoranach, it’s more about exploration and using it as an outlet to actually make something out of my interest in Celtic mythology and the imagined worlds of fantasy.
I’m always experimenting with new sounds. I don’t think any two releases will sound too similar. Caoranach will keep making music as long as I’m interested in doing so, and that won’t end any time soon.
- Thank you very much Keegan for taking the time to answer this interview. Any last words are yours!
Thanks for the interview and thank you to everyone who has enjoyed my music. I hope to inspire people to make their own. I recommend that everyone learn a little about their ancestry, it’s wildly interesting!
Northumbrian Fog is a Black Metal/Ambient project which has strong Anglo-Saxon themes (as the name suggests). As a heathen publication, one of my goals is to promote such bands here at Barbarian Skull. Northumbrian Fog is a new project which shows a lot of potential and has left me anxious to hear more, in this interview I discuss the project with the band’s mastermind Lord Æthelfrith.
- Greetings Lord Æthelfrith! Thank you for taking the time to answer this interview with Barbarian Skull. Can you introduce yourself and tell us about the history of Northumbrian Fog?
It is my pleasure, thank you for the opportunity to discuss the project! The name Lord Æthelfrith came most natural for my alias in this project due to it being the name of Northumbria’s founding king and ruler. Æthelfrith of Northumbria was a pagan ruler, and a natural born leader. Northumbrian Fog was spawned from my personal goal to push my potential as musician, and to prove to myself that I have the abilities, and knowledge to conquer where others have tried and failed; thus, the name Æthelfrith was more than perfect.
- Until recently you were the sole member of Northumbrian Fog, and have recently been joined by another member, Turenn. Can you explain the difference of responsibilities within the band? Do you plan on performing live in the future?
The most appealing component to this project is that I am under no deadline, nor any constraints that a “band” would bring. What I mean by this is that the project gives me full flexibility in terms of members, sound, and overall control. I do not mean to sound like a control freak, but it is very nice to know that I am under no oath to any of the other people I consider part of the project. For example, I recently released an ambient single that was done all by me, and has no real resemblance to anything I am currently recording for the solo EP I have yet to announce. Where Turenn, and the other few I have asked to be part of the project come in is for the main album that I am slowly but surely piecing together. This album is what started the project, but I have pushed it to the back until I first complete a solo EP for reasons stated in the previous question. Although playing live may be an option, it will not be for some time unfortunately, considering the amount of focus I am putting into the EP, and Full Length.
- Northumbrian Fog is described as a Saxon Black Metal project. Why did you choose Anglo-Saxon themes for your project? What Anglo-Saxon heroes and legends most inspire you?
Born in England, and moving to Canada when I was young left a vacant feeling deep within me and it has done nothing but grow since I took to creating my own music. Northumbrian Fog is how I connect with the land I was torn away from. Every day of my life I miss my home land, my family, and its deep history. The Saxons were conquerors, brave warriors who forged the land I grew to love. Their blood flows through my veins and nothing upon this ever-changing earth makes me prouder. I believe we all owe it to our ancestors to keep their brave deeds, and power alive. In terms of inspiration I would say that more than anything else it would be the feeling I get when I stand amidst the foggy dew of northumbria, upon the dark moors where none may disagree that those lands I hold dear still carry the spirits of our forefathers; where all of their legends, and traditions still soar upon the winds, letting inspiration, and memory into my heart.
- The great Anglo-Saxon age is slowly but surely having more of a presence in the underground Metal scene today, with bands such as Wodensthrone, Ildra, Winterfylleth, and the mighty Forefather. These bands utilize primary sources from the era for their subject matter and some even utilize Old English in their lyrics. What Saxon themes do you plan exploring with Northumbrian Fog?
As a history student, and underground metal enthusiast, nothing makes me happier than to see the popularity of these themes grow. I believe we should all celebrate our history and tradition allowed and proud. Reading ancient tales and folklore from this time period, or even those of our brothers from the scandinavian region of this pagan origin brings me deep inspiration that I take note of and aim to weave into the songs I am currently working on. Forefather tend to take old english folk songs and put their own spin on it so to speak. Whether that being the creation of new lyrics to the old tune, or simply adding more metal elements into the songs structure, these are techniques I find to be very impressive, and something more bands should try to do. Although I appreciate that style of remembrance, I have always been more inclined to keep the old folk songs as they are, and put them amongst my otherwise totally meta-engaged music; there is something I find more meaningful about this, and has to do with the mood of the album, if your album hits its mark in terms of theme, and mood, this technique should be in no way problematic for the flow of the album.
- You currently have two singles released online, “Through the Wounds of the Dead” which is a black metal track, and the impressive “Visions of Days Long Past” which is an ambient instrumental track. Do you plan to continue to mix these two styles for the project, or will you be focusing on one style more than the other.
The raw black metal sound I explored in “Through The Wounds of The Dead” was drawn from more of a medieval, and diseased inspiration than I usually take, so I don’t believe I will be doing anything that raw again soon. Although i enjoy making music like that, it is not the sound I wish Northumbrian Fog to manifest into. “Visions of Days long Past” is not by any means any closer, yet when these two singles meet somewhere in the middle, you will find something a lot closer to the sound that Northumbrian Fog will become. The atmosphere, from Visions of Days Long Past, and brooding aggression of Through Wounds of The Dead when mixed together creates the foundation of my writing style for this project. Yet unlike my first single, Visions of Days Long Past will not stand alone, atmospheric music is very prominent in my writing process, and many of my songs start off as such, so it will come most natural for me to keep some of them away from the more metal elements of the two releases I am currently working on .
- What can you tell us about the current Northumbrian Fog material that you are working on? What can we expect from your new material?
The New Material that is most prominently being given my attention is The EP that I have yet to announce. It is all written and recorded by me and will have 5-6 songs on it, it will sound quite raw, but with more mixing than “Through The Wounds of The Dead”. The Songs that I have recorded so far are already sounding much more like what I wish the project to be, and for this I am happy. With soaring clean vocals, keyboard additions, and a less distorted sound, this EP will be unlike any other release you have heard by me to date. Very excited to release it!
- Thank you for the interview, Lord Æthelfrith! Any last words are yours! Wes hael!
A great thanks to you also my friend! I am honored to be apart of your wonderful site, and found your questions to be remarkably well put, I hope I answered them to the enjoyment of any reader, and certainly hope it keeps any of you out there on the look out for more news soon.
– Lord Æthelfrith
Rating: 4 / 5
Genre: Dungeon Synth
Label: Dungeon Lore Foundation
The Russian label Dungeon Lore Foundation has produced some of the best Dungeon Synth releases in modern times, and was one of the first places I turned to when I first began exploring the genre. Projects such as Kashmar, Saltvind, and Skarpseian are just a few of the brilliant projects to be found on this label, and the album Norfaragell-Thul from Splendorius has it’s place among the best of the label, and of modern day Dungeon Synth. The first song, The Moon Is Invisible Under The Fog, instantly brings the listener into a vintage Dungeon Synth atmosphere; featuring excellent sounding string and brass synths, and Black Metal styled spoken words with a nice echo effect (the vocals here remind me of Mournlord – Reconquering Our Kingdom, which is not a big compliment). While the opening track has vocals, very few vocals are to be found through the remainder of the album. However, the vocals are used tastefully and only add to the brooding, dark atmosphere; the music transports you into the depths of a medieval castle, where unknown evil lurks in the shadows.
Splendorius plays an extremely pure and traditional style of Dungeon Synth, which is performed with passion and class. The synths used have the old, raw effect of 90’s synthesizers, but are still strong and powerful sounding, unlike some of the weak and thin sounding effects that plague some older synthesizers. The overall atmosphere is murky, yet clear, creating the perfect mood for a Dungeon Synth release. I almost feel as if I should be listening to the album through an old cassette tape. Unlike some projects that purposely aim for “bad necro production”, Norfaragell-Thul genuinely sounds as if it was composed in a moonlit, crumbling castle in the middle of the forest. Obviously, this is ideal for this style of music.
Splendorius creates fast, medieval melodies that have a slight Baroque influence. He has achieved the difficult goal is creating interesting melodies that are classically influenced, yet still humble enough to fit in the Dungeon Synth genre. For example, listen to the harpsichord work on the song “Chandelier”, which is obviously Baroque influenced. This track in particular highlights that Splendorius has excellent songwriting and composition skills. Despite being only seven tracks long (and one bonus track), there is not a single dull moment on this album. The Transylvanian atmosphere of this album is unique, and each song is well-written, well-produced, and memorable. This has become one of my favorite Dungeon Synth releases, and every fan with even a remote interest in Dungeon Synth should make Norfaragell-Thul part of their regular playlist.
Rating: 4.75 / 5
Genre: Shamanic / Ritual Ambient
The majority of the music covered in this zine (and music that I listen to personally) deals with the past. Whether dealing with the First and Second World War, the Viking Age, or ancient civilizations, the obsession with the past has always had it’s appeal to me, and this interest is also expressed by many musicians through their music. Paleowolf deals with the past, but brings us even further back in time to pre-history; when human beings lived as hunter-gatherers. The end result is startlingly effective, and the album title “Primordial” could not be more fitting.
The album begins with field recordings of birds and wild animals. Bone rattles and other primitive percussion instruments come in, before the main tribal drums begin with ritual, timpani-like performance. Paleowolf’s music in general is very heavy on these large, tribal sounding percussions, which truly add to the atmosphere. Images of ancient men in fur and animal skin clothing performing lost rites around a massive fire come to mind. Another element that really makes Paleowolf’s music stand out is the use of throat-singing. Low, rumbling throat-singing can be found throughout the album, with unintelligible group shouts, which although are not in any particular language carry a heavy sense of human emotion. Pan flutes are also used lightly to add to the melody, while animal sounds, choirs, and other pure synthesized ambient noises are used throughout.
While I have spent a lot of time listening to nature inspired music and ritual ambient, few projects have been able to connect with me like Paleowolf. The music strikes you on a very primal level, and activates feelings and instincts deep within the human spirit, instincts and feelings that we seldom acknowledge in these times of comfort and civilization. While monotheist religions look beyond the natural world for their sense of spirituality, Paleowolf utilizes the oldest (and truest) form of spirituality; one that is directly rooted in the earth, the natural world, and human beings themselves. This is music that speaks to your bones, flesh, and heart; awakening the primordial realization that spirituality does not lie in another world or a hidden occult plane beyond the physical realm, but right here, right now, at this very moment and in this very world from which we first emerged. I can honestly say that Paleowolf has created one of the most sincere and enjoyable albums that I have heard in many years. Highly recommended for anyone who has ever wanted to know what it would feel like to stalk the earth like a lion, as our proud ancestors once did.