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!