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Born in the 1990s, Dungeon Synth is a minimalist music genre relying on synths loops. Instilled in the fantasy influence, it evokes the worlds of Tolkien for most. But there are way more gems. Here's a handy guide to start diving into this genre.

First of all, what IS Dungeon Synth?

As I've said in the introduction, Dungeon Synth emerged in the early 1990s. While this genre is connected to Ambient music and orchestral, this genre developed a more minimalist approach. This style is extremely visual and every track has its color, like the soundtrack of a movie but without any visual. Synthesizers are the key instrument of this genre, but it can also include vocals samples, acoustic guitars and for most modern projects: noises, clicks and pads...

This genre is considered rather obscure, considering it wasn't much promoted at its early days, relying on cassette mostly for a long time; but it allowed to have beautiful artworks that are a true part of the music and the genre, like a portal to the music. Many Dungeon Synth album covers from the first wave are black&white artworks featuring castles, lands, moons or knights & sorcerers, mostly anything fantasy and that evokes quiet, cold or dark places. 

Dungeon Synth finds itself often mixed with Black Metal influences, both of those genres having a lo-fi sonic aesthetic, underground production, and a visual style very close to each other. 

Jääportit - Kauan koskematon

Artwork of Jääportit - Kauan koskematon

The "Round Table"

If you want to start getting into Dungeon Synth,  I would advise first to listen to the most influential cult and classical albums, it's not a "must-listen" list but it's a good base of albums to pick. An entry-level selection of the most popular and appreciated projects are listed below. Most of them aren't easily discoverable on Spotify, however, you'll have Youtube links for each album.

Depressive Silence - Depressive Silence II

Depressive Silence - Depressive Silence II (1996)

Genres : Dungeon Synth / Ambient

Play the album

Considered by many as the most cult album of Dungeon Synth, Depressive Silence II, later called Mourning, is the second and last full-length album from German duo Depressive Silence. For a total of 36 minutes, it's a very calm and eerie album, layers of synths give an aura to the album far from what the title suggests. Like an exploration through a lonely castle in the mountains during a full moon night, this album is a great choice for background listening during D&D (Dungeons and Dragons) sessions for instance.

Mortiis ‎– Født Til Å Herske

Mortiis ‎– Født Til Å Herske (1994)

Genres : Dungeon Synth

Play the album

Norwegian artist Mortiis is known as the earliest Dungeon Synth artist, and his second project "Født Til Å Herske" (Born to rule) offers a near full hour of majestic orchestral synths. While it's quite repetitive, the albums flow just like a river, every melody is meticulously crafted by this artist. Much darker than Depressive Silence, Mortiis is clearly the cold face of Dungeon Synth

Jääportit ‎– Kauan Koskematon

Jääportit ‎– Kauan Koskematon (1999)

Genres : Dungeon Synth / Dark Ambient

Play the album

Artic and repetitive, Jääportit's 1999 album is a well-crafted mix of Dark Ambient and Dungeon Synth. While the Dark Ambient part is quite discrete and not as dark as other projects, the album evokes cold and frost-torn castles. Kauan Koskematon"(Long Untouched) must be listened to on its own, whilst doing nothing/procrastinating, to appreciate every aspect of the music.

The "Wandering Knights"

What I call the "Wandering Knights" are albums not in the Round Table, being recent or old. Though, they still follow the old-school style of Dungeon Synth, there's of course evolutions and others influences in those albums, but they won't be experimental, this is for the next section.
Caduceus - Middle Ages

Caduceus - Middle Ages (1995)

Genres : Dungeon Synth

Play the album

Don't get fooled by the cover of this album, it is not a dark and shadowy album, not at all. Caduceus instead plays a very pleasant, joyful and bright melody through the album. Perfectly nailing the melodies of villages in RPG's, this album breaks the usual codes of making dark and obscure music. Clearly worth the listen

Lunar Womb - The Sleeping Green

Lunar Womb - The Sleeping Green (2016)

Genres : Dungeon Synth 

Play the album

Remaster of the third demo of Henri Sorvali project, The Sleeping Green puts the bar very high in terms of writing and emotions. This demo, far from the ambiance of the two first demos (still clearly worth the listen for the avantgardism) features a full orchestral ambiance full of details and that must be listened without doing anything to enjoy it fully.

Erang - Within the Land of My Imagination I Am the Only God

Erang - Within the Land of My Imagination I Am the Only God (2014)

Genres : Dungeon Synth / Ambient

Play the album

French artist Erang is considered as the greatest contemporary Dungeon Synth artist, and it's no wonder why. In this album, there's such a vast variety of sounds and ambiances it's a huge universe opening up in 1h. Go blind on this album, it is seriously majestic and even emotional sometimes.

The "Ermits"

Outside of the classical stuff, there's a huge panel of more outsid-ish projects that are worth a listen. They are not medieval-themed for most of them but still feature some key codes of Dungeon Synth while incorporating many other elements.
DJ Armok / DJ Bishop / Pillbox - Dungeon Rap: The Introductio

DJ Armok / DJ Bishop / Pillbox - Dungeon Rap: The Introduction (2019)

Genres :  Memphis Rap / Dungeon Synth

Play the album

Yes, you read that correctly : Dungeon Synth & Rap. But beware, it's not common rap either, this tape is extremely lo-fi and the synth influences, as well as the voices are drowned in the dark hiss of the tape. But still, this anonymous Ukrainian project features a very interesting combination. And with collaborations with Devilish Trio, this project is promising

Pumpkin Witch - In the Frightful Gaze of the Pumpkin Witch

Pumpkin Witch - In the Frightful Gaze of the Pumpkin Witch (2018)

Genres : Dungeon Synth /.Horror Synth / Noise / Halloween Music

Play the album

What's that, a Halloween synth project ? Yes it is, this anonymous (again) American project tells a story of a terrifying Pumpkin Witch haunting the plains and cities (and more, but I don't want to spoil). It's dark, raw and noisy but it's a great album, this melody of each track gives an eerie and creepy vibe to it. Not terrifying, but truly haunting.

Of course, there's MUCH more than this selection, there's literally hundreds of album for you to explore. So just go ahead and explore the rest for yourself, you can also check out THIS LIST on rateyourmusic which is clearly worth the read, and check out the Dungeon Synth Archives channel, there's all the good stuff to hear and discover here.