This album sounds quite similar to “Forgotten Ruins”, except this time around he opted for nine shorter tracks. It’s on this album too that LL takes some departures from the typical “dungeon exploration” vibe and starts to include other emotions and atmospheres (this progression also foreshadows how much of a departure stylistically his next album will be from his older stuff). One of the best examples of this is the song “Fog of the Autumnal Forest”. All the usual LL instrumentation is there (ominous synth atmospherics, that slightly annoying synth horn lead, the percussion), but this time around we also are treated to a beautiful, haunting grand piano that’s introduced at about a minute in and really takes the music to the next level. As I was saying before about “neo-dungeon synth”, this is a great example of it! It’s still definitely dungeon synth, but has also begun to forge its own path in terms of experimentation and incorporating other instrumentation and moods that would sound out of place on an old Mortiis record. I don’t know if at this time Erang’s music was beginning to be an influence or not, but I would say this stuff sounds like a mix between the two, as around this time Erang’s stuff was arguably the most “neo” of neo-dungeon synth (in terms of experimentation and originality). Other songs that stand out to me are “Majestic Temple of Engraved Fluorspar Crystals” (which kind of reminds me of the music for Zeal in Chrono Trigger) and “Trudging Beneath the Snow Covered Trees”. The more I listen to this album, the more these songs seem like they would go well with a video game.Wandervogel des Waldes (2014)
One of my favorite dungeon synth albums of all time! However, it’s far from perfect:
1. It takes a few songs to really hit its stride.
2. I don’t really like the Franz Schubert cover.
3, I’m not really feeling the cover art compared to some of the earlier albums.
4. I don’t like it when the percussion emulates a “real” drum kit (like around 5:00 in “The Necromantic Stronghold”, for example, and are all over his entire discography for that matter), which happens on several of the first few tracks.
5. I still don’t like that synthesized horn that he uses all the time. I don’t know why it bothers me, I guess to me it just sounds kind of “cheap” or slightly out of place. It just doesn’t sound right, especially on this release where everything else sounds great!
BUT, it’s the three tracks on the second half of this release (starting with “A Hall of Trees”) that I was the most impressed with, and it really makes up for the first half. Don’t get me wrong, the first half is still pretty good! It’s got some cool melodies and atmospherics, plus I really dig the harpsichord and other new effects that made their debut on this album. However, the second half is where the true strength of this album lies. It’s actually about halfway through the fifth track, “Naught but Seas and Rains” that the album begins to transform, around the 4:00 mark. The change in sound and tone seems to almost give a preview of what’s to come in terms of style and atmosphere (and overall quality) on the following tracks– “Hall of Trees”, “The Mead Hearth”, and “The Overgrown Belfry”, all being brilliantly executed and LL’s best songs to date. Absolutely genius stuff. “Waldervogel”‘s not too bad either, but not quite as good as the others.
Also, with this album the sound quality has also really improved drastically compared to his earlier material. The orchestral synthesized strings sound amazing. I also really love that he scaled back that mildly annoying, cheap-sounding synth horn that I keep talking about (it still pops up every now and then, and is prominent in a few of the songs (such as “Mithril Mines” or “Icebound”). It’s obvious with this release that LL’s music has drifted even further away from the old-school dungeon synth style, similar to Erang’s “experimental” latest album, “We Are the Past”, which also came out around the same time.
Overall, this album is as creative, evocative, and inspiring to the imagination as anything else out there within the genre. I still have a tough time making up my mind as to whether or not this was the best dungeon synth album of 2014 (so far it’s between either this or Erang’s “Within the Land of My Imagination I am the Only God”). I can’t wait to see what Crow has in store for us in the near future!!
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