BHYH: INTRO TO DUNGEON SYNTH

This Halloween season we’re headed down a different path than the blanketed heavy metal, silly old novelty songs, psychobilly freakout, or block-of-Michael-Jackson-followed-by-Ray-Parker-Jr. for our party music. This is a path that leads deep into the forest, down past the toadstool village and the faerie glen, to the moss-covered stone castle atop the hill and its eerily cold, dark, ambient dungeon. To our spooky music lovers, this time we really do ask: “But have you heard dungeon synth?”

Dungeon synth is a musical genre whose origins can be traced to black metal and dark ambient artists who have been making music for decades; however, dungeon synth itself has remained mostly within nichey underground circles, surfacing a few times a year in (post-Covid) events like online “festivals” in which organizers stream a series of pre-recorded sets from several different artists. If it sounds quirky to you, it is; oftentimes dungeon synth artists don homemade wizard outfits and perform their music in front of candles and neon gelled lights and decorations like ceramic skulls, dragons, and/or other witchy garbs in the background. Sometimes they’re wearing executioner masks and studded forearm covers. And sometimes they look like they stepped out of an episode of the ‘90s Hercules TV series. It might be silly-looking, but that’s the spirit of dungeon synth: to mix fantasy aesthetics with more serious aspects of musicianship, making it rather introspective, and possibly even meditative.

We’re a film site the majority of the time, so our interest in dungeon synth comes mainly from how much of it sounds like a movie score. If you’ve ever wanted to see a movie like Beastmaster or The Sword and the Sorcerer with a fabled hero fighting against an evil wizard, but with added goblins, hobbits, faeries, and witches, or if you’ve spent too much time thinking about what the score for a live-action Legend of Zelda might be like, dungeon synth is probably for you. Perhaps think of it as “music to accompany your D&D campaign by.”

While dungeon synth does mix black metal with other darker ambient genres, elements of post-punk, lo-fi chip, noise, and industrial often emerge as well – which make the genre not exactly limited to themes of faeries and magic, even though those themes seem to be very popular. One record label you can go to is Fableglade Records, out of Colorado, which will provide you with all the enchanted elfen dust you’ll need. A sampling:

Neverwood Records out of Oregon is home to a selection of artists that live on the darker, possibly more gothic, side of dungeon synth. As they say, “the woods are lovely, dark, and deep….”

And artists on Omaha’s Moonworshipper Records tend to go more toward the electronic/ambient vibe of dungeon synth:

Finally, some other various dungeon synth recommendations to fill your spooky/scary Halloween parties and/or ritual sacrifices:


For your ease and convenience, check out these fantastic dungeon synth dj mixes:
Britt Brown — Into the Dungeon Synth
DARK AS A DUNGEON, Part I by Andee Connors
DARK AS A DUNGEON, Part II by Andee Connors

Dungeon synth releases tend to come fast, and the tapes and occasional vinyl that go with them sell out quickly. So if you’ve found yourself happily ordering a cloak and wizard cap or a medieval book of spells after hearing these tracks, make sure you check out those labels, join their mailing lists, and follow those bands! Happy Halloween, dungeon creeps!