Maurice De Jong must never sleep. How else can his incredible release rate be explained, both in terms of quantity and quality? Whilst probably best known for his work as Gnaw Their Tongues, he has also been prolific in recent times with his epic dungeon synth project Vetus Supulcrum, of which Windswept Canyons of Thule is the fifth release since the project emerged in 2019. Such a rate of releases could imply a concern over quality, but that’s not the case here.
Windswept Canyons of Thule might not expand on what epic dungeon synth can do or be, playing quite closely by the genre’s rules and themes. Song titles that draw from fantasy and mythology do justice to the epic strings, cavernous drums, and mournful melodies contained within. It is inaccurate though to describe it as being background music for a video game or table-top RPG; it is loud, brash, and attention-grabbing. There’s none of the intentionally poor production or murkiness that can characterise dungeon synth here – Windswept Canyons… is LOUD.
That loudness, and the intentionally brash nature of the compositions, gives the album a triumphant feel. Even if the song titles might imply futile battles and hordes of evil marching towards the gates like a scene from Lord of the Rings, there’s an aura of strength and defiance to it that is hard to resist. That the compositions are relatively short – between three and four minutes long – and tightly focused also makes it quite accessible for dungeon synth; there’s none of the ambient nature that can characterise the genre here. It also helps, of course, that those compositions are very strong.
And that ultimately sums up Windswept Canyons… It does not attempt to be anything other than a very strong, powerful, loud dungeon synth album, that does justice to its epic themes and nature. It is unlikely to win over anyone who has already dabbled with the genre and found it not to their liking; but anyone with a taste for huge synths, pounding drums, and ominous atmospheres will find plenty to enjoy here.
Windswept Canyons of Thule is out on October 23rd and can be ordered here.
Words: Stuart Wain