Enchanted Mail- Armor Class Sixteen


Artist: Enchanted Mail

Album: Armor Class 16

Label: Ithildin Tape Production

Released: June 22, 2023

Country: USA

Written by Aaron Michael Kobes

Ithildin Tape Productions has been putting out remarkably solid content since its creation in the early days of the pandemic, made all the more impressive when you check out the list of releases on their Bandcamp page. Joining the ranks of Ithildin Tape Production’s storied release roster is Enchanted Mail, with Armor Class Sixteen (AC: 16) a short but powerful demonstration in Old School Dungeon Synth. Lo-fi musicality mixed a limited explanation that creates more mystery of the project than it solves, AC: 16 is a frame-perfect example of the genre itself with no admixture.

From the outset, Enchanted Mail creates an air of authenticity, with its start-stop, and resetting of the opening notes of Surcoat, the opening track. This lends to a feeling of a straight-to-reel single take action (after the reset of course) that has become infamous with genre great Myst and their various side projects. This, combined with the exclusivity of the tape run-a mere five copies and ambiguity of the artist themselves, steeps the entire project in the esotericism of early Dungeon Synth that only ripens the experience. The very name name of the project itself is infused with a clever bit of deep high fantasy lore, being associated with Ithildin Tape Production, Ithildin being from the history rich realm of Tolkien and is a more refined form of the mineral Mithril that most often ends up being enchanted and whose like could only be created by the Ñoldor.

The music itself is fairly straightforward and simplistic. However, this does not mean that Enchanted Mail is lacking, rather it relies on the simplified structure, texture of sound and an experiential atmosphere created to create an engaging listen. Here, sparsity is utilized to give just enough of a framework to hang about it a crafted story of the listeners own devising, or perhaps utilize to more dramatic effect during a tabletop game- the given, albeit brief, origins of the persona behind Enchanted Mail. Tracks like The Yeomen Approach and The Court Magician, effortlessly achieve a fantastical escapist mechanism through their accessible structuring that feels familiar and enchanting while not being overly cheap in execution. Additionally, there is a charm that is derived from this balance of just enough riff on nostalgia to create a pocket of a separate reality to wander about in, like a Larry Elmore painting.

In the simplest terms, Enchanted Mail is just solid, Old School Dungeon Synth. This is refreshing in and of itself, given the contemporary state of the Dungeon Synth community at large with its varying subgenres and offshoots so as to make Old School, paradoxically, a subgenre unto itself. Not that there is anything inherently wrong with contemporary Dungeon Synth, I write about it consistently and love the variation-rich environment, however, having said that, it is still always a great day when a “classic” feeling work is discovered. Given Ithildin Tape Production’s talent in cultivating Dungeon Synth, and Enchanted Mail’s undeniable prowess of the creation of both atmosphere and escapism, both are quite easily well and good on their way to be considered classics in their own right within the community.

Be righteous by listening to and supporting Enchanted Mail on Bandcamp


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