Nicholas Pahman, the man behind Hermit Knight, has been hard at work in playing the role of developer within the Dungeon Synth community; from scrounging up amazing acts to bring under the Weregnome Records banner- which he just so happens to run with along his lovely wife Selena, to playing live shows, and even hosting “Distro Goodies”. Somehow, amongst all the chaos that arises from running his own label, performing/promoting his own proje. ct, on top of creating new music to donate for Cave Dweller Music’s upcoming charity sample XO r, he has found time to complete two brand new and full-length Hermit Knight releases, Upon the Dawn of the Vermillion Glaive and Raise Your Heart Towards the Heavens Child. This is impressive by its own merits, especially when considering that these releases not only showcase the next evolutionary step in the project that is Hermit Knight-being remarkably well developed in maturation and conceptualization but also create another expansion of the project within the scene, with physical releases slated on three different labels, Realm and Ritual, Relics of the Eternal City and Cosmic Ocean (see below for further details).
Artist: Hermit Knight
Album: Upon the Dawn of the Vermillion Glaive
Label: Weregnome Records (physical copies on Cosmic Ocean)
Written by: Aaron Michael Kobes
Up first is Upon the Dawn of the Vermillion Glaive, an exploration in the growth of sound from the already unique branding of Hermit Knight that retains what makes the project-an evolution rather than reinvention. The piece begins with the track Rusted Gauntlets, Fractured Friendships and from the outset we are shown an entirely new side of our dear Hermit Knight in the form of a more nuanced and delicate layering of sonic elements creating a rich texture of ethereal whimsy. Though it does not deliver in the hallmark Hermit Knight fashion of sweeping percussive tracks, and swelling synths, what is wholly Hermit Knight is the emotive essence conveyed in the track. While some Dungeon Synth projects may pride themselves on the dank and dirty adventures of forbidding that await them in the echoey recess of the dark dungeons that provided the genres namesake, Rustex Gauntlets feels like the final escape-the first breath of clean, crisp air inhaled upon exit, and a cheating of life in having survived the depths. This feeling is intensified with the winding falling action of the track that introduces what seems to be ghostly/hallowed singing or cleverly mocked up synths that reverberate beautifully with a delicately played piano chord progression.
The Vacant Fields of Sorrow follows in solemnity and near reverential pacing at the outset. The effect is of a feeling of the slow march home from the perilous adventure within the depths. This effect is driven home upon the study of the album artwork of a lone tower that could just as easily be the entry (or exit) point of such a dungeon as it is for the symbolism of a crumbling solitude offset by a bright and burgeoning verdancy. The layering and nuance of Rusted Gauntlets also comes into play here in its absence further driving such a point home, and doing so even more in the reemergence of the layering techniques part way through the track. It is here we start to see peeks of classic Hermit Knight come through in small triumphant marchings, with the introduction of percussion and incremental swells framed by stringed pluckings. However, this is a much more tempered approach than previous releases, in both timing and intensity which lends to a better longevity throughout the piece. There is also a feeling of edged survival to this expansion- that is, for lack of a better turn of phrase, less manic in delivery; a hard won ease and ready acceptance for a good turn, while knowing how to graciously experience both in the knowledge of their inevitability, instead of the instant revelry at the simple pleasure of surviving against what feels like overwhelming odds. This then not only provides depth to Upon the Dawn, but previous releases such as Hermit Knight as well, making each the more beautiful in turn.
The Fragile Waters of Mercy is next up, and serves as a sort of ritualized ceremony in joining the two halves of Hermit Knight together. Instead of dividing the track between the project’s past and the potential for its future The Fragile Waters of Mercy settles on the present by being just that- in its admixture of stylings that ebb and flow like its namesake. There is also a bit more confidence displayed in this track it feels, with the clearer emphasis on the “singing” portions and the reliance on them to drive the track forward. However, the delicateness still prevails throughout the track as a carry over from Rusted Gauntlets conveying a vulnerability that endears it as a Hermit knight release as much as the sonic soundscaping does. Both of these elements are carried into the following track, Beneath the Tower of the Silent Twins, but with an increased sense of grandiosity attributed to it, a confidence gained. A majority of the track is dedicated as a wind up to achieve a startlingly beautiful and stark moment that is a devotion to minimalism in the closing back half of the track. While Hermit Knight has experimented with the like before on some smaller scale, the previous use of developed layering showcased on the front half of the album lends to the impact of this sparse moment that feels like a contemplation of tranquility rightly deserved but perhaps not so readily attainable.
That Wretched & Beautiful Cursed Object brings a sense of escalation in triumph, eloquently delivered on par with the temperament of Upon the Dawn. It has a vibrancy of its own that emerges from the emotively melancholy prescribed in the preceding tracks that echoes a condensed Godspeed effort, without losing out on any of the power derived from the climb. Perhaps, it is the driving tambourine beating out a steady pace for the trickling keys to dance about that gives it the illusion of upward momentum, or the introduction of restrained horns yawning to the transferred cadence on the snare, or some combination of the two; but what cannot be denied is the sense developed from the movement- of being upon the cusp of something, either to be achieved or experienced, it makes little difference which. Driving home this feeling, is the following track, Retrieval, an Ambient backing track featuring boots of a lone adventurer crunching over rocks before drawing forth what could only be the titular Vermillion Glaive. …and Now it Begins follows like a severe processional to close out the album, or first adventure of two given to us. This track feels more like a strengthening of resolve than anything, given that it is easily the track with the most severity attached to it in terms of emotive energy. Placing this on the end of the album is a unique choice given the overall message of Hermit Knight,
Dedicated to all that keep surviving,
And will continue to do so,
Never give up.
It’s so much better when you are here.
While there is seemingly a feeling of loneliness ascribed to the closing of the track after such an emotional exploration from throughout Upon the Dawn, made the more so when one realizes the nuanced layering has forthwith evaporated and there are no frills, such as ethereal voicings accompanying us, there is also a steadfastness that comes with it as well. There is nothing ominous or particularly foreboding about the piece, nor is it over ladened with an affectation of inspiration or hope, rather it is one of resolve. In the end, Upon the Dawn of the Vermillion Glaive gives to us, the listener what we have come to know, love and expect from a Hermit Knight release- a developed emotional experience that feels and grows just a little more than the one preceding it, making us yearn evermore for the next release.
Luckily for us it just so happens…
Artist: Hermit Knight
Album: Raise Your Heart Towards the Heavens Child
Label: Weregnome Records (physical copies Realm & Ritual and Relics of the Eternal City)
With the second piece, Raise Your Heart Towards the Heavens Child, being released in tandem with Upon the Dawn of the Vermillion Glaive, there is a commonality linking the two in vulnerability. Where Upon the Dawn relies solely upon the sonic to cultivate this emotive putting forth, Raise Your Heart introduces ubiquity through its visual medium that acts as a cohesive bonding to the listener. Simply put, Hermit Knight as a personage has emerged; however, despite this “unveiling of a man” so to speak, being faceless, there is an extraordinarily personal touch in such an unveiling. The blankness of face is not so much an attempt at being obscure for the ominous sake of such, but as a representation of place holding for anyone’s face that could so easily be affixed in the bleakness that had inspired these works. This openness in sharing, not just the music but who and what Hermit Knight is, takes on an entirely new level of engagement for the listener as an experience of reflection as they become the Hermit Knight through this tangibly intangible emergence.
Upon This Bed of Peat starts us off on this next journey with an element of the sublime given to us by lazily plucking harps, timidly utilized strings and gentle shadings of brass. It holds remembrances of dozing in a field, or perhaps next to The Fragile Waters of Mercy as it languidly moves forward, in a seeming daze and without effort. Though it may seem as a half hearted approach to a song construction, or perhaps laziness, there is a tenderness underlying the track that feels more like the slow movements to accommodate some injurious harm so as to not jostle the wound or cause further damage, that is easily translated to the psychic. There are also momentary minimalist swells along the way as we progress that work towards the track’s end, even as it feels like a falling action- a sort of flex testing of movement to see what we are capable of. This then bleeds into another element Hermit Knight has developed within these co-releases, the blended transition to create a feeling of continuity. Though of Broken Hearts and Helms begins with a grandiosity unlike that of Upon This Bed of Peat, the slow and measured movement in progression remains with the inclusion of the Hermit Knight aesthetic of marching percussion and melodious interludes. The most interesting feature about this track, is taken with the idea put forth earlier in the emerged representation of the Hermit Knight as a double entendre of a tangible-intangible figure; this in essence creates a merging of the listener into our beloved Hermit Knight, through the sympathies sonically that can not only be empathized with, but adapted to one’s own personal experiences.
The Forest, My Own Kingdom follows in a more strengthened echo of Upon This Bed of Peat. The tiredness remains, and is felt in the tracks dwindling decent into minimalism after the initial burst of energy that was a holdover from of Broken Hearts and Helms. The track feels like the conclusion of a manic episode and gateway into the more downtrodden, with the elemental layers of the track being dropped one by one until we are left with a resonating ambience. Through the implied depressive loss of the musicality, we are still given over to the tenderness by which it is being played, making us all the more sympathetic and drawn into the Hermit Knight we are all reflective of in some manner or fashion. A Moments Time/ Fading of Key Elements is the continuation of the downtrodden, the sparse and downright lonely, with an isolated piano opening the track. Slowly there is an emergence of other elements, despite the track’s name, by which to develop and deepen the texture of sorrow in a slow and purposeful way. An ethereal ambience fills out the track, giving more body to the sparse wallowing of piano and string components which play in a cooperative harmony- an allegory of the joined listener and Hermit Knight to one piece, that together begin to work towards the uplifting by tracks end, moving out of despondency.
Continuing this trend is the following track, If Only There Was One Last Goodbye, a shortened and tonally uplifted version of A Moments Time/ Fading of Key, that begins to positively buzz with a revitalization in the final moments of the this minute long track before the explosion of emotive energy of Lift Your Head O’ Weary Traveler overrides. Building off of the emotional leg work of the front portion of this effort, Lift Your Head strikes with a grandiosity of (near) finality and accomplishment. This is then dialed back for an elongated few marching measures that serve as a settling from the initial shockwave of the opening notes. It is not long before the track begins to pick up again, gaining more fervor and ever more grandiosity than the first- a microcosm of the release thus far to be sure. Mid-way through the track we are given a secondary reprieve of intensity, in a smoothly transitioned interlude, that slides effortlessly into a more tempered rising on the other side, before dipping off into ambiance and a final rise. The rise and fall, given slight alterations within this track is another shining example of the maturity gained in artistry over the course of a number of releases as it is nuanced and restrained enough in portions to be dynamic, yet remaining unaltered to the extent of not comprising the feel of Hermit Knight.
Concluding this impressive feat of not only one such brilliant release but two, is the titular track, Raise Your Hearts Towards the Heavens Child. It begins with a sort of coda in the sublime that reminisces Upon This Bed of Peat in the element of sublime suspended in ambiance. Emerging is a stop-start stuttering of a synth that feels vaguely of an element of jazz. If this feels out of pocket and misplaced, I can assure you it only seems as such on paper; on headphones is an entirely different experience, as it tentatively moves our listening experience to the playful.. This also helps open up the track to a more explorative texture, than we have seen, even in this the most explorative effort put forth yet.. There are, what feels like movements into entirely different sections of the release, while simultaneously introducing more of the Neo-Classical. Again, we are given more superb transitioning and post-production work while all of these seemingly disparate elements coalesce into a realized vision- a final becoming of the newly emerged Hermit Knight; unified and singular.
Be righteous by listening to and supporting Hermit Knight on Bandcamp
Purchase physical copies of Upon the Dawn of the Vermilion Glaive at Cosmic Ocean Sound
Purchase physical copies of Raise Your Heart Towards the Heavens Child at:
Tape- Realm and Ritual