Artist: Hermit Knight
Album: Goblings: A Whimsical Goblin Adventure
Label: Weregnome Records
Country: United States of America
Written by: Aaron Michael Kobes
This article has had something of a journey; originally I had a couple other releases that were in my docket to be reviewed, as it’s been a pretty exciting past couple of weeks in the Dungeon Synth realm with new releases from Frostrune Thetis, Valarian (aka Defender aka Strife and many more) and numerous others with even more on the way as the first Bandcamp Friday of the year kicked off as of the original writing. However, all of them got pushed back/put on hold when I was fortunate enough to snag one of five promo codes in the first of a teased out trickle of code releases for Goblings: A Whimsical Goblin Adventure. These codes were given out by Nicholas Pahman, the man behind both the Dungeon Synth project Hermit Knight, and label Weregnome Records, the latter of which is done, I believe, in conjunction with his partner. I excitedly reached out to Nicholas to inquire about the-as yet to be determined/finalized-artwork and potential release date, and was pleasantly surprised to find a gregarious personality that was fond of not just discussing his Hermit Knight project, Weregnome and the amazing nature of goblins: “Anything goblin rules”, but Dungeon Synth and life events in general.
As it happens, it was a number of life events that have compounded in the delay of this review, namely Nicholas’ wishes to hold off on the review until the artwork was finalized, which-as of this writing- is not quite done due to unforeseen complications and has thus been released sans intended artwork, in addition to my temporary writing hiatus because of the birth of my son. Through all of this, I have maintained contact with Nicholas and he has impressed me with both his patience and empathy in his treatment of both myself and the situation surrounding the artwork for his album, and is exemplary of what I have come to love about the Dungeon Synth community with my various dealings through Facebook groups, subReddits, and Youtube channels. It is not difficult to see how he and his partner came by such an impressive roster in Weregnome Records if my dealings with him are any indication of how he operates the label. Before we hop into the review it should be noted that Goblings: A Whimsical Goblin Adventure is out despite minor delays, and has a tape release slated for April 29th of this year.
Though this album differs slightly from other Hermit Knight releases, in that it is brighter in tonality, comes with a condensed-semi open ended story, and is inspired by a Dungeons and Dragons module created by Slowquest, it is still an impressive effort and quite possibly totemic in its relation to other releases from the label. A feat that is impressive in and of itself when considering some of the other solid releases to come out of such a young label. Upon first listen, it is clear that Hermit Knight is trying to accomplish something different, a disembarkation of the familiar, the more somber and sedate inclined tones that we have been privy to thus far, a riding out to new territory so to speak. A fact Pahman spoke to himself through the course of our conversations: “…I tried to like dull down the normal sadness behind Hermit Knight and make it more upbeat, with the lower ends hitting harder when they do opposed to the lightness”.
Goblings is also an album predicated and promotive of art in its various forms, from the written to drawn and even into the art of making a great game in the form of a D&D campaign(as any self respecting dungeon master and appreciative players will tell you, an engaging campaign is an art form), in that it was all prompted by Pahman: “…approach(ing) the artist behind Slowquest about doing a label, they asked for a song for their Kickstarter adventure module, I loved the story and said ‘Here is a whole album by the way’”. And while Pahman takes our good knight out into verdant fields and forests of effervescent feelings that recall, for this writer, such illustrative works and artists like the depictions of Peter Pan by Arthur Rackman, or the fairytale illustrations of Edmund Dulac, or really anything by John Bauer or Patricia Keith, he is also accomplishing something quite spectacular. The remarkable feat in question? The straddling of subgenres without any real hard and fast commitment to any one, instead treating the lines as if they were freshly painted and still tacky with wetness. From the wispy and light feeling heft of comfy synth, to the overt digitization of clipped sound bits that is the hallmark of chiptune, to the slightly more medieval underpinnings of dungeon synth proper, Hermit Knight takes all of these elements in Goblings: A Whimsical Goblin Adventure, and blends them to a point of obscuring the base from which they were drawn, leaving the listener to wonder in a delighted daze just what exactly they are listening to. For me, this was also the most fun, and interesting part of the album, simply trying to categorically figure out where exactly this piece belongs, until, after a while you just feel like calling it Hermit Knight, and being pleasantly ok with it.
Goblings: A Whimsical Goblin Adventure, is aptly named, in that it is an adventure in the truest sense of the word. On the one hand, you could follow our wayward knight as they come across “…another lonesome traveler. Among the flames of the shared campfire they tell tales into the late hours of the night. This was one of the stories told: A small group of Goblings (goblin babies) are tasked with a quest to find the most perfect gift for the Goblin Queen”, and follow the story as it is laid out track by track within the names themselves; learning all about the Goblings plight in their object finding quest. Or on the other hand, you could simply listen to the music itself and blaze out onto the open road in eight-bit glory as the open ring track “welcome to this word (we have so many things to show you)” travel along the byways of watery textures employed within the tracks “the young goblings first adventure) and “The Forest (first steps into the unknown), pluck and prance along the comfy explorative and hopeful tracks of the tonally brightened “Could this be a gift? (sadly it was not)” (also my personal favorite) and “let’s hope this works! (Assembling the objects)” or tread the more familiar paths that are shrouded within the shadow of the old towers that hint at dungeons beneath them with the tracks “the goblings and the gift” and “Dream sweet gobling dreams, rest for the day is done”.
Or you could, and this is my personal favorite take, see it as a side quest, a solo-ride out style adventure, as Pahman and his Hermit Knight sally forth from the good work behind the scenes at Weregnome to give it a proper representation on the sonic battle front. “There are such limited resources right now for a scene so small yet building. It’s on the cusp of something larger and I can feel it”, Pahman said, as we spoke of imposter syndrome and what it is like creating music for him and reviewing music for me with those fears looming over us. However, I believe that, with an amazing album that we have in Goblings: A Whimsical Goblin Adventure, and the tireless work at their label that Pahman and his partner put in, we have exemplars of the highest order, and Pahman has nothing to fear as far as being an imposter is concerned.
Be righteous by listening to and supporting Hermit Knight on Bandcamp: