Artist: Secrets of Maya
Label: Dark Sorcery Records
Country: United States of America
Written by: Aaron Michael Kobes
While there are several top-tier Dungeon/Fantasy Synth labels that bring to the table veritable powerhouses of the genre (see Hole Dweller of Dungeons Deep Records, Secluded Alchemist of Ancient Meadow Records or Hermit Knight of Weregnome Records) and even more who toil tirelessly to distro acts from around the world or resurrect ancient acts to life on vinyl or cassette (see Out of Season), there are those that choose a wholly different path, and whom are well on their way in establishing themselves as such; enter Dark Sorcery Records. The label itself is relatively young, even in terms of the Dungeon Synth resurgence we’ve seen mid and post-pandemic. However, Dark Sorcery boasts over 30 releases in just over their year long life, with acts such as Grimdor, Erythrite Throne, Abstracaeon and UGLUK (the latter two being reviews written by you’re truly) rounding out a decently large roster, to date selling out of every single physical copy offered in varying formats. This alone is impressive, and doubly so when the label takes an extra risk of priding itself on shorter releases, favoring quality over quantity it seems. The latest triumph in a steady line of them are from the Secrets of Maya, giving us a trio of releases that embrace and explore the influence of RPGs and fantasy on the genre of Dungeon Synth. In the spirit of brevity inspired by Dark Sorcery Records, I will be reviewing each release on as brief of terms possible (after this verbose intro of course), and do my best to give these unique releases their just dues. Up first, is the first of the trilogy to be released Heartslayer.
Starting off the first album is the titular track, that is also the shortest, clocking in at forty-six seconds. With just a taste of Lo-Fi ambient crackle as a textural layer, Heartslayer presents rather clean and straightforward, a prologue of sorts that gives off a non-Chiptune-esque reminiscence of an earlier Final Fantasy beginning scroll. The additional correlation being the simplified pixelated sprites bobbing up and down “in place” as their narrative drives their representation into something transformative.
Heavier and longer than Heartslayer, Wolfsbane Kiss lends a certain amount of gravitas. Stopping midway through the track to deliver a thrumming stringed bass line that plays beautiful against the Lo-Fi crackle carried from Heartslayer, and throughout the release. There is an immediate tension derived from this action and the seeming downward trajectory of the tracks movement that only adds to the solemnity.
Keeping with the progression of the tracks thus far, Artifacts is longer still, even more so than the previous two combined. There is a little bleed over from the preceding track in terms of the solemn aesthetic, but it is much gentler and gives way to a near Neo-Classical feel in terms of composition. This means that there are several modalities through which the track progresses and reverts to before finally intermixing them towards the end. In an almost Stravinsky-like way, albeit in a much subdued and vastly contemporarized version, Artifacts glides between the solemn and contemplative to the playful and exploratory rather than shocked jolt of wonderment to violence that is Rite Of Spring.
Despite the former tracks non violence, Dead Roses veritably bursts forth from the restrained shell, seemingly on top of Artifacts conclusion. By far the most lively and, you guessed it, longest track of the album, Dead Roses ends Heartless on a near manic desperation of hope. Additionally, there are no lagged portions of this track as in the other that languish or toil in lugubriousness or even dread, rather there seems to be reflective moments of peace and introspection that return to the main hope of the through harmony. This is largely attributed to the upward and maintained trajectory of the sonic landscape that has hitherto been continuously subdued.
Log on tomorrow to join us in our next installment of the Secrets Of Maya trilogy, where we take a rapid look at Ablaze at Sunset