Artist: Taur Nu Fuin
Album: Ruler of the Forest (Full Length 2015)
Label: Swamp Kult Productions
Released:3/26/2015 (original released 8/16/2001)
Country: New Zealand
Written by: Aaron Michael Kobes
Though Taur Nu Fuin is seemingly defunct, not putting out a record since 2018, the reissue of Ruler of the Forest in 2015 still begs to be listened to and talked about. Originally released in 2001, sans two bonus tracks, and under a completely different track arrangement, the original is a slightly more lo-fi version of the reissue, though not so much as to give it a glaringly different aesthetic. The 2015 release has a brighter overall quality that aids in the composition of the record overall and classichelps realise its full potential in all its ambition, and it is ambitious. This newer Ruler of the Forest is not for a casual Dungeon Synth listener-if such a thing exists-as it is more of a time investment than most contemporary DS projects, clocking in at roughly an hour in length, and at times bereft of discernable refrains, it still delivers an auditory odyssey of classic dungeon synth.
It’s hard to know where to begin with a record like Ruler of the Forest. It could easily be construed as simple Dungeon Synth, and yet it is so much more, from the lengthy compositions that encompass the early benchmarks of the genre, to the mutual dedication required from artist and listener to create and experience it respectively. What is clear however, is that this record does not seem to be interested in the simple, making its home adjacent to the not so overly complex as to be unattainable or displeasing to the ear, and yet not being content with being trope-ishly simple that borders on silliness either. A perfect example of this, is the track “Archernar’s Dance”; it begins with a lovely harmonized flute melody, before it introduces a sort of waddling low-end synth bass line for strings to prance about it in a jovial sort of way. This is abruptly interrupted by a crash of cymbals and marching of drums and strings, which goes on for a decent bit, before gracefully fading away and bringing back our waddle and prance dynamic we were experiencing before in a near-operatic fashion. In fact, most of the album could, in one way or another, be argued from this standpoint, aside from perhaps the final track- “Thorondor’s Journey”- which could be a DS album unto itself in sheer length, and probably should- which features a highly misplaced drum track that makes it seem like one is listening to Mannheim Steamroller rather than a contender for a Dungeon Synth classic.Ruler of the Forest is a lush soundscape of the type that inspires a listener to want to try their hand at creating Dungeon Synth, while simultaneously intimidating them with the “where’s” to begin and “how’s”, from the sheer size and scope of the piece. This is also the type of project that excites one about the genre in general, and reignites passions in wanting to plunge the depths of the deepest dungeons found in all corners of the net and globe. Though I’ve only a cursory experience with the artist Taur Nu Fuin, Ruler of the Forest, is all the invitation I need to delve deeper into the tragically shallow discography, in addition to encouraging readers to do the same, and indeed, the New Zealand DS scene on a whole.