Unsheathed Glory – The Siege of Charvencia Keep

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Artist: Unsheathed Glory

Album: The Siege of Charvencia Keep

Label: Independent/Unsigned with tapes to come from WereGnome Records

Released: 8/19/2022

Country: United States

Written by: Aaron Michael Kobes

Unsheathed Glory is a project quietly making waves in the Dungeon Synth community. While they perhaps aren’t yet apparent, from the standpoint of crashing on the shoreline with release after release and larger scaled campaigns (comparable to the scale of the community that is) to entice new listeners, the waves are indeed coming. They are brewing somewhere deep offshore and they will assuredly be apparent before long once they make landfall, creating a larger impact than their shorebound contemporaries, as most deep waves often do. The allegory, though dramatic, stems from the accomplishments already achieved by Unsheathed Glory, from collaborating with other projects that are on equally strong and steady rises like Fen walker on the release, For Uncounted Days, I Drifted Aimlessly Beneath The Scorching Sun, to being featured in Heimat Der Katastrophe’s Dungeon Synth Magazine No. 7/Spring 2022 release alongside already established DS pillar Fogweaver, and even have a previous release, Awakening of Skyfrost Tower, released by Voices of the Ainur. The latest release, The Siege of Charvencia Keep, is a drama that unfolds in the lands of Charvencia, which lies in the world created by Unsheathed Glory and houses the previous adventures, and is told over the course of five songs which rely on a cultivated atmosphere of synths to carry the narrative that the Bandcamp written portion lays out. This is achieved with overwhelming success, as it creates distinct movements, or story arcs that are high cinematic in quality. Whether or not this album is the final push into a recognizable, shore breaking wave, remains to be seen, but even if it doesn’t make it to shore, it will sure as hell contribute to future releases getting there.

The album opens with the track War Is Coming. From the outset we are given tension with a hardline, sustained note that seethes with some malicious intent, like a herald emerging from the fog with ill tidings. While there is some tonal variation of this note, it remains a constant throughout the track, a constant reminder of the impending war, a constant pressure that never abates. Undercutting this are supporting synths that sway to and fro, making the track come alive in a way that feels like it is breathing, or perhaps the whispers of those that call Charvencia Keep home who have heard the ill tidings and know that soon there must be preparation for war. The beauty of this track, and the following album, is the ease at which the listener becomes engrossed in the narrative that is crafted just so, so that one may be able to take imaginative liberties of the course of events while still remaining on tract and faithful with the narrative. There is enough openness in both the written background and track listing as well as the methodical space left within the track to elicit the mind to wander and conjure up their own experience, creating pure escapist Dungeon Synth of the highest order.

Following is, Sharpen Your Blades and Donn Your Wears, a track filled with intent and angst, while keeping an immersive atmosphere. This track begins with a grandiose, and purposeful melodic progression that recalls a sure-footed captain striding down the halls to make ready his troops. However, the deeper into the track we get the more the angst creeps in and piles on, like self doubt and unsurety. While the sure-footedness remains-musically speaking, it becomes spaced out, losing a lot of its intensity/bravado, a captain putting on airs in front of the troops knowing the seemingly insurmountable danger ahead. There is a bit of a resurgence in pacing after the halfway mark, that feels like a mounting triumph, or more likely a steeling of courage as muted drums hold a solemn reverie that give the feel of a quickened and irregular heartbeat. All of this tension builds towards an abrupt drop off into a heavily reverberated serenity of calming reflection. Though initially I was not the biggest fan of this choice, the more I’ve listened to the album the more I’ve come to appreciate what it brings to the immersion of the album in terms of the narrative, either my own, or what was intended. The idea of preparing for war, psyching oneself up via a ritualized preparing of arms, also inevitably and invariably leads to some sort of reflection at some point; whether it be on one’s own frail mortality or the loved ones whom they are fighting for and may never see again. It is in this moment where Sharpen Your Blades truly thrives, the abrupt and forced reflection of what is actually occurring; the reflection of one’s face in bared steel, breaking the echoes of war to call out more personal, softer ones is a momentary self awareness that all have felt at one time or another, and is given a simulacrum here to haunting and beautiful effect.

On the Eve of War begins with a trilling of war horns atop a warbled bass line that serves to distort and make one uneasy. This is followed by a phazed-out synth playing near a-rhythmically giving the effect of stalwart speech meant to rouse the spirits of any fighting man in doubt. The speech, if it was in fact intended as such, is short lived, and in its place is the inexorable angst felt in War is Coming, though this time it is heavily ladened with purpose, easing back some of the tension previously felt. The speech/synth makes another appearance as if shouting encouragement and recalling moments of the speech prior in an attempt to galvanize the troops into the final preparations. Working further to accomplish this end, is the introduction to a wholly dynamic percussive track that drives the piece forward industriously as a synth dancing down the scales in a continuously falling manner, mimicking sand trickling through the hourglass as there are consistent crashing of heavily modulated cymbals conjuring up images of smithy’s at forges tempering blades and mending helms. It all seems frenetic in energy and pace when compared to what we have heard so far, and elevates the mood to one of urgency and focus, as battle draws ever nearer.

If the preceding tracks were pent up angst and tension, then, The Siege, would be the unleashing of what was kept inside. From the first, we are given an onslaught of aggressive grumblings and synths so phazed and fuzzy that they sound like a shaker full of wasps recorded to an 8-track cassette and rediscovered during the onset of the Vapor-wave. Though not the typical Dungeon Synth sound, and not even the typical The Siege of Charvencia Keep sound, it actually works towards the album’s benefit. This complete opposite musical workings, is then taken to be representative of the opposing force coming to bear, and is exemplified by the abrupt halting of the intensity served up at the outset while a singular note is sustained, as if the encroaching army has reached the gates. After a brief interlude there is a backing track of armsmen hollering and clanging of swords and shields, as the forces are joined, with the note he’d taken on more ominous tones while a sinister set of keys begins to creep in. It is here The Siege takes a turn for the lugubrious, as the main focus of the track becomes a swirling deluge of misery and confusion, as repetition abounds and howling “wind” tracks peel through, all lending to a confused miasma of death. Finally the sounds of battle fall away and we are left with a triumphant bleating of synth-horns and a trumbling fuzzy bass line that gives the impression of a victorious March home, though bloodied and battered. The track ends with the brightest tones on the album that slam into place over and over again, and give the feeling of soldiers raising their voices to the sky in triumph of battle and lust for being alive to see another day.’
Calm on a Bloody Battlefield is the final track, and one dripping with melancholy. After the bloodlust fades, the adrenaline dries up, and throats are too hoarse from shouting their victories, gazes turn to the battlefield and take in the butcher’s bill paid that day. The track begins with a solo flute style synth playing in a manner that seems more like wailing than anything else. It is soon split in two, an apt metaphor for battle having a similar outcome on both sides. What follows is a plodding progression of funereal introspection that is intermittently accentuated with low-end clippings, making an illustrative point of the heaviness of loss felt when gazing across a field of “victory”. The track provides a sort of desperate hope in that it still contains moments of softness amongst the hard edges of loss and sadness. It atmospherically creates a complex picture that embodies a range of emotions felt amidst powerful conflicting experiences that leaves one feeling isolated in the end. In the end, whether you agree with my narrative as I have laid it out, or no, one indisputable fact remains; Unsheathed Glory has accomplished in The Siege of Charvencia Keep a complete and total immersive experience that is not nearly celebrated with enough candor as it so ardently deserves.




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