Mistigo Varggoth Darkestra
It’s amazing how far a light sprinkling of percussion will go. A distant, shuffling drum loop allows Mistigo Varggoth Darkestra to transform a set of directionless semi-improvised synth meanderings into a piece of minimalist ambient with real menace to introduce this old school DS album. That maybe slightly disingenuous. The loose, low-end brass hooks that make up the lead melody of the lengthy opener ‘Hunger of the Moon’ do pivot on reliable repetitions that – considered from the right angle – could be considered thematic. These are underpinned by elongated synth notes that gradually accumulate as the track progresses.
But without that simple, metronomic drumbeat underpinning it all the track would feel relentlessly static. The loop does not change throughout, but it gives these simple brass led ascensions a sense of purpose and drive. The totality of this loose coalition of half framed ideas comes over as a very bare bones version of ‘Stronghold’ era Summoning, the vaguely martial undertone very much in tact. This poised minimalism is a masterclass in pacing and suspension, the ability to draw out the simplest of musical segments without becoming tiring should not be underrated. By sustaining such a mood over an extended period of time, ‘Insatiable Moon’ immediately draws the listener in.
Sadly, the potential of this opening number is squandered somewhat by the remaining tracks, which float by in shorter, more traditionalist dungeon synth patterns of simple, stretched chord clusters, organ harmonies, and minimal string tones. The ground has been well prepared, but these shorter pieces of random ambient miscellany follow no pattern or logical schematic beyond a series of dungeon synth tropes.
That being said, context is not a myth. This release echoes down from a pre-irony age, a time when fantasy ambient of this colour represented a niche and highly experimental germinal subgenre of black metal in the mid-1990s. One can hear the mechanics of a very different attitude to the act of creation when compared to orthodox musicalist routes. Limited knowledge and ability channels the music in certain directions, melodies – such as they are – are siphoned into very narrow sonic pockets based on what sounds good out of a number of very limited options. One can almost hear the decision to make hay out of a particular synth patch due to working well for a certain hook, as if totally beholden to the capabilities of the tech at hand with little conscious input from the user themselves.
Such rampant restrictions are by no means a detriment, in fact they are one of dunegon synth’s most unique seling points in a market crowded by overly zealous worship of un-curated musicianship. But here it seems as if little or no consideration was given to a potential audience for these fragmented and tantalisingly partial vignettes. We are given one tight, self-contained and eminently addictive ambient piece in ‘Hunger of the Moon’, followed by a series of suggestions for additional material rather than a finished product. Mistigo Varggoth Darkestra are by no means the worst offender in this regard, but one gets the sense that ‘Insatiable Moon’ would have benefitted from being limited to a shorter EP of only the best material here.