Vetus Supulcrum – A Shroud of Desolation

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Maurice De Jonge is a name you’re bound to encounter rather regularly on these pages. It’s truly amazing how many different projects this Dutch centipede has going on. Equally remarkable is the sheer breadth of his output. From various black metal related initiatives like Golden Ashes or Dodenbezweerder across nineties inspired death doom all the way over to the highly experimental noisescapes of Gnaw Their Tongues.

Vetus Supulcrum falls into even another category: The obscure often misunderstood realm of dungeon synth. Spearheaded by the likes of Mortiis in the early nineties after the crooked-nosed troll had departed from Emperor, it is a genre that took the lo-fi aesthetics of Norwegian black metal and transposed it to utterly minimalistic Casio keyboard medieval soundscapes. At the time no one seemed to know what to make of it. The regular black metal kids would keep wondering when the intro would finally be over and where the guitars had gone off to while the more serious ambient acts would smirk at this runaway Lord of the Rings reject. Funnily enough the last few years has seen a resurgence of this genre, where many musicians now regard Mortiis’ early works as seminal. It is in this perspective that you should regard De Jonge’s work with Vetus Supulcrum.

‘Shroud of Desolation’ is his sixth release under this moniker.  Compared to the previous record ‘Death’s Oldest Song’, this one is actually a bit less of a soundtrack to a film that was never made, seeing a return of sorts to his earliest works. His spoken word vocals add an extra layer of bombast to the proceedings that remind me of Summoning’s less blackish moments. In order to listen properly to dungeon synth, you need to put yourself into a somewhat different mindset. You need to let go of preconceptions you might have when listening to your average rock or metal song.

Just sitting down and listening to this music without any context is likely to be a rather tedious affair. Listening to this album will evoke images of armies of orcs marching to war, of the bloodied, desolate plains after the battle, of mighty mountain ranges and fire breathing dragons, but not in the way that you can sing along to it, rubber axe in hand. For those with a really very vivid imagination, an entire story might unveil before you as you close your eyes. For others it might work better as an enhancement to reading a fantasy novel or use it in an RPG game.

From that perspective it’s not a million miles away from what De Jonge tries to achieve in his much more aurally challenging project Gnaw Their Tongues in the sense that it’s an overall atmosphere that he tries to convey rather then a set of songs in the traditional sense. Fans of that band of Summoning or Druadan Forest really should have a listen to this record of any of his previous works under this moniker. You won’t be disappointed.

REVIEW SCORE

  • Music / Songwriting 8/10
  • Vocals / Lyrics 7/10
  • Mix / Production 8/10
  • Artwork & Packaging 9/10
  • Originality 7/10
7.8

Another noteworthy release from De Jonge’s neverending stream of creativity.

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