17.03.23 words by Will Dickson

Various — ASCEND (NTS) release: 17 March 2023

Explore the roots of the dungeon synth sound with ASCEND: in the early 1990s, a handful of black metal artists were enticed by the possibility of conjuring new fantastical worlds from the deep isolation of their home setups. Rather than the dense metal sound of their existing projects, this new direction would be centred around intimate synth soundscapes: forlorn organs and otherworldly MIDI theatrics.

Featured on the compilation is a recently reappraised project from the late Matthew Davis, working under his Secret Stairways. A simple home recording on a Yamaha KX-W392 manages to be both elegant and tortured, ambiguously devotional and recalling latter years Popol Vuh. Previous NTS host and Darkthrone frontman Fenriz also closes the compilation with a track recorded under his Neptune Towers moniker. Italian black metal ensemble Evol provide the compilation opener, with more appearances by Finnish act Kadotus 609 and German band Dolch.


A1 Evol - The Dark Dreamquest (Intro)
A2 Corvus Neblus - Forever I Shalt Dwell in Ravenloft
A3 Asmorod - Fiat Abyssus (Second Chapter)
A4 Vindalv - Swærþ Stimma (excerpt)

B1 Apeiron - Pan's Journey To The Cosmic Void
B2 Secret Stairways - Lammas Tide

C1 Dolch - Tumulus
C2 Endoki Forest - II
C3 Lunar Womb - Night Towers
C4 Maelifell - La Dame du Lac

D1 Kadotus 609 - The Summoning Through Crimson
D2 Neptune Towers - To Cold Void Desolation

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