If you’re living with a fundamental misunderstanding of what the fuck is even going on in this earthly realm, join the depressing party. It feels like this time and space isn’t even real. It’s a place where the worst elements of us all have come to roost, and that isn’t going to end anytime soon. It’s enough to make one want to retreat into the darkness forever.
While it may not be political or societal woes that pushed the Specter to question the outside world and retreat within, something affected him so greatly that he felt the need to start Old Tower, but we’re all the better for it. Ever since its inception in 2015, the Specter, the lone member of the band, has questioned what’s real and what’s not in everyday life, what’s hiding behind the shadows but also in plain sight. It has permeated his dungeon synth-style compositions over several releases, his latest being “Stellary Wisdom,” his first album for Profound Lore. Over these two tracks and 30 minutes of run time, the Specter establishes a murky, foggy world that’s ripe with emotional torment and atmospheric wonder. This isn’t a record that’s going to have you imagining battles in a dank old castle. Instead, it will have you journeying mentally as if gives you a path to question your own existence and the things around you that influence it.
“Deep Within My Somber Castle Walls” starts the record, a 15:21 epic that starts with baroque-style emanations, key clashing, and crashing noises falling around you. Eerie choral-style effects blend with gothic weirdness, as sooty melodies and cavernous wonders mix together to bring clashing elements into the same concoction. The song begins to fade, but on the other side, keys return with a sense of regality, as things are whipped into a cosmic whir. The calm has holes poked into it, while static begins to spill, noise reverberates, and the track fades away.
The title cut finishes things off, a 15:09 track that has filthy synth pumps, wafting keys, and a mystical stretch of melodies setting the scene. Dark clouds collect, while the coverage manages to be calm and uneasy at the same time, almost like anxiety creeping its way into an otherwise easy mood. A quick fadeout teases serenity, but then the ground rumbles lowly, and cold synth waves begin to lap over the land. The track jabs you with panic, and the haunting passages enter in a cosmic fog that keeps pushing its way deeper and deeper into space. The pace loops and stretches for the record’s final few minutes, letting your mind sink into intoxication as the album disintegrates into mystery.
The Specter’s Shadow Kingdom might not be a welcoming place for all listeners, even those who indulge in dungeon synth, but “Stellary Wisdom,” if given an honest chance, will grow on you and rewire your brain. This is as much a mental record as it is physical, and the battle you wage within its confines can redefine how you experience this type of music. Right now, most of us are lost, and if we can escape into the darkness and determine our own direction in this, perhaps we can find our own path back.
For more on the band, go here: https://oldtower.bandcamp.com/
To buy the album, go here: https://profoundlorerecords.merchtable.com/
For more on the label, go here: http://www.profoundlorerecords.com/