I could write pages on how much of an interesting artist Siliniez is. Proportionally to how obscure they are, they’re maybe one of the most influential artists in dungeon synth. Siliniez starting making Dungeon Synth at a time where the scene was just starting to awaken after about a decade of deep sleep, helped by the rise of bandcamp and the massive influx of independent artists as a whole. 2011-2014 was categorized by the birth of many new techniques and sounds that would define dungeon synth for the rest of the decade, aided by the easy availability of previously hard to obtain music software and vsts via easy to use piracy. Both Altar of Moss and Forest Emptiness are cult classics in the relatively niche “Forest Synth” scene, however today I will be focusing on Altar of Moss as I believe it is a fantastic example of an album that has both been obliterated by the passage of time, and manages to stand out in ways others haven’t quite captured since. In my opinion, Forest Emptiness is the better album, but I do appreciate the subtle unrefined flavor of Siliniez’s original sound. The minimal production would go on to define Forest synth for the entire decade, however what’s interesting here is the duality between stark differences in who they influenced, and just had bland the album’s palette is otherwise.
The most obvious aspect of this album is, in context to what came after it, this is quite a forlorn and dark album. Forest synth can have quite a depressive edge to it when it wants to, however most of the time one of the most prevalent features is a relatively upbeat atmosphere, with harps and high pitched flutes leading the way. On Altar of Moss, the flutes are in a much lower register, the oboe synths are dark and sound sludgy, and rather than perhaps a sense of sadness over the nostalgia of a better time, there’s a sense of impending and current doom. When I hear Altar of moss, I don’t hear misery over the lack of what once was, I hear that shit is fucked right NOW. It’s hard to articulate, but there’s something so damn IMMEDIATE about this albums sound. There is a very distinct lack of melancholy, which separates it from most of what has come after in a similar style, and it’s one of the most enjoyable aspects of this album, along with the strangely diverse instrumentation that includes vibraphones of all things.
That said, while atmosphere and instrumentation help this album stand out, the aspects that don’t are unfortunately what ended up sticking with it’s pupils. The production is quite minimal, but in a very smooth and muted way, which considering the low register and dark tone can make the atmosphere sound quite mushy in an almost irritating way. It is also extremely long winded despite not being particularly long. While there are only 5 tracks, all of them are over 6 minutes long, and the title track is over 13. This isn’t inherently a flaw, but I often felt myself getting tired of listening to each one once the 2/3rds mark hit on all 5. The title track particularly feels about 5-6 minutes too long, as they pretty universally run out of steam long before they are actually over.
Despite the fact that the type of minimal sounding synths and lack of reverb has become a genre staple, it also makes this album blend in with so much of what came next. If you had told me this was a 2019 release, I would believe you, because unlike other founding father artists, it’s hard to say Siliniez truly did his own sound better than anyone else. While this album is certainly no slouch even now, and for it’s time was fantastic, with the current context of dungeon synth there is very little reason to choose this over other elite albums of today, namely Fief’s – II. Not to say that this is at all bad though, as despite being a part of a larger pond now, Altar of Moss can easily be measured along better with the bigger fish despite it’s flaws, and as far as 2012 dungeon synth albums go, this is as good of a choice as any.