Encloaked’s self-titled debut album is the product of Jeff Black, perhaps best known as the guitarist behind Gatekeeper. Seeing a musician with a power metal pedigree trying their hand at dungeon synth is certainly an intriguing prospect when you consider the genre’s more blackened background, though the music itself is ultimately in line with the expected conventions. The textures are well suited for a tabletop campaign or video game soundtrack with an appropriately otherworldly ambiance.
Though the compositions are predictably centered around layers of synths, the instrumentation ends up being lush and varied. The keyboards put in a healthy mix of sounds that range from emulations of woodwinds and strings to alien patches and a strong emphasis on piano. There’s also a healthy emphasis on guitar, whether it be through subtly echoing leads on “Always Winter” or intricate acoustic picking. Percussion pops up on a couple tracks, helping break up the slow pacing but staying distant in the mix.
In turn, the songwriting uses these elements to forge visions of different settings and moods that are unified by melancholic atmosphere. “Green Fire” is downright in your face by dungeon synth standards, using its frantic strings and subtle rhythm changes to create urgency that reminds me of a Donkey Kong Country 2 level in the best way. Other tracks like “Weary at the Inn” and “Dance of the Broken Branch” are on the opposite end, putting in more jaunty melodies set to a more relaxing pace, while “Cobwebs and Spiders” and “Amongst the Roots” are driven by gentle piano playing.
Overall, Encloaked’s debut album is a pleasant journey that provides just about everything one would expect from a dungeon synth effort. The presentation isn’t radical by any means, but the multi-faceted instrumentation and varied compositions keep things from sounding one-dimensional. The half-hour runtime also makes for a balanced experience, long enough to feel developed and short enough to avoid getting old. I wouldn’t consider it a gateway into the genre by any means, but I’m here for more classic metal influence in dungeon synth.
“Weary at the Inn”
“Dance of the Broken Branch”