Schemer Heer – The Dragon, His Angels and the Exaltation of Death Review

Imagine, if you will, a bright-eyed and bushy-tailed black metal enthusiast hopping out of bed one bright January morning excited to rake the promo bin for some lovely blasphemous soundtracks for cursing dead gods above with outstretched fist. He sees Schemer Heer, scanning the promo: “Schemer Heer… brings bombastic, black metal and horror…” and he hungrily snatches it up. It certainly looks icy and blasphemous, and he gets all tingly inside, the way others might feel about that special someone or a hug from their favorite teddy bear. He presses play and…

Dungeon synth. Goddamn dungeon synth. If our poor lad had finished that first fucking sentence into the promo, he would have noticed how it concluded: “Schemer Heer… brings bombastic, black metal and horror soundtrack inspired dungeon synth.” That boy is me, and I fully admit that this whoopsie-doodle is my bad. I know I’m supposed to be grateful for the opportunity to promote musicians and provide constructive criticism, but the Lord tests me in mysterious ways or some shit. Look at that cover, the logo, the band pic – straight outta the burning chvrches of Norway, d00ds. Schemer Heer is a dungeon synth solo project from black metal’s famous Dutchman of the morbid, industrial, and perverse, Maurice “Mories” de Jong, who has received attention from me over the past year: Dodenbezweerder and Golden Ashes. While Schemer Heer does its best and Mories puts his own wild spin on the dungeon synth genre, he does little to justify just why in the fuck dungeon synth is a thing to begin with.1

Schemer Heer’s first full-length The Dragon, His Angels and the Exaltation of Death bleeds Golden Ashes. While Mories’ hyper-atmospheric and droney (and downright cheery) black metal project was middling, Schemer Heer embraces the dense synth work and simply trashes the black metal altogether. What remains is something unique, standing out amid the pagan snoozers of the dungeons. Opening track “Our Tumultuous Journey Over the Frozen Mountain Pass” gives us a sneak peak into the doomed Donner Party-esque journey we’re about to embark upon with what sounds like a Herman Li synth cover of Immortal’s greatest hits. To its credit, The Dragon’s melodies accurately reflect the chaos and unsettling dissonance of horror movie soundtracks like Psycho or The Exorcist while simultaneously channeling a medieval grandiosity that fits with genre well. Climactic timpani is a mainstay, while flute and clarinet make tasteful appearances in “My Luminous Stride Through the Valley of Death” and “Where the Moonlight Never Reaches,” respectively.

What dooms The Dragon, His Angels and the Exaltation of Death is its question of target audience. I’m not entirely sure how even stereotypical Dungeons and Dragons adventurers could have the campaign mood set by this kind of energy: keys, textures, chord progressions, and movements fly at you at lightning speed, choral passages offer more “ahhhs” than a tour around the dentist’s office, and ubiquitous timpani might as well be blastbeats. Dungeon synth’s entire selling point is its evocativeness, but Schemer Heer feels about as adept at his soundscape-building as a two-year-old with LEGO blocks, haphazardly building structures only to smash them down with just as much subtlety. While minimalist dungeon crawlers like Örnatorpet or Greythorne are controversially sprawling, it’s hard to imagine music this grandiloquent sounding monotone, but Mories’ interpretation takes the frantic cake. Blessed lulls exist in tracks like the title track and “Abominable Blackness in the Depth of Night,” but they are painfully short-lived before returning to chaotic rabble.

Ultimately, maybe I’m being unfair to the dungeon synth purveyors out there. Acts like Old Tower, Guild of Lore, and Fief have stolen my attention, but Schemer Heer has created the aural representation of Marion Crane’s famous shower murder while Aragorn viciously slaughters orcs in the same bathroom for thirty-six minutes straight. The Dragon, His Angels and the Exaltation of Death is unique in the barren realm of dungeon synth for its omni-epic interpretation, but its ultimate lack of dynamics and resulting monotony forbid easy evocation. Repeated listens offer minimal rewards, and the grandeur offered herein feels like a light sprinkle for a drought of ideas. I can admire Mories’ ambition to fuse horror soundtracks and medieval atmosphere, but its execution is drowned by inaccessibility and lack of dynamic: always loud, always bombastic, and not even suiting a barbarian with a hearty constitution.

Rating: 1.5/5.0
DR: 5 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Neuropa Records
Websites: Facebook2
Releases Worldwide: January 22nd, 2020

Show 2 footnotes

  1. It’s a LARP thing. – Steel
  2. It’s Gnaw Their Tongues, I know – Mories is trve kvlt.
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