Forgotten Pathways is a recently resurrected project from Germany which deals in medieval ambient music—also often referred to as dungeon synth. The man behind Forgotten Pathways is Cedric Hommel, who, having released the Shrouded in Mystery demo in 1997, promptly put the project to rest. A Long Way Home sees his return with a debut full-length album, is first offering in nearly two decades.
Drawing upon German fairy tales, A Long Way Home carries a dreamlike quality—less misanthropic in tone than the more typical fare from the genre. The human-centric component of fairy tales is therefore reflected in the richer, more varied instrumentation of Forgotten Pathways; this gives it a hint of playfulness, which is clearly very befitting of the mischief abound in Grimm’s fairy tales. In contrast, other dungeon synth acts might veer towards glorifying the inhuman features of natural wilderness or dark spirituality, resulting in a bleaker, more morbid ambiance.
On the surface, Forgotten Pathways offers little that is extraordinary. Whilst the production is well-crafted and full of life, there are few key melodies upon which a song—or album as a whole—hinges. This does, however—and quite paradoxically—give the release a rare depth; it demands that the listener pay attention to each moment equally rather than holding on for select passages. Where A Long Way Home excels, and sets itself apart from genre pioneers such as Burzum and Mortiis, as well as current leaders such as Murgrind and Lord Lovidicus, is in the freedom it gives itself to utilise chromatic scales with unorthodox passing notes. In this way, the compositions remain quite busy throughout, yet end up having a somewhat ’70’s progressive rock feel, with echoes of Tangerine Dream and earlier Vangelis. This is the main method by which A Long Way Home achieves its playful mood and is undoubtedly its hallmark.
A Long Way Home reminds me of the compositions commonly found on the more high-brow computer games of my childhood—namely point-and-click adventure and role-playing games. This comparison means not to cheapen Forgotten Pathways‘ efforts. Far from it; this is an intellectually satisfying brand of background music, suited to the mind of the more demanding listener. It will appeal to fans of the dungeon synth genre, but more so those of a colourful disposition—those seeking a less oppressive listening experience. For that reason, I’m reluctant to place A Long Way Home in the dungeon synth genre. This album belongs alongside film scores, game scores, and the progressive synth albums of yesteryear. There’s a masterful grasp of production on display here which could only be improved by a few more well-honed, memorable melodies throughout the course of the album—something of which I’m confident Cedric Hommel is capable.
02) Bury Me Under the Juniper Tree
03) The Evil Queen
04) Dornröschen Sleep
05) The Tomb of a King
06) To New Shores
07) A Horses Head
08) The Forbidden Door
09) Her Frozen Palace
10) Cohort of the Lost