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Ugasanie - The Dark Side (2015) - Review

Band: Ugasanie
Album title: The Dark Side
Release date: 19 September 2015
Label: Black Mara Records

01. And Fear Creeps Up
02. Fear The Dark
03. Vinum Sabbati
04. Between The Worlds
05. Take My Pain
06. To The Spirits Of The Lower World
07. Soul Attendant
08. Cold And Emptiness
09. In The Embrace Of Mara

Ugasanie takes a vacation from his often polar dark ambient style, to give us a truly eerie album! I have always loved Ugasanie for the cold and desolate tracks he creates. White Silence's “To The Lord Of The Polar Desert With Seven Faces” and “Arctic Hysteria” on Call Of The North gave us a hint of some of the creepier territory that Ugasanie was comfortable in. However these tracks were part of greater polar-themed albums. The Dark Side takes us to a whole new place with Ugasanie, down the deep dark corridors of the underworld itself.

The Dark Side is Ugasanie’s first album on the newly formed and very promising Black Mara Records out of Russia. It is comprised of five new tracks and four older ones, which could be found on various compilations and podcasts, all brought together for the darkest and by far most ritualistic Ugasanie album yet. I must say Ugasanie seems right at home in this very different theme.

The Dark Side is an ode to death and eternity, where you will hear field recordings captured in places such as morgues and cemeteries. It is a prayer to Mara, the Slavic goddess associated with seasonal rites based on the idea of death and rebirth of nature. She is associated with death, winter, and nightmares. A very fitting patroness for Ugasanie and a fitting name for the fledgling label Black Mara, which specializes in dark ambient.

The following poem is presented with the album, in English and Russian:

“In the end of faded paint
For a moment flash of burned masks
On older bodies of erased faces.
Where raw pain dreams and  rows
The ships went into the empty docks
In the lake of dry sockets.
Where winds mud by black yarn
And words unspoken web
Repay a bright trace in the window,
Close your eyes... And listen to the sounds...
Lead entangling his hands.
In not passing silence...”

The Dark Side begins with “And Fear Creeps Up”, we hear demonic whispers over a ghastly drone which sets the mood of this album very nicely.  The sounds are all very cavernous on this track but as it comes to a close we feel the world open around us as the demons emerge from the abyss.  “Fear The Dark” gives us more of this underworld feeling, as if we are in a dank dark cavern deep within the Earth’s surface.  It is a very drony track, and one that highlights Ugasanie’s ability to make harsh atmospheres without inducing a migraine in the listener. “Vinum Sabbati” is the first track on the album which seems to introduce the human element. We hear dogs barking, or are they wolves? The sensation of being in an open and dark environment is the perfect setting for this dark ritual. “Between The Worlds” is as eerie as it is meditative, reminding me of the setting of Lost Highway momentarily. There are indistinguishable voices and hymns rolling in and out of the track, as if the darkness is moving closer to the light, then receding, only to return once more to witness the dark mass in Mara’s honor. The theme of a dark mass seems to continue with “Take My Pain”, by far the most disturbing track on The Dark Side. There seems to be a human sacrifice taking place, an unwilling female voice is heard distressed and finally crying out in pain, as we hear disgusting field recordings, sounds of the cutting of flesh, screams, and an eerie drone to keep the atmosphere going.  By the end of “Take My Pain”, a demon seems to have risen from the darkness, delighted by the sacrifice in its name. “Take My Pain” is a highly cinematic track, yet it still leaves the listener wondering exactly what is happening, giving us reason to come back again and again, slowly piecing the story together. This cinematic brilliance continues into “To The Spirits Of The Lower World” where we hear a rhythmic and ritualistic drumming, which almost sounds like a prisoner walking, shackled. Demonic whispers, and a sensation of the open air surround and fill us. These demonic whispers become more pronounced as the track progresses, as if the dark followers have finally made a direct connection and communication with the demonic spirits of the underworld. Once this connection is made we are given a moment of bliss and peacefulness yet never leaving the realms of darkness. “Soul Attendant” is some of the darkest ritualistic ambient I have heard. Ugasanie brings a true terror into the heart and mind of the listener. The dark priest now connected to the spirits seems to be passing this knowledge on to his followers, just as the demons are in his mind and watching over the whole mass, and they appear to be pleased. The last two tracks, “Cold And Emptiness” and “In The Embrace Of Mara” are less cinematic, as if the ritual has ended, the darkness is still present, but no longer active. Spatial drones, gusting winds, and hooting owls all help represent the return to the natural world, yet the sacrifice is still fresh, and the dark spirits still follow. The album ends with an almost horror movie theme style synth that fades out into darkness as if the listener has fully accepted Mara’s embrace and can now enter the ultimate bliss.

The Dark Side is possibly my favorite Ugasanie album to date. The darkness Ugasanie portrays here is as cinematic as it is unnerving, yet it is never too harsh or overwhelming for the listener. It holds us tightly in Mara’s embrace and keeps us there from beginning to end. Ugasanie has shown us the darkness of Mara, goddess of death, in a brilliant collection of tracks. This album is highly recommended for any fan of dark ambient with equal amounts of subtlety and aggression. It is a very strong and solid release for the young label, Black Mara Records.

Review written by: Michael
Rating: 9/10