UGLUK – Oathbreakers


Artist: UGLUK

Album: Oathbreakers

Label: Dark Sorcery Records

Released: 1/21/2023

Country: USA

Written by: Aaron Michael Kobes

UGLUK is starting off this year’s gloriously inevitable onslaught of Dungeon Synth releases by taking the genre back to form with its second release OATHBREAKERS in a small batch of back to back releases. Found in between the release of its self-titled demo and GRISHNAKH, OATHBREAKERS is the standout in terms of what it accomplishes in such a short timeframe, clocking in at just over ten minutes. While the other demos put out this month are most definitely worth a listen, I was completely entranced by the accomplished manner in which OATHBREAKERS transitioned from traditional LoFi Dungeon Synth, to Experimental/Dark Ambient and back again, so seamlessly as to give the appearance of ease to the point of simplicity.

One of the most interesting aspects about this piece is the stark simplicity from which it operates. From the title of the tracks being a barren space of just roman numerals, to the entrenchment of the simple melodies within the grainy texture of Ambient background noise. The first two tracks, are brilliant examples of this, while additionally exemplifying earlier Dungeon Synth aesthetics, as it acts as a form of fantastical escapism that is sentimentally close to chiptune in its reminiscences of RPG music without crossing into the subgenre proper. Tracks III, IV and V are all in a similar vein of traditionalist Dungeon Synth, but start to move away from the seeming RPG homage with each progressive track; establishing its own brand of escapism in attack III via the mechanisms of atmospheric creation with the plodding of lower octave, cumbersome sounding, synths that recall the infamous Orc that is this projects namesake. It is charming in that, as these three tracks progress, the clunkiness established in III clears up, in brightened tonality in IV and V with a quickened pace in IV– a signaling of a changing adventure embarked upon or a new chapter to be read, keeping the listener engaged in the modality cultivated.

Track VI is where the Experimental rears its head, sounding more like a combination intergalactic distress beacon as dreamed up by some 1950’s movie studio and the tuning of a transistor radio than anything akin to Dungeon Synth. Admittedly, I hated this addition on my first few listening as of this album, yet on subsequent revisits have found myself rather enjoying it and viewing it more like an odd happening that denotes transition into a more fantastical portion of the demo like some instances of the Sword and Sorcery movies of the 70’s and 80’s. Tracks VII, VIII and IX then, is the fantastical other side, with VII, being a brooding and meditative representation of Dark Ambient, VIII being a return to prototypical Dungeon Synth- it being only fitting as it is the longest track on the demo, and IX being a battle-ready and pulsating combination of Dark Ambient and Dungeon Synth that is tinged with the Experimental around the edges, all of which throbs like some troglodytic heart beat of a creature lurking in the dankest of dungeons. While UGLUK has two other releases (as of the writing) to enjoy, perhaps the only flaw I find in this is the brevity, and sincerely hope that there is a full release planned with this project in the very near future.

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