Tape-digging can be a frustrating endeavor. For every Rhinocervs or Colloquial Sound Recordings release, there are about twenty-or-so duds, a dozen “uhhs” and hours of “meh”. A commenter who goes by "Walker” asked me—not insultingly! He liked the music—last July in response to an installation of FF/RW: Best of Cassettes, “Are you just some huge dweeb who follows all of these tiny labels?” Well, Walker, you nailed it, but that dweebdom(?) can lead to the occasional gold strike, or something close to it. And that makes it all worth it, or so I tell myself.

One of those redeemers is Sivyj Yar’s The dawns were drifting as before, an album previously only available on tape that is out now on CD via Those Opposed Records. Sivyj Yar is a one-man black metal project with two previous full-lengths under its belt from Vyritsa, Russia, population 11,884. Their Metal Archives page is in Russian and your guess is as good as mine as to how you pronounce the band’s name, borrowed from that of an ancient Slavic deity.

Think of a mix of Agalloch, Alcest, and Negura Bunget and throw in some sort of Slavonic sorrow and you’ll have an idea of Sivyj Var’s sound. Sivyj Yar songs are long and contain multiple distinct segments, linked together seamlessly by clever and creative transitions. Layer upon layer of guitars of the rich atmospheric black metal kind build contemplative and melancholic melodies, but Sivyj Yar takes a step away from many similar acts with prog-like basslines that are right up front in the mix with the guitars. Screams are of the pained howling variety, not a typical black metal rasp, and clean vocals occasionally come in as backing vocals. There are no long, overdrawn interludes or anything of the sort; after a quick instrumental opening track, Sivyj Yar gets going with riff-based metal and sticks to the formula. The result is a very satisfying listen, full of hook-y grooves that build to pleasing resolutions and charming accents—the keyboard at the end of the title track, below, comes to mind. Give that song and the rest of The dawns were drifting as before a listen.

This one’s for you, Walker.

— Wyatt Marshall