Artist: Сивый Яр (Sivyj Yar) & Hermóðr
Album: The Unmourned Past & A Place of Eternal Twilight
Genre: Atmospheric Black Metal
Сивый Яр (Sivyj Yar) – The Unmourned Past
The Unmourned Past is the final release in what has been called Sivyj Yar’s “Peasant Trilogy “. It is a series of releases that began with the EP Towards the Twilight, continued with three full lengths, and finally comes to a close with this EP. Conceptually, the series was meant to both pay homage to the lives of Russian peasants as well as to explore the harsh realities of their lives. This has made for some beautiful, yet mournful music.
The EP is composed of two songs, both around ten minutes in length. The first song is “The Wind Whispers in Solitude” and kicks the EP off on a more intense note than I was expecting for Sivyj Yar. Their music has always tended to be rather slow and brooding, but “The Wind Whispers in Solitude” begins heavy and fast. As the song progresses, though, it slows down to the pace that most Sivyj Yar releases go at. However, near the end of the track is an incredible guitar solo paired with excessively played drums, cymbals crashing madly as the guitar solo reaches for notes and speeds never heard before from the band. While it doesn’t end on this crazy flurry, instead opting to slow down one final time before quietly completing, I still think that the guitar solo sets up the next track.
“The Unmourned Past” begins in a much more familiar way for Sivyj Yar, with a riff that has that comforting tone that always seems to be present the band’s music. However, this is once again broken by another guitar solo, this one sounding like a triumphant call. With this solo, coupled with the solo just a few moments prior from the previous song, I find myself completely thrown off. I can’t recall there ever being guitar solos like this in any of Sivyj Yar’s recent releases, and it doesn’t even seem to fit the tone that the band has always been going for. After the guitar solo, the vocals come in and the song slows down briefly, but this too is soon replaced by faster drums and a tremolo guitar section. “The Unmourned Past” stays at a fast pace for the majority of the run time, save for an interesting divergence just after the midpoint of the song, where the music slows down and there are layers and layers of plucked guitar strings, creating almost a symphony out of a single instrument. But beyond this, the song tends to be more firmly on the black metal side of the band. There is even the appearance of that black metal staple, blast beats. I will mention that the end of the song does feature the classic Sivyj Yar outro, pairing a mid-paced riff with a mournful violin. This is the one moment on the whole EP where I can feel myself being called back to previous albums, especially the most recent, Burial Shrouds.
Regardless, what we have here is almost a completely different Sivyj Yar, one that is faster and heavier, more aggressive and triumphant. I cannot help but wonder if this EP is written less as the close of the “Peasant Trilogy” and more as an introduction to a new era of the band. Only time will tell of course, but as always, I’m looking forward to the next output from them.
Get it on Bandcamp: https://sivyjyar.bandcamp.com/album/the-unmourned-past
Hermóðr – A Place of Eternal Twilight
Hermóðr, the prolific Swedish band, has released another EP just a few short months after The Darkness of December. This single-track EP is entitled A Place of Eternal Twilight, running just under twenty minutes long, making it one of the more lengthy pieces across Hermóðr’s catalogue. The first thing that I noticed about this track is the vocal tone, which to me sounds a lot harsher than usual. Some of the lines are positively snarled out, whereas on previous releases, the vocals will be heavily buried and softly wailed. The more aggressive vocals add a nice edge to the music. The song follows a standard progression, slowly moving from section to section while the lead guitar plays with the central melody of the song. I have always appreciated longer songs that use the same melody throughout the track, but slowly change and experiment with it. It’s really neat to hear how much meat is on any single melody, and all the different ways a talented musician can present it.
Another notable difference about this EP is the greater prevalence of the synth than previous releases from Hermóðr. While most of the time during “A Place of Eternal Twilight” you can hear notes being chimed out by the synth, almost sounding like bells, there are moments on here where the guitars take a back seat to the synth playing its own melody. The consistent presence of these chimed keys really adds a nice layer to the music, and without it the song can sound downright grim. For example, just about halfway through the song, the synths die out completely, and we are left with only guitar and vocals. The guitar tone is dirty and rough, and as I mentioned, the vocals are very dark, almost gurgled. This moment during the song reveals just how raw and grim Hermóðr could play if they wanted to, but they choose rather to incorporate brighter notes and softer instrumentals. When this rough moment finally ends and the chiming synths come back into the song, the different is night and day.
As the song reaches its final third, the vocals disappear totally and a new melody replaces the central one. This moment is the kind I live for with Hermóðr’s music; it is by far one of my favourite melodies the band has come up with. The melody is gorgeous, but the band takes extreme pains not to wear it out. It only lasts for about a minute, and only the lead guitar plays the melody. There is no layering on the guitar (something that Hermóðr excels at, like on the event more recently released “Above the Shadows” single, which features an amazing melody on the outro that is layered wonderfully), and the drums and other guitars simply carry on playing basic notes in the background. It’s almost excessively subtle, and I wish that the melody was developed a bit more. As a listener, I spend the last third of the song holding my breath, waiting for that melody to be revisited, but it never is. The rest of the song repeats a few of the melodies heard earlier, plays with the tune a little bit more, and then it ends. I can’t help but feel crushed that that gorgeous melody had such a short moment in the sun.
Once again Hermóðr has proven that their ability to write compelling melodies is peerless in this genre. I will always give this band’s releases a listen, waiting for those moments of exceeding beauty.
Get it on Bandcamp: https://hermodr.bandcamp.com/album/a-place-of-eternal-twilight