DAWN RAY’D – ‘To Know The Light’

Dawn Ray’d have set the UK black metal scene ablaze in the last few years, equal parts admired and detracted for their unapologetic anarchist and anti-fascist politics. Their latest release “To Know the Light” is – as the title might suggest- a ray of hope in these unrelenting bleak times. I interviewed Simon Barr (vocals and violin) for the Hornthrowers Podcast prior to the release of the album. He explained that the album is thematically informed by his ‘journey through anarchy nihilism’ during the pandemic, reading such titles as ‘DESERT’ by an anonymous author. The book details how by abandoning the hope of salvation, we can actually rally and still find purpose in resistance. “While there are loads of terrible things happening… there are still chances for beautiful moments of liberation, freedom, and joy in our future.”

“While there are loads of terrible things happening… there are still chances for beautiful moments of liberation, freedom, and joy in our future.”

The album itself opens with the blistering track ‘Battle of the Sudden Flame’ (the Tolkien reference was noted and appreciated.) The track heralds the album with everything synonymous with Dawn Ray’d: tight double kicks, trim-picked guitars and Simon’s violin cutting over the mix elevating the overall melody of the track. It ends with a rousing chorus:

“Fuck every Copper who ever took a wage
Every Blue Bastard with his Baton raised
A creature even his master hates
Only a coward fights for the state”

There are some songs on the middle of the album which, while managing to remain lyrically rich and provocative, the songs themselves do not carry the same emotional resonance as those at the beginning and end of the album. Though none of these are bad songs, they just pale in comparison to some of the more epic moments found later in the album. Surprising songs such as “Freedom in Retrograde” provide an interesting deviation in the album, leaning strongly on the English folk traditions in composition. Lyrically this acts a simplified manifesto for the band, communicating the essence of anarchism by abandoning dry terminology and theory in favour of “I believe in freedom for every living thing.” Its musical juxtaposition to the rest of the tracks on the album only serves to make the message hit harder.

“Wild Fire” follows, announcing itself with a fanfare which prominently wears the influence of more symphonic/ atmospheric black metal projects like summoning. My suspicion of this influence was confirmed by Simon during the podcast. Smiling, he says: “Oh yeah, we tried to be as heavy handed with that as we could … the otherworldly-ness of it, its so heartbreakingly sincere … all of a sudden you are just in this fantasy landscape.”

The album ends strongly with with “Go as Free Companions” (Yes,another Tolkien reference!) The song itself has the same characteristics you would expect from Dawn Ray’d, eventually giving way to a driving yet melodic guitar bridge and ending strongly on a chorus which I am not ashamed to say made me emotional and hammered home the themes of the album, not allowing the larger cataclysmic state of our world to crush you and to still hold onto the flame of resistance.

The sun still shines
And it would be a shame
To not only lose tomorrow
But to also lose today

For my money ‘to know the light’ is a socially-pertinent album that sees Dawn Ray’d refine their sound and allows their music to reach new heights carrying more emotional weight and resonance.

“To Know The Light!” is out now on Prosthetic Records, you can purchase the album on DAWN RAY’Ds Bandcamp.

-Robert Goulding

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