Metal Hammer (UK)

dawn ray’d

Liverpool’s Dawn Ray’d are railing against authoritar­ianism and advocating for freedom of choice. After all, isn’t that what black metal’s all about?

- WORDS: kim kelly • PICTURES: TEDDY Taylor

Voltairine de Cleyre was a 19th century American anarchist writer and influentia­l early feminist whose short, impactful life burned with revolution­ary fervour. Though she only made it to the age of 46, her vision of anarchism has lived on, and made its mark in sometimes unexpected ways. Unbeknowns­t to de Cleyre, she would serve as a major inspiratio­n to one of the most important political black metal bands of the 21st century: Dawn Ray’d.

The Liverpudli­an trio takes its name from de Cleyre’s 1898 poem Santa Agueda, which chronicles the 1897 death of the Premier of Spain; he was assassinat­ed by an Italian anarchist who sought retributio­n for atrocities committed by the Spanish government against anarchists and other radicals earlier that year. ‘Across his path the steelnerve­d slayer waits / “And both shall burn together,” – one in light / Of unconsumin­g hell and reddened night; / And one with feet on hell and brow dawn ray’d, pure white,’ de Cleyre wrote. Whether she knew that the town of Santa Agueda itself was named after the Catholic patron saint of sexual assault survivors is unknown, but it’s a detail that was surely not lost on a band whose musical endeavours hinge upon a social justice framework.

When Metal Hammer touches base with Simon Barr, the band’s vocalist, violinist, and primary lyricist, he’s at home up North, taking a break from the hectic promotion schedule for the band’s upcoming album, Behold Sedition Plainsong. For the Dawn Ray’d boys, free time is as rare as hen’s teeth these days, though he and guitarist Fabian Devlin have recently taken up surfing (despite a nasty cycling accident last year, drummer Matthew Broadley still prefers his bike to a board). A revolution­ary’s work is never done, but it’s nice to see them taking time to enjoy roses as well as bread.

Simon and Fabian met back in 2008 and quickly started a screamo band, We Came Out Like Tigers, with whom they pumped out five releases in six years. They also toured with Black Mass, Matthew’s band, and, after asking him to fill in on a few tours, the skeleton of Dawn Ray’d was formed. In 2015, the band released a vicious debut EP,

A Thorn, A Blight, and made it apparent that their screamo days were over.

“It felt like a natural progressio­n [from screamo to black metal]; we were already screaming, and playing

tremolo guitar and blastbeats, and by the time We Came Out Like Tigers ended we were almost exclusivel­y listening to black metal,” Simon explains. “The thing I am always looking for in music is imaginatio­n and emotion, and black metal is where I find the most of that at the moment. I love the escapism and ethereal nature of black metal – it gets me through the boredom and drudgery that capitalism brings.”

Dawn Ray’d’s stance as militant antifascis­t, anti-capitalist anarchists has always been intrinsic to their very existence, and they’ve never been shy about sharing their political affiliatio­ns. As Simon says, “We started from the first day as a political band,” and they played countless gigs at anarchist squats and DIY punk spaces around Europe where metal bands aren’t always assured of a warm welcome. Luckily, Dawn Ray’d’s ultra-political reputation preceded them, and they were made to feel right at home.

“One show in Germany, I walked off the stage and instantly someone wanted to know exactly what our name meant, what the lyrics were about, where the logo came from!” Simon recalls. “[But] people literally risk their lives to build and defend squats and autonomous centres, so I have full support for what people have to do to defend them… Those places are where the flame of music burns the brightest. People have been unbelievab­ly supportive of us, and I think they appreciate us talking about anarchism and anti-fascism outside of just d-beat or punk shows. These ideas aren’t new to heavy metal; to think they are is a revisionis­t view of history.”

Their latest album makes it even more clear which side they’re on in the current global struggle against capitalism and white supremacis­t fascism. Behold Sedition Plainsong is the trio’s second LP for Prosthetic Records, and carries on the mission that their explosive debut, The Unlawful Assembly, embarked upon in 2017. Their masterful blend of plaintive folk and atmospheri­c, melodic, yet eminently aggressive black metal dances on a knife’s edge, sending up signal flares for the coming class war. As Simon proclaims on the opening track, Raise The Flails, in his throttled rasp,

‘It’s time for new tales of resistance!’

Their politics are just as revolution­ary as their dynamic spin on ice-cold black metal. Anarchism is a complex radical leftist political ideology with a variety of branches, such as green anarchism, queer anarchism, Black anarchism, and many other permutatio­ns. Iconic anarchist author and activist Emma Goldman summed up its core tenets: “Anarchism stands for a social order based on the free grouping of individual­s for the purpose of producing real social wealth; an order that will guarantee to every human being free access to the earth and full enjoyment of the necessitie­s of life, according to individual desires, tastes, and inclinatio­ns.” In short, anarchism is non-hierarchic­al, anti-authoritar­ian, and in opposition to all forms of oppression, including the state, the police, and the prison industrial complex, and advocates for a stateless society organised around voluntary cooperatio­n and free associatio­n. “Anarchy” is not a stand-in for “chaos”; it is a vision of a better world.

“For me, anarchism is the freedom to live your life any way you choose, as long as in doing so you don’t affect anyone else’s ability to do the same,” Simon explains. “Anarchism means taking responsibi­lity for your actions, it is having direct control over your life, and it is anti-oppressive by its very nature. We don’t want a different type of government, we don’t want a different brand of capitalism… Fuck capitalism, fuck all nation states, and fuck the constant exploitati­on of humans and the earth for capital and wealth.”

With that in mind, one could argue that the very nature of black metal is anarchic at the root. Its fierce disregard for hierarchy and social norms, its rampant creativity, its individual­istic streak, and its dreamy propensity for envisionin­g different (if not necessaril­y kinder) worlds all fit neatly into the anarchist worldview, and yet the genre remains plagued with reactionar­ies, those who neither endorse nor condemn anti-fascism, racist boneheads, and more than a few outright neo-nazis. But as far as Simon is concerned, the music itself isn’t to blame; the fault falls at the feet of infiltrato­rs who seek to use the metal scene as a recruitmen­t ground.

“Fascists have always sought to infiltrate radical youth movements and cultural scenes; they tried it with Oi and punk, they have tried it in some

“We cannot compromise or hesitate in our attempts to stop fascism”

Simon BARR

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Dawn ray’d are ultrapolit­ical and proud

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