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Dawn Ray'd - Behold Sedition Plainsong

Dawn Ray'd
Behold Sedition Plainsong
by Martin Knap at 12 November 2019, 5:58 PM

Whether you like it or not, the ideological “culture war” has spread to – or contaminated, if you like – Metal. I’m sure most people would prefer if could somehow be contained to college campuses and some hyper-partisan political websites, but the reality is that it has spread everywhere now: morning TV talk shows, kindergartens, the Boy Scouts, corporate HR departments and even knitting clubs have to make pronouncement on what their position on the latest buzzwords like equity, gender, white privilege or cultural appropriation is. I find these debates fascinating to observe but they are also very tedious and Heavy Metal is partly an escape for me from all this craziness that is brewing in society.  Well now there is no way of escaping this in the “Metal community” either – the Metal media comment on these political topics as well and band’s ideologies are starting to reflect the culture war as well, for the most part, it seems, as a reaction to the perceived right-wing threat and the corruption of the world, but I’m sure there is also some boomer band out there writing songs in which they attack SJW snowflakes with their trigger warnings and safe spaces.

I’m writing such a long introduction to shed light on the context in which I came across DAWN RAY’D and which can’t be really bracketed out because of how political band this is. Namely, it’s a far-left, Antifa-associated, Red-Anarchist Black Metal band, in other words a Communist Black Metal band. For the “trve” Black Metallers that might be an oxymoron, so why not call them Red Metal… (I can already see people jokingly call them Soy Metal in the comment sections…). I’ve first read about the band in a list about left leaning bands that were hyped up as an alternative to well known bands like TAAKE or MARDUK who fell out of favor with the fashionable metropolitan Metal crowd. I’m deeply skeptical about the idea that art could be easily “replaced” like this without sacrificing something unique that was part of what made the “undesirable” specimen great. This skepticism has nothing to do with my political leanings (which are neither left or right), but I’ll admit that they result from a somewhat elitist view of art, which to me will always be bound with a heroic effort of an individual – an ethos that is inimical to ways of the Masse-Mensch shaped by bureaucratic institutions. I wanted to check out the band precisely because listening to them would be conducive to musings about ideology and art.

DAWN RAY’D are from Liverpool and were formed in 2015. They’ve debuted in 2017 with the album “The Unlawful Assembly”, which seems to have been quite well received. I can’t comment on their debut, because I didn’t give it the time that it deserves, so I’m not able to judge if the strangely named “Behold Sedition Plainsong” is a case of a sophomore album slump, but I can’t say I’m all too impressed by it. The band plays a somewhat raw form of Black Metal to which they add folky, atmospheric elements. The acoustic instruments (violin and guitar) only occasionally intermingle with the guitars – they appear rather in weepy intros, outros or the frequent atmospheric breaks – so I would hesitate to call DAWN RAY’D an Atmospheric Black Metal band, but there are nods to that style. The problem that I have with their music is how formulaic and non-musical it is: the songs usually shift between two to three riffs that often have a spirited, martial kind of vibe and in between acoustic section with weepy, folk or medieval melodies are thrown in. Although the players are competent enough to make the music sound good, there are not many memorable riffs or melodies, the acoustic sections sound nice, but after a while they just start to feel boring.

The songs aren’t bad from a songwriting point of view, but they feel predictable and after a couple of songs the album starts to drag. There are good ideas and hooks, but they are too few and far in between the more dull parts: the riffs in “Until the Forge Goes Cold” stand out somewhat and it has a catchy part with an up-tempo groove and a driving melodic riff; “Soon Will Be the Age of Lessons Learnt” stands out with its sludgy intro followed by a particularly vehement onslaught of Black Metal aggression; and the soaring violin in the atmospheric break in “The Curse, the Dappled Light” at least elicits some emotions. The songs have all a very similar vibe, there is one song that is a bit more melancholic, and might be a bit more aggressive, but otherwise their isn’t that much variety. Track number 8 is an acoustic Neo-Folk song which is just like the folky sections in the other songs – nice but uninspired. The lyrics are “allegorical” in that they talk about a peasant uprising, but the messages are very obvious and there is not much to them other than that they make a political statement – they either bash cops or capitalism, or are a direct call to a violent revolution.

The lyrics have an air of self-righteous indignation and over-seriousness that I sense in the music as well, I don’t know why anyone would want to spend much time with this album unless she or he is on board with the whole worldview and message and wants to get hyped up for the “resistance”. To me this is an example that propaganda rarely makes for great music. I’ll end with a quick disclaimer: if you think that I’m biased against the band because of their politics I gave an almost perfect rating to the anarcho-socialist band KING APATHY earlier this year which also had preachy and over-serious lyrics, so I believe that I’m able as a reviewer to distinguish the art from the artist.

Songwriting: 5
Memorability: 5
Production: 7
Musicianship: 5


2 Star Rating

1. Raise the Flails
2. The Smell of Ancient Dust
3. Like Smoke into Fog
4. To All, to All, to All!
5. A Time for Courage at the Borderlands
6. Songs in the Key of Compromise
7. Until the Forge Goes Cold
8. A Stone's Throw
9. Soon Will Be the Age of Lessons Learnt
10. Salvation Rite
11. The Curse, the Dappled Light
Matthew B. - Drums, Percussion, Harmonium, Vocals
Fabian D. - Guitars
Simon B. - Vocals, Violin
Record Label: Prosthetic Records


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