“I’m fucking proud of it – this is the best performance I can give. If it doesn’t do well… fuck it, I’m happy with it”, states Simon B., vocalist/violinist for Dawn Ray’d, a band currently on the verge of releasing their highly anticipated new album Behold Sedition Plainsong. It can be an anxious time for any band waiting to unleash their latest work, particularly when it carries with it such heavy weight of expectation, but the band are incredibly proud of what they’ve achieved, as Simon explains. “We’re really happy with it. It turned out as the record we wanted to write, the sound we were going for. I don’t think there’s any filler, whereas there’s definitely been some filler on previous albums. I feel this is our most consistent record. It’s a tricky time though at the moment, because no one’s heard it, you know? It’s tricky thinking about it while you’re waiting for it to come out.”
Behold Sedition Plainsong is the follow up to 2017’s The Unlawful Assembly, an album which saw the band break out of the UK black metal scene with their fervently anarchist lyrics adorning caustic riffing and folk-inspired, violin-laced passages. It’s a distinctive sound that they’ve created and these unique elements are all pushed to their extreme on the new album. Indeed, the guitars are harsher, the folk passages longer and more ethereal and the vocals reverberate coarsely through the increasingly dark cacophony, delivering the most heartfelt and devastating lyrics the band have written thus far. Simon admits the decline of the political and social landscape since the band’s last album, combined with a conscious desire to produce a rawer sound, has had a major impact on the shape of the new album: “The world isn’t a better place since the last time we wrote a record, and we were definitely trying to move away from the atmospheric black metal sound, because that ground has been covered quite a lot. We were trying in ways to sort of get back to that ’90s second wave sound. We sat down in the studio and just listened to Nattens Madrigal by Ulver. We’d listen to 30 seconds of that and then play 30 seconds of our guitars and not necessarily try to get them to sound the same but definitely imitate the level of harshness on that record. That was our reference point, to match the harshness and intensity of that record.”
With Behold Sedition Plainsong, it’s fair to say they have achieved just that, and the intensity is only bolstered by the lyrical content. Covering topics such as ecological disaster, the need for resistance and dignity in the face of adversity, as well as featuring references to early twentieth century Russian revolutionaries, the lyrics are incredibly evocative, all shot through with a visceral, passionate vocal delivery. “This is the happiest I’ve ever been with my vocals,” says Simon, and it only takes one listen to understand why. Commanding, raw and passionate, it’s clear these lyrics and this album mean an incredible amount to the vocalist and band.
While many of the issues tackled on the album point to a bleak future, all hope is not entirely lost (yet). We ask Simon if he feels inspired by seeing so many young people starting to take the lead in the current waves of resistance we are now seeing globally. ‘”Yeah, definitely.” He tells us. “I think what we’ve seen in Hong Kong is fucking amazing. I don’t know fully the political situation there to pledge allegiance one way or the other at the moment but the levels of resistance, the organisation and people’s unwillingness to just accept the brutality of the state is quite inspiring. I think we’re going to see it more and more. You can only push people so hard. You can only make people’s lives so difficult before people lose their dignity.”
Closer to home, though, swathes of young people are taking a stand against climate change. “It fucking rules man,” Simon agrees. “I literally love seeing anybody, like the oldest person in the world, just stand up and defend this planet. It’s incredibly inspiring when anybody puts their lives and their future in danger.” There is also a palpable anger at the previous generations that have left such a damning ecological legacy, as he goes on to say, “There are people who are alive in their 70s now who are denying climate change and are probably going to die in the next ten years or so. They’ve had a fully funded NHS and welfare system their whole lives and have lived a pretty pleasant and easy life and have left us with absolute fucking chaos.”
Chaos indeed. There’s certainly much to take in with Behold Sedition Plainsong – especially lyrically – so here we take a much more detailed look as Simon guides us through the album track-by-track, focusing in particular on the inspiration behind each song and the deeper meanings behind some of the words he has written.
Raise The Flails
We’ve never done a theatrical intro to a record before and I really like that minute of hype you know, setting the tone for what the record’s going to be, I love all that melodramatic stuff, so…
The Smell Of Ancient Dust
Lyrically, this track is about how everyone has the ability to resist; you don’t have to be a born activist or a dyed in the wool, thoroughly red anarchist. Everybody has the ability to resist what’s going on. It’s a slightly abstract song I guess, but we all have that innate ability inside of us, sometimes it takes a certain injury or event to wake it up inside us.
Like Smoke Into Fog
This one was meant to be quite a bit less poetic, less abstract, less whimsical and more literal. I try and have a balance of nice poetic ways of saying things but I also want people to be really fucking clear about what this band’s about, and the exact things we believe. So this one name-checks certain things. It has a go at the cops, at the church, institutions like marriage and borders. It’s a bit of a rundown of like fuck borders, fuck the police, fuck fascism, just so it’s clear in no uncertain terms what we’re about. There’s also a reference to a furnace in there – “every cinder builds a furnace” – which is a reference to the Kronstadt Rebellion in Russia, 1921, which was referred to as the furnace of the revolution.
To All! To All! To All!
It’s actually the first single of the record and probably my favourite song off the record I think. “To all, to all, to all” was the opening line of the final communique released by the Kronstadt Rebellion before they were annihilated. They released this beautiful, heartfelt message before they were all about to be massacred, basically the rest of the world will have to wake up. So I kind of stole that title. But generally, it’s about how fucking miserable it is living under capitalism. Even if you aren’t yet a vocal critic of capitalism; even if you aren’t someone who’s fully developed their politics, living under capitalism is drudgery and fucking misery. You know, we are forced into wage slavery and we can do so much better.
Time For Courage At The Borderlands
This is very much an anti-border song. Fairly heavily influenced by New Model Army actually. I try and take the approach of these ideas and these politics and put them into a very real world context and how it can fit into people’s lives. These aren’t great lofty ideas that only capital A activists can act upon. With the coming time of chaos, there’s going to huge waves of immigration, as parts of the world becoming uninhabitable. People are going to have to move to places that are less chaotic and that’s probably going to be Europe. We’re going to see a huge wave of people looking for help and somewhere to live. As anarchists, or just as decent people, we have a role to step up and help these people and anyone can do that. These are people that have fully developed lives, they’re not just characters, they have lives just as complex as me or you.
Songs In The Key Of Compromise
This is actually the first set of lyrics I wrote for the record. I wasn’t fully sure if I was going to use them. It’s kind of having a go at NSBM and the way in which the parallels in writing music about the conservative Christian right when they have the same kind of politics, they believe the same kind of things, is fucking hilarious. This idea that this cult or rebellious form of music which believes in marriage institutions, homophobic and racist notions that my grandparent’s generation believed… I mean it only serves to prop up the status quo, it couldn’t be less rebellious.
Until The Forge Goes Cold
It’s basically just about anti-fascism and about how in the so-called good times, when the economy is strong and there’s a lot of money in the west, fascism isn’t useful to the state, it disappears and there’s a great public outcry about how terrible racism is. But as soon as times are hard, as soon as there’s the threat of recession and economic decline, fascism just reappears and we’re literally seeing that play out now. Fascism is the strong arm of capitalism. When capitalism begins to falter and it sees descent on the horizon, it brings in fascism to keep people in line and to strong arm capitalism through and keep it alive. So yeah, as times get hard and fascism reemerges I think it’s the job of anti-fascists to always be prepared for that and to never lose the skills learned in the past or forget the lessons learned in the past. So the problem may seem to go away but the resistance and the skills we need to survive don’t – “The knife is still sharp after all these years”.
A Stone’s Throw
The title was meant to mean the revolution is close, it’s only a stone’s throw away. It’s also focusing on the idea of nationalism and how the right-wing claim to love the land and claim to love this nation. Capitalism and fascism in Brazil is literally destroying the planet more than anyone else in the world right now. You have a handful of nameable individuals that chose to burn the Amazon [rainforest] who are far-right nationalists. The people who claim to love the land the hardest have literally no interest in this land, they have no love of it, no love of the rolling hills, animals or the forest, they just see it all as consumable and things they can extract capital from. This fucking idea that nationalism is some sort of love of the land is absolute bollocks. When you see the land threatened, like in the ’90s with the Newbury bypasses or with fracking, when you actually see the land being destroyed, who is it that actually steps up to defend this green and pleasant land? It’s the anarchists and genuinely decent and loving people.
Soon Will Be The Age Of Lessons Learnt
Quite an angry one, I guess [for a change aye? – ed.]. Our generation and the generations that come after us are going to be the inheritors of death. We’re inheriting a world that is going to be barely safe to live in. It’s time to call this environmental struggle what it is – we are fucked. We’ve been given this by generations before and there may be sceptics out there but fucking hell we are about to learn very, very quickly what has happened to this planet.
This is a song we hated practising because it felt pretty boring and we were umm-ing and ahh-ing about this song, it’s probably not one we will play live and we weren’t really sure about this song for a long time. But to sit and listen to it on the record I’m really happy with it actually. It’s just not a live song. This is about the environment, the ecological destruction and the animals that have been killed endlessly, probably a slightly more poetic take on it.
The Curse Dappled Light
It kind of ties the record up. I was kind of trying to write where I was with politics in general. There’s a couple of digs in there, like at electoral voting and the way we just insist on reelecting the same shit governments that betray us every time. Generally, it’s kind of supposed to be a conclusion, like the last eight lines, if the resistance falls apart and we aren’t successful we can at least die knowing we did the right thing, an Honorable thing. When the time to speak out is there, to have that time to speak out with dignity, just knowing you were dignified… This is such an undignified society to live in, I think. You’re constantly criticised, betrayed and controlled. I think there is so much dignity to be gained from resistance. Whatever happens, it’s worth being honourable and standing up for yourself.
Behold Sedition Plainsong is out 25th October via Prosthetic Records and can be purchased here. For more in-depth features about metal, politics and more, check out issue 5 of Astral Noize, available here.
Words: Adam Pegg