What can you do to keep the fire burning? From the microcosm of dealing with severe burnout in a world where wages are stagnant for the majority of the working class while workloads are ever increasing, to dealing with larger fears surrounding geopolitical turmoil and legislative attacks on the rights of society’s already marginalized, the question of how to find the purpose to keep going every morning becomes a refrain echoing in the back of the heads of so many of us, myself included. Musical artists certainly find themselves in the same position, especially those whose raison d’etre puts them hand in hand with a struggle for a better, more just world like the UK’s Dawn Ray’d. When your message feels more and more vital as every day goes by, how do you find the determination to not just keep your art going, but put out something that feels fresh and invigorating? If you’re Dawn Ray’d, you go completely back to the drawing board, and give us To Know the Light, an album that is not just a reinvention of the band themselves, but a reinvention of what black metal, folk, and protest music can be in this day and age.
A band’s third full-length album can often see them at a place where they begin to question their vision, and Dawn Ray’d are no exception, taking half of an album’s worth of material back to square one and pushing each other to become the best version of Dawn Ray’d they could be. The end result is far and away the band’s best material to date, not only seeing the most effective marriage of their folk and second-wave black metal influences but seeing a far greater array of tricks thrown into the mix. Songs like “The Battle of Sudden Flame” and “Inferno” deliver the kind of scathing, violin-driven black metal that is the trio’s signature sound, but To Know the Light also features a full-on acapella song in “Requital,” doomy chug to kick off “In the Shadows of the Past,” and even “Cruel Optimisms,” a song that lulls you in with gentle acoustic guitars and rich clean singing before the last ten seconds inexplicably become a grindcore freakout. It’s a move that seems both necessary and intentional to the core theme of this album. Much of the songs here focus on finding strength and joy in a world that feels like it is constantly crumbling under your feet, whether that is through rallying calls to action, finding moments to appreciate those you have at your side, or getting a hearty chuckle over a sudden pivot from acoustic folk to blast beats and guttural grunts. Joy is as radical an act of rebellion as any in the age we live in, and these songs are clearly meant to not only spread a message, but to inspire the hope and joy necessary to believe in that message.
To Know the Light is an album that feels alive, vital, and truly necessary. It is a wildly successful reimagination and reinvigoration of a band already on the cutting edge of black metal, and this step forward puts them solidly ahead of the pack. Find your comrades, throw this album on, and dance like the world is ours.
IF THEY’LL NEVER LET US THROUGH THE GATES OF HEAVEN, THEN IT’S TIME TO LIBERATE HELL
To Know The Light will be available March 24 on Prosthetic Records. For more information on Dawn Ray’d, visit their Facebook page.