A Thousand Flames: DAWN RAY'D and Their Flames of Revolution Reignite on "Like Smoke Into Fog"
Scourges of capitalism and fascism choke the breath from people's lungs. World regimes controlled by corporations ravage rainforests and terrorize civilians through violent—and unnecessary—police forces. Now more than ever is the time for resistance. Liverpool's trio of Dawn Ray'd have been leading the resistance in song for over a few years now. Their breakout effort, The Unlawful Assembly, garnered critical acclaim for it's exacting and sharp attack on anti-fascism on a global and metal level. Their themes laid wide open over searing black metal tinged with violin interludes, presented a call to arms for metal fans and beyond to rise up and take back what the state has taken and what fascists want.
The anarchists return later this month with their second full-length record, Behold Sedition Plainsong, a new salvo of anarchistic and left-wing anthems aimed at capitalism's grasp and fascism's ever-looming shadow. Dawn Ray'd's place in metal has been firmly solidified during the last two years as they've traveled the world performing their music and delivering messages of promise and action. Now, with a bigger platform of Prosthetic Records and a booming voice built up by its fan base, they pick apart facets of capitalism like organized religion and the police among many more.
"Like Smoke Into Fog" takes aim at the mentioned institutions lining up fierce warnings of the consequences for their continued infringements on the common people and their communities. The caustic three and a half minutes race by—it's one of the album's most vicious tracks—with soaring riffs and early d-beat drums, only mildly relieved by a gorgeous violin section near the midway point.
Check out the exclusive stream of the video for "Like Smoke Into Fog" now alongside an in-depth interview with vocalist/violinist, Simon Barr. Behold Sedition Plainsong arrives on October 25th through Prosthetic Records.
Over the last couple of years, you all have been taking on a bit more of the spotlight and touring—playing bigger shows and festivals. How have you all over the past couple of years managed and taken in this new spotlight or maybe backlash that comes with your message?
Simon Barr: It comes and goes, I guess. You don’t really notice the spotlight being on you or being bigger. You never notice your band getting bigger because it’s always small steps. In terms of backlash or the way we’ve been accepted in the metal scene, when we first came out there was a bit of kickoff—comments about us online, memes, and other shit.
That never really bothers me. That just exists on weird, sad corners of the internet. We never encounter any criticism in the real world or at shows. We always get some criticism on the internet, but I think all bands face that. That’s definitely died down though. Maybe the far-right has come to the realization that we’re not going away and there is an anti-fascist black metal band that speaks very loudly about these things and there’s nothing they can do about it [laughs].
Given the anti-fascist message of your music and how most listeners are aware of those anti-fascist and anarchistic tags, it seems with Behold Sedition Plainsong, you all take a very incisive and clear anti-capitalism stance throughout much of the record. Not necessarily shy away from those ideas—they are still very present on the album—but shift your lens to anti-capitalism and ecological messages. Was there any decision to shift that lens a little bit for this record?
Barr: Not really. I think a lot of the messages are decided by the lyrics, but I didn’t try to intentionally write about certain things, but I definitely don’t want to write the same song over and over again. There are references to anti-fascism on this record, but there are a lot of struggles we face, and I like to think we’re not a one-trick pony or a single-issue band. I think it’s important to recognize that all of the strands of resistance are interconnected.
Anti-fascism and land defense—ecological struggles—are going to have to work together very closely as eco-fascism becomes a bigger thing in the future. The control of resources could become more of a problem with climate change. There is an intersectionality between all this, and, for me, these are all part of a wider system of anarchist beliefs.
You make an interesting point. Everything does have this intersectionality to it. I think we see it more and more appearing in the news. Let’s take the Amazon burning, for instance, under Brazil’s fascist leader, Bolsonaro. The rainforest is burning to harvest lands to grow cattle to fuel meat sales.
Barr: Yeah, there you have the intersect of fascism, animal rights, ecological defense, and the defense of marginalized or indigenous communities. We have to look at how all of these struggles connect together.
The evidence of capitalism and fascism when it comes to the ecological crisis is self-evident. How does capitalism permeate an institution like organized religion or law enforcement?
Barr: Oh, that’s a good question. I think that’s a very interesting thing to talk about. I definitely think religion—I would like to talk only about Christianity because that is what I come from. The Christian church has been a colonial force forever. It’s been used to colonize parts of the British Empire. It’s been a way to control populations in the UK and America. Ultimately, that organization is just a huge capitalist industry.
When you look at the Catholic Church for what it is—the scandals and abuse—the people involved in that have no interest in morality or any form of spirituality. It’s so obviously just a business. With the evangelicals certainly; the pastors who refused to open their doors to people affected by floods and hurricanes. Also, their absolute disdain for the LGBTQ community. These are not institutions that care about spirituality or morality at all.
They’ve always been of use for capitalism, but I think their use is waning as people lose interest in religion. I guess the state will find other methods for control. Obviously, the police are a form of control for the state. They’re the foot soldiers of capitalism. I have no time for the religion or the police.
They sell a façade of salvation and safety.
Barr: I am anti-police. I do not believe we should have the police force. The tired argument of the police being there to protect you is nonsense. The police don’t solve petty crimes. The statistics on solving violent crime are low and the rates of civilian abuse are out of control. The police do not exist to protect civilians. They exist to enforce capitalism and protect the rich.
I agree with those reasons you stated. They exist to build this rift between populations. It’s a big problem here in the United States. It’s a big system built of systemic racism and greed.
With these pillars like law enforcement—who are protected by this maligned sense of brotherhood and an untouchable union that blocks evil and untrained cops from facing consequences—or religion—who for centuries have had a chokehold on populations—how do anarchists take on these seemingly impenetrable establishments?
Barr: That’s a really important question for anarchists to ask themselves all the time. The police are not as powerful as they make themselves out to be. If you look at the way people have resisted the police—like in Hong Kong at the moment—in various revolutionary struggles around the world, the state is not as powerful as it claims to be.
We have to have very strong self-defense in communities. When you see autonomous areas that refuse to let the police in, like Exarcheia in Athens, for example. It’s been a no-go zone for the police for a long time. These autonomous areas defend refugees, grow food to feed the poor in that area. It’s definitely possible to have areas that don’t need police. But, they are a terrifying force as well so building strong communities and encouraging people not to trust or talk to the police.
The idea that the police are benevolent and are there to protect you is one of the most dangerous ideas we have. The police are terrible at investigation and they rely on civilians just willingly giving them information. Groups like Extinction Rebellion are making big mistakes with people cooperating and talking to the police. A big problem we are going to have to solve is how we encourage communities to not trust the police and not let them into our revolutionary groups or not allow them to steal information that they would use against us.
The idea of not talking to police needs to be prominent, especially here in the United States. In addition to the police we have ICE, they both give pushback for sanctuary cities and they use this kind of vigilante justice. They’re using more violent and shady tactics to enforce or keep our borders closed.
When you discuss these communities like Exarcheia, do these groups fight back in a similar way with militant work or is it more focused on building a strong sense of community?
Barr: I think it has to be both. The big misnomer about anarchism is that you have good anarchists that help the refugees and tend to community gardens—do the “good” of positive activism—and you have the violent, terrible anarchists that fight the cops and throw Molotov cocktails. There is a difference between those groups, but often we find them to be one and the same.
Anarchism is a very beautiful and caring ideology but it is also an ideology that is willing to defend itself from those who threaten it. In Exarcheia you have squats that have refugees which are amazing, safe spaces for refugees. They’re vital in the border struggles in Europe at the moment. Those squats were taken from the owners and they’ve been militant in defending it against the police. There have been violent clashes between the police and the people defending it.
You have to have both. We have to care for each other and protect each other and a part of that means physical defense for each other.
Shifting focus to the band itself, there was some pushback for you three playing shows that feature some bands that—to put it lightly—don’t share your political views. It seems to me, though, this presents an opportunity to get outside of an echo chamber and deliver your message to the people who really need to hear what you have to say. Would you say this was your rationale behind playing shows with these bands?
Barr: 100%. We come from a DIY scene that for a long time said we have to “no-platform” these bands and we shouldn’t be playing with them at all. While that is one really amazing, important tactic, the problem we are seeing with metal is this scene is already fucking huge. We’ve already got big and successful far-right bands or bands who have far-right members so it’s not like we can just turn our backs and they’ll just go away because that hasn’t been the case for a long time.
Something the far-right has done recently is take advantage of certain spaces of the internet—places like 4chan, 8chan, and imageboard sites. The far-right has utilized those so effectively and anti-fascist, left-wing groups—and myself included—have failed to prevent that, failed to be a part of it or failed to get in the way of those. They’ve had free range to organize—uncriticized and unchecked—in spaces like that. I also think there is a touch of that in black metal.
The left needs to realize that we can no longer just laugh at or ignore them and they’ll go away. That’s not the case, they’re constantly organizing. I think it’s really important we are going into these spaces and disrupting their networks, organizing, and rhetoric that they push in those scenes.
The far-right has always valued radical youth movements and they’ve tried to be a part of punk and oi as well as electronic music. They’ve tried to do it with metal as well. It’s important that everywhere they sprout up we go in there and disrupt that and kick them out of those metal scenes. The only way we’re going to do that is to go into those spaces and giving disaffected people a different answer for life. Otherwise, the only people coming to them to fix their problems are the far-right.
That’s a really great point. They’re using these tactics to find impressionable scenes that are malleable. They bring their fascist, homophobic, or anti-semitic music and say “You’re not the problem, it’s these groups of people who create the issues.”
Barr: Yeah, definitely. Yeah.
With either taking action—going into these areas or corners of the internet—or the other route in de-platforming whether it be globally or in metal. Is there a point where you switch from one idea to another or do these ideas go hand in hand?
Barr: I think that is something we have to figure out all the time. You have to judge every situation differently and have different tactics for different situations.
In North America and the shows with Nazi bands being canceled, that’s great. You have another instance where the far-right weren’t able to spread their message or politics in certain neighborhoods or bring it into venues—I certainly support that.
We are playing a show with a couple of far-right musicians in Leeds—we were actually booked for the festival before any of the far-right acts were booked. We didn’t want it to be, “the right-wing bands were added therefore we pull off the festival,” because they win. They take away the left-wing voice. I wouldn’t support those bands at the shows or play explicitly right-wing shows, but I think there are instances like festivals where you can have a big impact.
Anti-fascism has to be about the diversity of tactics. I hope we’re getting this right. We’re doing what we generally think to be the right thing, but time will tell.
It circles back to what we talked about earlier with different tactics. You have your militant actions, in this case going in and playing this festival even though these bands are on the ticket. It’s still also reflective of building a sense of community. With your music you can show impressionable listeners a message of positivity, positive change, and giving the power to the people—kind of welcome them into a better view.
Barr: Definitely. I never want it to sound like I think metal is just riddled with Nazis. I love this music and I love this scene. We’ve been welcomed into it in such an amazing way. People come to our shows and they’re stoked about what we have to say. Metal has always had left-wing ideas about rebellion. 99% of people we meet in person or interact with online are really decent people.
I also think that’s why this scene is worth saving. This is a type of music a lot of people rely on and this idea that this music is just full of straight, angry white guys isn’t true. We see a lot of queer people, trans people, and people of color. We see them at our shows all the time.
I agree. I think most people for that notion understand you don’t just think it’s full of Nazis. When you pull it back a bit—this is where your message becomes more important too—within the metal community, we’re aware there is a wide array of people who are involved—women, LGBTQ individuals, people of color.
In summary, what would you say are the most immediate or important steps someone could take if they wanted to begin organizing in communities whether it be in metal or on a local, regional, national, or global scale?
Barr: The first thing would be to try and read things that will help you get a grip on some of the ideas. CrimethInc is a really great place to start for introductions to anarchism. Anarchy by Errico Malatesta is an amazing book.
Beyond that, I don’t think everyone needs to prescribe to the exact definition of anarchism that I believe. But organizing in your community—looking around and seeing what problems are in front of you—then using the skills you have to try and fix those things.
Maybe you can cook and provide food for homeless people. You can volunteer at a refugee center. If you’re physically able, you can show up when the Nazis come to town and do what you can to stop them. Get in touch with other groups that are involved in direct action. If you’re about animal rights, look into animal liberation. Look into other anti-fascist or anti-racist groups that exist.
Look at the world and see what the most pressing issue is—the thing that really strikes a nerve with you—then look at the skills you have to try and stop that and make that situation better. Everybody has different skills but the revolution is going to need everybody—these struggles need everybody. They need people who can do online work, be in the streets, who can cook food and provide clothes. It takes everybody.
That’s great advice for everyone. For me, I see these issues and I see how some of our mutual friends are involved in things like this and I look for ways that I can get involved outside of saying things on the internet.
Barr: Yeah, getting outside and making real human connections is key. This is something the last year I’ve been talking about a lot. These things really have to exist in the real world. The internet is great and it’s important, but we have to take it outside.
A lot of people can say stuff on the internet, but when it comes time to do something they don’t—I’m guilty of it too—for whatever reason. It definitely needs to get out and make connections. You mention it on the album as well.
Barr: We make mentions of how fucking isolating capitalism is. I do think technology, the internet, and social media have made isolation so much worse. We’re hyperconnected but also super isolated. It’s a disaster. I’m trying my best to get off the internet more and be outside and engaging in the community and spending time with real people.
You see it with worker exploitation too. The 40-hour workweek doesn’t exist. It’s 40 hours on paper, but here’s another 10 hours from this or someone has called out and they need you to go in. It’s really hard to have a life when you’re forced to get that paycheck.
Barr: It’s also really hard to organize against your bosses when you’re always working too. These things—I don’t know how intentionally they were designed—but they work very effectively to keep us in line and make us reliant on work and wage slavery.
It can be incredibly disempowering and depressing living under capitalism. Yet, even if we don’t win, even just fighting back and standing up—saying, “I’m going to try and resist this. I’m going to try and make mine and other people’s lives better”—there is great dignity in that.
It’s as easy as saying “no” to small circumstances.
Barr: Those little tiny acts of resistance builds our capacity to resist.