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Friday 24 March 2023

Reviews: Dawn Ray'd, Acid King, Ov Sulfur, Lost Asylum (Reviews By Paul Scoble, Rich Piva, Matt Bladen & Simon Black)

Dawn Ray’d - To Know The Light (Prosthetic Records) [Paul Scoble]

Dawn Ray’d should be well known to readers of these pages, the Liverpudlian trio have been making revolutionary music since 2015. The band is made up of Matthew B on Drums, Fabian D on Guitar, Simon B on Vocals and Violin. In the time the band have been together they have released 2 Ep’s 2015’s A Thorn, A Blight and 2021’s Wildfire, and 2 albums; their debut full length The Unlawful Assembly in 2017 and Behold Sedition Plainsong in 2019. 

Throughout the time the band have been together Britain has sunk further and further into Fascism and reactionary propaganda, and Dawn Ray’d’s anger and drive has grown with it; their last album being a piece of savage Ulver inspired Second Wave Black Metal that was filled with righteous anger and indignation, four years later and the world is in a worse state than it was in 2019 (something 2019 me would not have believed was possible, but here we are), so what have Dawn Ray’d got for us this time?

There have been some stylistic changes in the four years since Behold Sedition Plainsong, the Black Metal elements are slightly less extreme, with a more usual Guitar tone rather than the buzzsaw sound from the last album. a good example is the track The Battle Of Sudden Flame which is a short blast of simple second wave savagery, or on the song Inferno, which opens with very aggressive Blast Beats that drive the song forward. Inferno does have a second half that is infused with Folk, with great violin parts that are full of melody.

It still has that savage Second Wave feel, but Dawn Ray’d are after a different emotion with this album; there is still lots of anger, but the incandescent rage has been replaced by a feel that is more constructive. On this album there are themes that draw on mutual aid, community and solidarity, anger is great, but building supportive structures that can help people and build a movement, will ultimately change more than rage on its own.

There is a different sound to the drums as well. Although there are cymbals on To Know The Light, they are very low in the mix, to the extent that I thought initially there were no cymbals at all. The snare also sounds closer to a Tom Tom, without that sharp sound I usually associate with a snare, this gives the drumming a feel that is lower register, without much brightness, which makes the drums feel more like marching drums that you might hear at a protest march, it also reminds me of the Hippy / Folk / Protest collective Seize The Day, old radicals like me might remember them from the late nineties anti-globalisation protests, they would sing and drum as they marched with protesters.

This album also contains much more folk than either of the other albums, and it is an old style of Folk, much closer to Industrial Revolution Folk that is dark and filled with anger and pain, a folk that comes straight from William Blakes’ Dark Satanic Mills. It’s a style that would be recognised by people present at the Peterloo Massacre, The Paris Commune or even the Peasants Revolt. There is a very affecting song called Cruel Optimism which is a very simple little folk tune made up of clean Guitar and Violin that features a spoken word part talking about anger at a cruel and inhuman system, and the joy of defiance. My personal favourite of the folk tracks is Freedom In Retrograde, a beautiful, simple folk tune about the most beautiful thing in the world; Solidarity. It’s a simple song that talks about radical politics at its most basic level, the love and solidarity of communities to help each other overcome hardship, “If you still sing, then I’ll still sing”.

The final song on the album Go As Free Companions, is a great piece of Folk metal with really good violin and loads of great melodies, its a very good track to end the album that talks about mutual aid and working together to smash the system, what a great ending to a great album.

To Know The Light is a fantastic album, musically and lyrically, the album is deeply affecting, very creative and beautifully constructive. It feels like the band have taken stock of where the world is heading and this album is both a warning and a call to arms to try to change the direction our world is hurtling in. I love the musical direction the band have moved in, this album feels more rounded and more mature, and lyrically these songs have real weight and meaning. 

The time to take action is now, Dawn Ray’d are on the barricades, if we want a future that is more than poverty, drudgery and environmental apocalypse, then we need to join them. I think I’ll leave the last word to the song Freedom In Retrograde: “Though i have this creeping feeling, That the dark is closing in, I still will fight for freedom for every living thing. If you still sing, then I'll still sing”. 9/10

Acid King - Beyond Vision (Blues Funeral Recordings) [Rich Piva]

I am a big Acid King fan, but I’ve never listened to any of their output for the first time and have it blow me away on that initial listen. Everything that this legendary Bay Area band puts out is the definition of a slow burner, and their first album since 2015, Beyond Vision, is the antithesis of this. The new record is a journey into a fuzzy soundscape that (as usual) lives up to the band’s moniker.

To outline my point above, Beyond Vision starts out with the definition of a slow burn, One Light Second Away. A six-minute plus instrumental heavy/beautiful, doomy shoegaze atmospheric riff fest, which sets you up perfectly for the rest of the album. On the first few listens all I wanted the album to do is kick in, but on listen four, you start to understand the genius and the set up for the rest of the record with this track. Mind’s Eye kicks in with heavy, swirling guitars, haunting vocals and a killer riff, making this maybe the doomgaze track of the year so far. 

The production on this album is perfect, clan but not antiseptic, with an absolutely killer fuzzy guitar tone that these guys are known for. 90 Seconds is more of the same goodness, with those haunting vocals right out front, but with some serious heavy and plodding riffs to help you along. It is like if Slowdive listened to Sabbath instead of the Jesus And Mary Chain. Speaking of atmospheric slow burns, Electro Magnetic is the burn that is the least fleet of foot on Beyond Vision. Eight plus minutes of a lumbering instrumental ripper (the slowest kind of a ripper), we get the first three minutes of some of the more gentle work on the record only to be slammed into but some absolute killer guitar work but highlighted but the effort on the drums. Heavy, like soul crushing heavy. 

Next a trippy interlude leads you to the title track, which is something to behold and probably my favorite track on the record. Turn this one up and soak it all in. The sound is perfect, and you will be transformed, especially during that psych drenched solo. I really dig their instrumentals, but the band is at it’s height for me when they include the haunting, layered vocals to the killer musicianship and atmosphere. This is the prototype. Color Trails closes us out in the same way we came in, which wraps up this killer album quite nicely, and I love the heavy drums two minutes in that leads to the riff, that then incorporates all that slow a beautiful heaviness in a way only Acid King can.

Acid King fans have waited a long time for a new record, and I cannot see a way they would be disappointed with Beyond Vision. It has everything you want from a band who has been putting out killer material for multiple decades. If you are a fan, you will love this. If this is your first time, and you like atmosphere, riffs, and a beautiful heavy, you will really enjoy Beyond Vision. 9/10

Ov Sulphur - The Burden Ov Faith (Century Media) [Matt Bladen]

Ferocious blackened deathcore that is as blasphemous as a Norwegian black metal band (or a Greek one) and as destructive as a kaiju in downtown Tokyo. Ov Sulphur started their unholy crusade with their previous EP but on this debut full length, frontman Ricky Hoover can channel his distaste and historical disdain for organised religion (I, Apostate) through the most expansive music Ov Sulfur have put their name too. 

The most illuminating thing about this album is Hoover's vocals which are much varied than just your standard deathcore grunt. The fact he can compete with the likes of Alex The Terrible (Slaughter To Prevail), Taylor Barber (Left To Suffer), Kyle Medina (Bodysnatcher) and even metalcores greatest vocal export Howard Jones (Light The Torch), is what makes The Burden Ov Faith a masterclass in extreme metal vocals. To the music then as the tech death/deathcore muscle gives way to symphonic black metal, the cinematic stylings of Cradle Of Filth a particular reference, as Lindsay Schoolcraft adds haunting strings to the closing title track. Lindsay of course known for her work with Suffolk's favourite demons. 

With band members and the addition of Logan Mader on the production team, it has a serious "womp" to the production like a audio punch to the guts this bruising attack aided by the emotional, personal lyrics. More than a decade after his last album with previous band Suffokate, Hoover has taken another shot at the big time and ripped the throat out of any opposition with this record. Wearing their heart on their sleeve but carrying a bloody great axe in the other, Ov Sulfur deliver mercy and menace on this album. 9/10

Lost Asylum - Inmate 13 (Self Released) [Simon Black]

Hailing from Sussex in the UK, this Hard Rock five piece have been around for about seven years, but this is their first EP proper. The fact that the instrumental part of the band has been around for a few years shows (along with the quite varied ages of its members) as these four songs illustrate an act that has gelled its chemistry in the line-up, writes well together and knows what works.

Despite the fact that singer Ryan O'Donovan doesn’t have an instrument in front of him, his vocal melody lines still follow the rhythm melodies quite closely, which tells me that these songs were written and honed before he joined in 2019, just in time for Covid to effectively stop them dead for a few years. I suspect this will change with time, as when you’re not hampered by an axe and strap as a vocalist, your whole body becomes an instrument to work the crowds with. The melody lines naturally evolve around that with experience, with new songs benefiting from the input of what works for the frontman as much as it does everyone else, so despite the quite staccato effect the current arrangements have on the vocal delivery, I can see the potential in his performance which is powerful, soulful and with a healthy dollop of charisma, if not quite fully there yet.

The songs are down, dirty and heavy, but with enough pace to keep heads nodding throughout, and a focussed and punchy delivery and arrangement that works really well, with some clearly very strong performances from both guitars and rhythm section throughout. The only weak spot really is in the production, which feels a little too basic. The instruments have a heavy punch, but they’re a little too far back in the mix, with a quite trebly and too forward vocal overlay. The problem is not the quality of the vocal snapshot – they’re where they need to be; it’s everything else that needs presenting more. Again, this will come with experience as when you first hit a studio, the fact that you have achieved that major milestone and cut your stuff on disk tends to overwhelm bands, who naturally become more critical of their work with time and experience.

Reading this back, this sounds more negative than intended, because these really are relatively minor quibbles for an act still getting going, because the four songs here are solid, well-written and catchy and I can see them working really well live. A very promising start. 7/10

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