Dawn Ray'd
To Know the Light

If you like the Panopticon sound, but don’t like Austin’s Progressive politics, you’re a dumb shit, but you should also stay clear of Dawn Ray’d and all of their material, including their new one, To Know the Light. Like Fletcher’s genitals in “Liar Liar,” I lean always to the left, so this is no problem for me.

Lest you forget there is black metal within their “folk black metal” genre tag, the first short track, “The Battle of Sudden Flame,” will quickly end your confusion. It’s nasty from the beginning with harsh vocals, blast beats, and a tremolo picked riff. It’s a short burst of only around 3 minutes, which includes some background strings, so you know essentially what to expect.

Of course, there are several standouts, including the acapella “Requital.” It’s slightly over 2 minutes, and despite the lack of instrumentation, does not even feel slightly out of place on the album. It does lead directly into the viciousness of the next one, “Sepulchre (Don’t Vote).”

It must be said that a significant number of the tracks are short bursts, but all of them add to the atmosphere of this very well produced affair. Take for instance “Cruel Optimisms,” which is about half instrumental, half spoken word over the instruments. Sometimes, you just have to say what’s on your mind and not scream it.

This is where the album also really takes off. The next track, “In the Shadow of the Past,” has a beautiful violin section to begin, and it continues once the drums, bass, and guitar kick in. Once that part ends, there’s a palm-muted heavy section with excellent harsh bellows, but the beginning part comes back for a short time before launching into a faster, heftier section, which includes brief choral vocals. Following that blast section is a clean picked section to end the track.

That section leads perfectly into perhaps the best track on the album, which begins with a clean picked acoustic and some strings. This is another shorter track at barely over 4 minutes but has the best chorus of all. With excellent lyrics such as “Fuck every prison and fuck the bastards that put us in them, though I have this creeping feeling that the dark is closing in, I’ll still fight for freedom for every living thing,” you know what these gentlemen are about, and I’ve always been picking up what they’re putting down. It’s brilliant.

All that I really need to say is that folk metal is not typically my go-to genre in metal. It’s not often I enjoy, let alone thoroughly, but this album, as well as their previous, and a few other bands, are special, including of course Panopticon. 2023 has been stellar so far, and this is an early AOTY contender. Don’t miss it, even if you’re like me and only barely into folk metal.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by J Mays
April 6th, 2023

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