Dawn Ray’d – Behold Sedition Plainsong (Prosthetic Records)

With 2017’s breakthrough The Unlawful Assembly, Dawn Ray’d announced themselves as a potent new force in UK black metal – and issued a rallying cry for anti-capitalists, anti-fascists and anarchists everywhere. The trio’s fierce live shows and uncompromising political stance have turned heads not just in the UK but, unusually for a British BM band, stateside too. A sign of the times? You betcha MAGA ass it is.

Certainly, momentum has been building for Dawn Ray’d over the past year: the North West act could even have done with releasing Behold Sedition Plainsong earlier, to slake the thirst of fans desperate for new material.

But their second album is here now, blazing with the fury of the class struggle and tearing into injustice, environmental vandalism and inequality, verse by verse. It’s a tradition that goes back to the likes of Conflict and Crass and in another lifetime, Dawn Ray’d would have been an anarcho-punk band, covered in the cider and spit of Bristolian squat gigs while draped in CND symbols.

Ok, so Behold Sedition Plainsong doesn’t move the band forward in a musical sense, but is that a bad thing? Certainly, anyone turned onto the band by The Unlawful Assembly – and its earthy mix of searing black metal and mournful English folk – will be in raptures when vocalist Simon Barr roars ‘it’s time for new tales of resistance’ as Raise The Flails morphs into The Smell Of Ancient Dust, or when Like Smoke Into Fog’s searing riff first blasts its way into existence.

Until The Forge Turns Cold nods a little towards Cascadian BM but feels rawer and more urgent,  A Stone’s Throw – an evocative acoustic piece – warmly embraces folk-influences and lets Barr’s violin soar freely, while To All To All To All, written about the the Kronstadt Rebellion, is as anthemic as black metal can be.

Indeed, it’s on moments like that where Dawn Ray’d triumph: their music draws on black metal’s ice-age savagery and rhythmic tumult, but at its heart is a call to arms, a raised fist of defiance. Deftly weave in the folk elements and you have something special, a sound that could have only come from the rain-soaked mill towns and sodden, windswept moors of northern England.

Inspiring, atmospheric and almost ageless, Behold Sedition Plainsong confirms Dawn Ray’d’s status as one of the UK’s most exciting metal acts.