Blast from the past – a Dawnraiser retrospective.

I was looking through some old files on my computer recently and I came about this retrospective I wrote. Dawnraiser was a band I was involved with throughout the 90s. Despite the similarity in name, it bears no relation to my current band Dawn of Elysium or in fact anything to do with goth. It was for a proposed anthology CD of the material that was recorded throughout the band’s existence. I thought I had lost this version, it certainly invoked a lot of distant memories. It seems I was big on exclamation marks in 2002.

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Dawnraiser – A Retrospective

This document was written in the January of 2002, just a few months before the 10th anniversary of the beginning of a relatively unknown band, that played a big part in the lives of a handful of Bradford’s local rock and metal musicians throughout a lot of the nineties. It therefore seemed appropriate to reflect on the history of this band, which for some of us was an important stage in our musical development.

It was 1991 and Paul Gooding and I had been attempting to make what could loosely be described as music for a year or two. We had a lot of fun with many friends, sporadically rehearsing in bedrooms, attics and even an old kitchen that was rented out as a rehearsal room by the owner of Fretz guitar shop in Westgate, Bradford. People came and went but Paul and I stuck together and at the same time, other people we knew from round our way, were doing similar things in other places. After many attempts at forming a band, we eventually played our first gig in the October under the name ‘Polaris’ at Wrose Community Centre to a youth club full of young children. There were four of us: Paul, Myself, Craig Dearing and Robert Pinkney (Bob). Craig played guitar, the rest of us swapped between guitar, drums and keyboards and I sang. There was no bass guitar and everything was out of tune (the 2 keyboards were even out of tune with each other at one point!!). Paul and Craig were both into heavy metal and Bob and I weren’t particularly. Consequently, the music wasn’t that heavy at the time and there was even a cheesy ballad (no, it really was cheesy !!). Also, we managed to play a couple of basic covers. The event was filmed and thankfully lost. Some basic home-recorded material does exist from around that period but is definitely not fit for human consumption !!

Throughout the course of the next year people came and went. Bob stopped playing in bands, choosing instead to play music at home for his own pleasure. Craig, along with some other old schoolmates formed a band called ‘The Edge’ which I briefly joined whilst Paul jammed with Hadrian Smith and various other friends of ours. By 5th November 1992, after doing different things with numerous combinations of people, we managed to form a new band and have our first proper rehearsal. Our evenings were mostly spent in a freezing council flat in Thorpe Edge. With no money, not much talent, even less equipment and too many hormones, the line-up and name were eventually settled upon and the name Dawnraiser was born. The keyboards had gone, Paul and I played guitar, Dale Goodridge played bass guitar and Michael Ayres and David Ayres assumed the roles of drummer and vocalist respectively. After about 3 months of rehearsing, the band’s first gig was booked for February 15th, 1993. Again, it was to be at the Wrose Community Centre only this time it was by invitation and would involve people over the age of 10, most of which weren’t our parents.

Unfortunately, in the weeks approaching the gig, I fell Ill with a particularly bad case of tonsillitis and was bedridden. Because of this, I was unable to attend the rehearsals. Postponing the gig was seemingly out of the question and so it was seen fit to draft Hadrian Smith in as a ‘temporary’ replacement guitarist, with him learning all the songs (even writing new ones) and playing the gig. The first song that we wrote as a band ‘Let Sleeping Dogs Lie’ was performed on this night.

Unbeknown to me, it had been decided that Hadrian was to become a permanent replacement for me and so my involvement with this first incarnation of Dawnraiser was ended. Paul and I kind of lost touch for a while after that.

The lads went on to make their first recording at Fulton Street Studio, Bradford, which comprised of just 2 songs – ‘Infected’ and ‘Let Sleeping Dogs Lie’. This, like all of the early demos was never actually circulated or sold. With this line-up the band played numerous gigs, including the last ever gig to take place at ‘The Wheatsheaf’ rock pub in Bradford. Another demo was recorded entitled ‘Bad Days’ and was recorded in one overnight session, again at Fulton Street studio and included the songs ‘Let Sleeping Dogs Lie’, ‘DIAD’, ‘Rage’ ‘Infected’ and ‘Schizophrenic’. By now, they had secured a proper rehearsal room in the same complex, rehearsing next door to other local bands such as ‘Chorus of Ruin’, ‘Nailbomb’ and ‘Ironside’, and their direction was already pointing more towards a thrash metal type sound. This line-up was fairly stable for a few months but in January 1994, Hadrian decided to leave to become a full time member of ‘The Edge’. As times were changing, different influences were being introduced and Sean Hartley briefly appeared as additional ‘rap’ vocalist. Craig Dearing stepped in as a replacement for Hadrian and another demo was recorded in February 1994 at Inner City studio, Bradford. ‘Supernatural Ability to Avoid Bullets’ contained the tracks ‘Under Pressure’ and ‘Anything’. However, after that, the line-up became unstable and despite continuing attempts by Paul to keep it together and a gig in early March, the first Dawnraiser had finally bitten the dust by the end of the same month.

Whilst all this had been happening, I had been looking for a new band for the best part of 2 years and after many encounters with all manner of characters, I finally stumbled across a group of people that were to become ‘Dark Embrace’ in May 1994. A year into the band, after a few gigs and our first demo, some members of the band started taking part in a black metal side project called ‘Necromancer’. Round about that time, Paul and I had re-established contact with each other and Paul was itching to get some sort of band going. I suggested that as a side project, we could reform Dawnraiser with the 2 of us as guitarists, Dale on bass and vocals and a drummer I’d met on my travels called Stuart Lockwood. Everyone seemed up for it, so we commenced rehearsals on 9th June 1995. The new Dawnraiser sound very quickly became much more direct and heavy than before.

After a short while, Dale decided to leave to concentrate on his main band ‘Homesick’ so we asked ‘Necromancer’ bass player Ian Bell if he was interested in taking his place. Ian accepted and settled in comfortably and the 4 of us gelled instantly. Within a month, we had written the music for around half a dozen songs and played an instrumental support gig for ‘Dark Embrace’ at Scruffs and Snobs, Bradford. For this gig, we invited ex-Chorus of Ruin vocalist Phil Kirk along to see us to decide if he was interested in joining. He signed up the week after and we soon became a 5 piece. This worked well for a couple of months and over the xmas period of 1995, we played 2 successful gigs at Rio’s, Bradford and in January 1996, we booked to record our first demo tape at Voltage Studios, Bradford. However, up to a week before we were scheduled to go in and record, there was much concern that things weren’t working out with Phil and we were unsure as to whether he would actually turn up or not. So, thrown in at the deep end, we attempted to decipher the lyrics for ‘Human Collision’ and ‘Alone’ from one of the gigs we’d had filmed, which was not easy due to the heavy, aggressive vocal delivery employed by Phil at the time, coupled with the poor quality of audio on the video tape. We managed to make out some words and add what we could in the short space of time we had to pad them out, but the tracks themselves never really came out sounding as was originally intended. Phil never did show and I took on the full time role of vocalist. On these songs, you can actually hear my voice still breaking itself in and I had a sore throat for a week afterwards. The demo itself was simply entitled ‘I’. The intention was to follow it up with two further demos with the imaginative titles of ‘II’ and ‘III’, record another couple of songs and release the whole lot as an album. By this time, I had decided to concentrate on Dawnraiser full time and so I left Dark Embrace to be replaced by Rohan from Necromancer.

After more intensive rehearsals and re-writing lyrics to the remaining tunes, we returned to the studio to record our second demo and by this time, we felt our sound had become tighter and slightly more professional. Further gigs were played and then the third demo was recorded. It was after this that we started playing covers and Stuart assumed the position of band manager. This gave us a wider scope of venues at which we could perform and consequently more experience of gigging to different audiences. We played anywhere that would have us, even making a little money and we experienced our first out of town gig at ‘The Ruskin Arms’, East Ham, London – the old stomping ground of one of our favourite bands and biggest influences at the time ‘Iron Maiden’. I remember travelling all that way to play to half a dozen disgruntled customers, the bar staff and the DJ. Oh well, some you win, some you lose. Also, round about this time the band also played the last ever gig to take place at ‘The Smithy’ rock pub in Bradford.

After a while, I decided that I wanted to concentrate solely on my guitar playing and so we agreed to take on singer Carl Brook. With Carl we rehearsed more covers than our own material as that was his background, and vocals soon became a joint effort with Carl doing mostly covers and myself doing the more aggressive Dawnraiser material. We played our last 2 proper gigs with Carl in March 1997 at Rio’s (20th) and The Gallopers (21st), Bradford respectively. After these gigs, most of the band felt that we should move on, leave the covers behind, get heavier and write some more of our own material. Unfortunately, it was felt that this also meant parting company with Carl. He wasn’t keen on the heavier stuff anyway, so the split was fairly amicable.

Shortly after this, Paul and I attempted to write some new material but I felt at the time like it was no longer working for me. My desire was to move away from the thrash metal sound into something new and different and the other guys wanted to try a Machine Head / Fear Factory type approach. I left and was replaced by the perfect man for the job. Hamish Kemp had been making his own music at home for a while and Ian had collaborated with him on occasion. I rejoined the band in August 1997 to play one final gig at Mark Brookes’ wedding reception. However, despite rehearsals sounding good, free alcohol got the better of me and I foolishly managed to make it what would have been the worst ever Dawnraiser performance. This was only saved by us overloading a fuse and killing the power. Apologies to all concerned for my conduct that evening.

After a couple of months, Hamish and Stuart both left but Dawnraiser carried on for a while, rehearsing and trying out different people including Mick Walsh from Keighley based thrash band ‘Mannix’. However, despite continuing efforts, the band sadly dwindled away and was finally put to rest in the new year of 1998. We recorded one more track together after the band had finished – ‘Broken Hope’. This was perhaps our best song and it’s a shame that it never got put out on a demo.

Most of us moved on to other musical projects at various times after that and on the Bradford scene ‘Bloodstream’ had already started making some noise by the time Dawnraiser finished. I always felt that locally, they kind of picked up the music where Dawnraiser left off. Although they by no means copied us, as a band they had their own character and 4 years later, they sound quite different. I suppose it’s kind of fitting that at the time of writing, Ian Bell is presently their bassist. People have always moved around and played in bands with each other in the Bradford scene and I suspect they always will. This is a documented retrospective of just one of those bands.

In the ‘95 to ‘97 phase of the band, we always wanted to put all our songs out together as one concise album but never did. To do so now in the way we originally intended would be somewhat of an anachronism 5 years down the line. So what we present here is more of a ‘history of’, an audio scrap book if you like. We’ve dived into the archives and taken material from all the old master cassettes recorded throughout the entire history of the band and tried to improve the sound to the best of our abilities. In listening to what we had, we also re-discovered 2 songs which we had completely forgotten about, although these were merely rough rehearsal cassettes of which the sonic quality can only be described as dubious at best.

It’s unlikely now that Dawnraiser will ever resurface as a fully working unit and although we had a good innings and enjoyed a reasonable local following for a while, at the time of writing it is 4 years since the last proper rehearsal. Although some of us went on to work together and will probably continue to do so, we’ve all since moved on and most of us have drifted away from that style of music. Looking back, there were some good moments and some fairly embarrassing ones. We weren’t particularly original, we never professed to be but we had a helluva lot of fun at the time. We hope you have as much fun listening.

Enjoy !!!

Alec Marlow,

January 2002.

“Dedicated to Steve Gooding, without whom none of the above would have been possible – Thanks from all of us.”

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So that was nearly 12 years ago. We planned on playing a gig or two just after that was written but all plans for gigs and the CD were shelved in the spring of 2002 as rehearsals proved problematic, plus Paul and I had joined Reeved.

Seven years later, we got a line-up together for a bunch of rehearsals and one last gig in the spring of 2009. It was a lot of fun but I vowed after that that I would never do it again. Too many years had passed since I had played that kind of music and both my enjoyment for playing it and my ability to play at the speed required had long since faded. Now and again, I throw one of the MP3s on for posterity. There are bits on Soundcloud but there are still a lot of the tracks which need digitising better, since our original attempts at remastering left a lot to be desired. I will maybe sort it out and open a Bandcamp page up one of these days when I have the time and inclination.

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