Like some noisome faceless horror, British extreme collective Dragged Into Sunlight have crawled their way across the underground music scene for the past decade. A loose union of anonymous sonic terrorists based on two sides of the Atlantic, the group has slowly amassed a discography featuring some of the most harrowing and disturbing sounds to carry the metal tag. Each release more fearsome and terrifying than the one before, the band is notorious both for the extremity of their creations and their complete anonymity. Their names reduced to initials, their faces obscured by balaclavas, band members play with their backs to the crowd or in a semi-circle facing the drummer.
“One of the reasons was that we didn’t want the band to get old, I guess,” suggests founding member and vocalist T, “and the other reason was because we were always a collective and there were people from bands from time gone by, and there was a massive collective. There was always about ten of us from Day One, so we thought, well, this isn’t exactly a normal band.”
Drawing members from professional fields like law and medicine who had all served time in previous bands of varying success and notoriety, Dragged Into Sunlight felt it was both difficult and not particularly important to be individually recognised. Even more than that, they wanted their art to take credit for itself.
“The idea of having a career and getting older and being in a metal band, particularly as extreme as we wanted it to be, made it a bit difficult to put names out there, and to be honest, we just thought we don’t want anyone taking credit for it. The difference with other anonymous bands is that they seem to squabble over who owns what, and things,” T says. “No one’s going to retire off this, so let’s take it for what it is and make good music.”
As veterans of other bands whose agendas had sometimes been dictated or compromised by outside influences, the group wanted Dragged Into Sunlight to be a band beholden to none but themselves.
“We never wanted to be an Arch Enemy kind of band,” T continues. “We wanted to do something really the way we wanted to do it, exactly the way we wanted to do it. We had all come from different bands where different labels had told us what to do, or what management had told us to do – and they all amounted to nothing! You do something like 200 shows in a year or something and five years later your band broke up or something. With Dragged from Day One we were doing what we wanted to be doing exactly the way we wanted to do it, and from Day One we started facing away from the crowd.”
The stage act developed from their rehearsal habits but enhances the band aesthetic of anonymity, building a wall between themselves and the audience as they unfold their macabre and uncomfortable musical extremity. It won’t be to everyone’s liking, the singer admits, but it certainly makes for a very different experience.
“It’s just a show,” T says. “It’s just a different kind of metal show. It’s like when you go to the cinema and see a run of ten different films, and they’re all on similar themes, people still pay to see it because they get a different experience from it. It’s like your Icelandic arthouse film versus your typical action film starring the same actor who’s been in the last ten – I think that’s the difference. It’s a little bit more boutique and it gives people a little bit of a different experience, and either they like it, or they don’t like it. It’s like being in an arthouse film and thinking, ‘I don’t like this, I just want to see people shoot each other’.”
They are deliberately a very different type of band in more ways than just their live presentation. Theirs is a style not only unique, but one designed to get under the very skin of the audience. Dragged Into Sunlight produce a kind of terrifying howling noise that is part sludgey death metal, part black metal and part pure nightmare, filled with T’s harrowing vocal sounds and serial killer samples. Each release is an uneasy, uncomfortable listen more extreme than the one before.
“That’s our thing, to really bend everyone’s mind so they’ll think, ‘Where did they pull that from?’ The fans of Dragged Into Sunlight spend a lot of time analysing the artwork, analysing the samples in the tracks or the noise parts. There’s a lot in it, which is why I think over ten years they’ve grown to love the releases, because the more time you spend with something, the more you get to love it.”
T has little regard for bands that take the easy road stylistically or artistically. He expresses his disdain for those with entire catalogues of similar-sounding albums, where each one becomes interchangeable with the last, an interminable listening experience.
“When we started this band, there was a lot of metal bands out there and you could just listen to their eleventh album and it was just the same as their third album and the same as their seventh album and you’re like, ‘Well, what do you do with this? I liked it when they first did it, but we’re eleven albums in and I can’t possibly listen to them all back to back because it starts to lose the plot by album six!’”
DIS want to challenge their audience: “really challenge people’s imagination, challenge people’s perception of metal, challenge people’s listening abilities because music’s become much more dispensable with Spotify and online streaming.” It has become part of the band’s mission to make listeners respect their art and to value the effort it takes to produce.
“I definitely don’t believe that music’s as valued as it used to be,” T says. “People don’t listen to albums start to finish as much anymore, and that’s something we tried to revive. Today one album comes out and then two months label another album comes out on the same label by a similar band, and people aren’t paying a huge amount of attention to what’s coming out. I think music being completely dispensable is something we really stand against, because we put so much time into it. There’s no point doing a 50% job. We break ourselves every time we make a record because we want people to listen to it.”
The most controversial aspect of Dragged Into Sunlight’s art is the heavy use of samples taken from interviews with and confessions by serial killers. That has been part of their MO since the beginning, T explains, pointing out that one member of the collective has real-life experience working on Death Row in Texas. He stresses that it’s less about glorifying them or their deeds than it is a form of social comment.
“It’s a commentary on society. These people exist, they are members of society and they’re just a minority in society that most people never hear from. They’re talking about society and what they did and how they reached that point in their lives and why they did. It’s a commentary on society. It’s the truest form of evil, really.” He pauses, before going on: “Is it evil? Is it deserved? I think it creates that debate as well.”
Dragged Into Sunlight will be in Australia for Hobart’s Dark Mofo festival, where they will be joined by an array of dark and avant garde musical protagonists. It will mean a 27-hour flight, but T is just pleased they were invited to appear and that they are being looked after so well.
“There’s a big crew – nine of us coming out – and the promoter has gone really all out to make us totally welcome. Promoters don’t do that over in Europe unfortunately, so it’s a big thing for a promoter to just go all out and pay perhaps more than the band is worth – more than objectively the band is worth, but to him subjectively, the band is worth whatever he wants to see it, and that just goes to show how passionate he is about his festival.”