What I love most about my country’s entire music scene is the amount of diversity and eloquence in the work of many groups trying to get their shine. But with what Pagan has been doing since their inception, it really hasn’t taken much for them to get everyone’s attention with their herculean, thought-provoking take on black metal, disco, and punk. But now, after two years of releasing a series of neck-breaking singles through their Bandcamp page, the Melburnian blackened rock ‘n’ roll quartet have significantly pushed themselves even further with their latest audible ritual known as ‘Black Wash‘.
The entirety of these thirty-eight minutes is full of savage, upbeat and formidable melodies that sounds a lot like a house party hosted by Satan if he invited Mayhem, Andrew W.K., Wayne and Garth from Wayne’s World, Darkthrone, and pretty much the whole A-list of the most brutal and craziest names out there. Although the dark, eerie opener Il Malocchio Si Apre gives off the impression that you’re about to meet your doom, Death Before Disco puts you in a completely different headspace. Here, Pagan give you a powerful dose of jaunty metal riffs that will make you wanna shake your groove thing and then turn the dancefloor into a mammoth of a moshpit.
A personal highlight – Silver is a number that comes across in a similar vibe to that of At The Drive-In and Rise Against while still reserving that dim and buoyant impression. The re-recording of Imitate Me comes in an even more hostile attitude while maintaining the groovy and inimical alternate picking and thrashy blackened blast-beating, and showcases a well-developed vocal delivery from Nikki Brumen’s guttural roars. Holy Water continues the fast-paced cycle with a handful of harmonic plucks on the high strings from Xavier Santilli, with the help of some enthusiastic snare-smashing from Matthew Marasco. Blood Moon takes a volatile and dreary turn on the record for the first minute of its progression, only to build up the vibrancy and momentum, and then bring back the dismal, crust-inspired assault on each of the member’s harmonic weapons of choice.
Soon after, Year of the Dog is accompanied by one hell of a banging bass line by bassist Dan Bonnici (who later throws his own vocals halfway through), some catchy and melodic power chords, and to top it all off, an organ-like synth towards the beginning and end of this song. The Greatest Love Songs hops into the purest of punk territory from Clowns to NOFX, and is later taken over by a re-recording of another fan-favourite single, Wine & Lace. ‘Black Wash’ caps it off with the rock ‘n’ roll attitude of Fluorescent Snakes, which lives in a similar nature as Silver and Imitate Me, before it is closed off by the doom ‘n’ gloom of Il Malocchio Si Chiude, which audibly sums up the entirety of ‘Black Wash’s aura.
It’s not just the versatility itself that makes ‘Black Wash’ such a whimsical product of rock and metal, but it’s the structure and assemblage of each of the tracks that take part in this LP. What Pagan has done here is collecting multiple genres in and out of heavy music that seem the oddest to pair up with. To be able to compile not just black metal and punk, but dance and party influences into the mix takes a lot of effort to perfect it. Though it’s not entirely in-your-face and completely transparent as opposed to a Mr. Bungle-like approach, the littlest insinuations aren’t that hard to pick up as each song goes by. The other noteworthy mention of ‘Black Wash’ is the fine work of producing and engineering by High Tension and YLVA guitarist, Mike Deslandes. The man is a remarkable and underrated name in the industry and is able to help the band get to where they want to sound, as well as introducing them to fresher and more stylistic methods that could make a certain composition sound better than it previously did before.
Seriously, there’s a lot to praise about this band and it’s hard to keep track of what there is to say about Pagan and ‘Black Wash’. Don’t get me wrong, there are a significant amount of artists that have brought that ‘all killer, no filler’ chic to the unveiling of their first album. But Pagan has succeeded in unleashing what sounds like one of the most perfect debut full-length albums in Australian heavy music history. How often does one come across an album that not only makes you wanna gyrate and headbang, but is enjoyable to the max all the way through? Seriously, someone give all of them – Nikki, Xavier, Dan, and Matt – a massive raise, because all four are beyond gifted.
You can buy your copy of ‘Black Wash’ HERE!