The Australian scene is a strong place, with plenty of heavyweight names having emerged in recent years. But how are the new blood, though? Melbourne punks Pagan are ready to take on the world with their debut album, ‘Black Wash’, and they’re determined to make sure that this is their time.
We have one of the most unrelenting vocal performances of the year from Nikki Brewen, whose powerful scream shows no sign of letting up. Most albums predominantly featuring screams are nihilistic to some degree, but with ‘Black Wash’ you want to wind the windows of your car down and shout along like there’s no tomorrow.
The ‘Il Malocchio Si Apre’ and ‘Il Malocchio Si Chiude’ interludes that bookend the album (that’s Italian for ‘The Evil Eye Opens’ and ‘The Evil Eye Closes’ respectively) feature angular guitar riffs and all-encompassing screams, yet there’s an essence of fun and empowerment prevailing all the way through. The instantaneous energy of ‘Black Wash’ is helped greatly by the dance-punk beats on show for most of the album.
The band can also go between good times rock ‘n’ roll, post-hardcore, and black metal inspired sections at the drop of a hat. The best example of this is in ‘Imitate Me’, which contains all of the band’s strengths in one sitting. A stomping introductory riff, blast beat section, and a chant-able chorus are all on display. The slightly guttural backing vocals also keep the hooks game up, especially in ‘Year Of The Dog’ and ‘The Greatest Love Songs’.
There are some interesting build-ups, such as in ‘Wine And Lace’ which makes a particularly striking use of a blast assisted section. This is also a hint that there may be further dimensions to explore later on for Pagan.
‘Il Malocchio Si Chiude’ has audible anguish in Brewen‘s plea of “Someone, someone please save me”, and some of the lyrical narratives hint at some kind of discomfort at times, but if this album has any overall mood and spirit, it’s battling your way through whatever hardship you’re going through, not with a forced smile, but with dogged determination.
You could say that this rarely veers away from its typical sound, but the blast beat flourishes and the atmosphere at the start of ‘Blood Moon’ and the ‘Il Malocchio Si…’ interludes are potential indicators of Pagan moving from a very good band to a great band in the not too distant future.
‘Black Wash’ may be their debut full-length, but it outshines a lot of experienced bands’ peaks.