LIVE REVIEW: Pagan @ The Star & Garter, Manchester (13/05/2019)

Credit: Andrew Basso

Date: May 13th, 2019
Venue: The Star & Garter, Manchester
Support: Sick Joy


Almost a year ago, Australian punk ‘n’ rollers Pagan made sure their existence was known to the world with the release of their debut full-length, ‘Black Wash’, a record that embodies messages of a toxic relationship within the concept of a fictional cult.

For a band who previously didn’t dare to tread beyond releasing one-off songs here and there, and have even stated in interviews that there was a plan to disband after dropping one demo, their initially unintended LP pretty quickly started to garner a bit of a cult of their own. Tonight, they’re holding a mass of their newly found followers in Manchester.

Brighton’s Sick Joy [6] act as the sole support act for the evening, and their fuzzy and grunge-tinged take on alternative rock sounds similar to a lot of works of Dinosaur Pile-Up with some subtle hints of Reuben here and there too. ‘Dissolve Me’ displays the chunky riff work from bassist Danny Pitson against Mykl Barton‘s crunchy chords, and later cut ‘Cat In A Bird Cage’ acts as a particular highlight.

What’s also impressive is Martyn Nash‘s pounding and at times almost animalistic work behind the kit and, if all of this is any indication of Sick Joy‘s potential, there’s a bright future out there for them.

It’s only a short wait before Pagan [9] take their turn on the stage, with their neon inverted crucifix candle logo beaming in a stark hot pink as they lunge into set opener, ‘Fluorescent Snakes’. Even in the confines of the small room, that’s a converted attic in a standard British pub, the energy is electric.

When vocalist Nikki Brumen isn’t screaming and shrieking into the microphone to the raucous hooks in songs like ‘Holy Water’ and ‘Year Of The Dog’, she’s half drinking and half wearing some booze or rolling about on the floor, encouraging some fans in the front row to sing/scream along with her.

It’s all very captivating, proving evident that sometimes less is more, even when the almost cataclysmic ‘Il Malocchio Si Chude’ (that’s Italian for ‘The Evil Eye Closes’, by the way) enters the service. It sounds even more enormous live than it does on record, from Xavier Santilli‘s hypnotic yet crushing riffs and chords, Dan Bonnici‘s throbbing bass pulse, and Matthew Marasco‘s battalion-like drum work aside Brumen‘s formidable delivery.

Ending on ‘Blood Moon’, there’s never been a mass that’s quite as fun as this. Pagan have a growing congregation to their cult, and with sermons like this, it’s only a matter of time until you become a follower too.