There’s a number of reasons why a band like Pagan is absolutely perfect to exist in 2018. At a point where crossover potential is deemed by inventiveness and passion rather than how hard a band can milk the trends of the time, even the most out-there of ideas can accumulate groundswell, and thus Pagan’s fusion of post-hardcore and black metal makes all too much sense. After all, when the rock scene of their home nation of Australia has spent the last few years thriving off dime-a-dozen metalcore and little else, why not flex some creative muscles and actually stand out with something more intriguing and abrasive?
It definitely seems to have worked too, seeing as Black Wash is the sort of white-hot blast of vitriol that always goes down a treat, particularly when presented as forcefully and with as startling an ear for catchiness as this. And that’s the thing that perhaps stands out the most about Pagan – this is a calibre of genre fusion not heard since Marmozets’ debut, and while the potential for the level of mainstream appeal that band has found is admittedly diminished here, it’s nowhere near as daunting a listen is could be. Take a track like Death Before Disco, which definitely stands out with thunderous blasts of tremolo riffs and Nikki Brumen sounding absolutely bloodthirsty with her shrieks over a generally darker tone, but there’s something so irrepressibly infectious about its sharpness and how Pagan still find ways to play with groove and drive. And when that’s built on even further by the scorching rock ‘n’ roll of The Greatest Love Songs and the out-and-out dance-rock of Imitate Me which could easily be latter-day Refused cut, Black Wash hits a near-perfect balance between an incredible command of melody and a rock ‘n’ roll chaos that’s unfortunately dwindled.
It’s all a remarkably contemporary yet timeless take on a post-hardcore formula, and with a focus on traditional mysticism and theology interpolated with Brumen’s own discord and epithetic anger, Pagan have already done a fantastic job in establishing their own identity. Even musically, there’s fluidity where you’d never think it would be, as Holy Water transitions from charred black metal intensity to more standard hardcore battering, or how the album closes out on its most enormous, sonorous note with Il Malocchio Si Chiude. And all the while, the production keeps the enormous heft to the fore, with an utterly monstrous guitar tone from Xavier Santilli that translates to the post-hardcore moments just as well as the black metal ones.
Honestly, it wouldn’t be out of the question to say that, even on a mere debut, Pagan have already rocketed up to one of the most exciting, vital new bands around. Black Wash is exactly what a post-hardcore album should be in 2018 – heavy, engaging, and packed to the gills with inventiveness that could make any preconceptions of the genre being dull or uninspired flip on their head. And given that Pagan waste no time in meeting each and every one of those criteria, it’s not too much of a stretch to say that there hasn’t been a post-hardcore band as exciting as this in years.
For fans of: Blood Command, Every Time I Die, Refused
Words by Luke Nuttall
‘Black Wash’ by Pagan is released on 6th July on Hassle Records.