Review Summary: Disco powered blackened punk'n'roll.“Black Wash”
does exactly what any debut album should do for whichever band is behind its creation: it pronounces a powerful statement of intent. Across the eleven tracks on offer, Australia’s own Pagan cram an unholy mixture of disco, hardcore and metal into a can and spray-paint a dizzyingly decorative clash of colours onto a blank canvas framed by jagged punk rhythms. On paper, this fusion shouldn’t necessarily work, but Pagan has created an electrifying debut album which remains coherent despite launching their audience curveball after curveball.
Imagine an underground punk show in a claustrophobic venue, the pungent scent of youthful adrenaline is in the air, limbs are flailing in every direction. And attached to the ceiling of this punk venue is a massive shining glitterball covered with corpsepaint. This is the soundscape that Pagan embodies. As rebellious and brutal as it is accessible and upbeat, Pagan’s music is irresistibly danceable. Jazzy riffs corkscrew their way around chunky bass sections and short, sharp shocks of drum fills in “Death Before Disco” which also features a fiery chorus. Elsewhere, the band playfully stops the onslaught of Kvelertak-y riffs in “Silver” to let the bass join Pagan’s groovy antics only to end the track on layers of textured melodies that dance throughout the night. Aside from the grooves in other songs such as the swirling “Wine and Lace” and the joyously frantic “Year of the Dog” which hack into your senses and force you to move, the band’s kinetic nature is enhanced further by the fact there are few moments of rest across “Black Wash”
. Other than the album being bookended by an eerie intro and desperate outro, Pagan grant no one the luxury of taking a respite.
Furthermore, “Black Wash”
is a candid, wild and absolute whirlwind experience spearheaded by a vocalist who commands a humongous presence- which is saying something considering the size of the grooves this album contains. Nikki Bruman’s vocals come at you with a force strong enough to peel your eyelids back. Her care-free approach to yelling furious lyrics directly into your face throughout the whole album- with the exception of a smattering of tender moments during the shredding “Imitate Me” and the infectious “The Greatest Love Songs”-is admittedly, one directional. However, her brazen and breathless voice compliments the youthful, sprightly manner of the music that flanks her and also hones the jagged edge that “Black Wash”
brandishes. Such a direct style might be hard for some to swallow initially, but, give Pagan time and you’ll soon be hooked under their spell.
Debut albums are the sounds of a band making a statement; sophomores are when they fulfil that statement. After digesting “Black Wash”
, it seems that Pagan’s statement of intent is to pronounce that their sound has no restrictions. On a first attempt, they’ve successfully mashed disco with punk ‘n’ roll to create an unstoppable force full of infectious grooves and manic vocals. With that unexpected level of professionalism, it’s impossible to predict which direction they will go next time but, for now, Pagan has released one of the most exhilarating albums of 2018.