For the past couple of weeks I have not stopped listening to “Black Wash” the debut album from Melbourne’s blackened metallers PAGAN. In fact “Black Wash” has rocketed to the top of my Best of 2018 list.
To label Pagan as metal would be a bit inadequate, but even so that would simply make “Black Wash” one of the most original metal records to be released in a while. At least to my ears.
I’m not usually a big fan of what is considered scream-core, and to be up front vocalist Nikki Brumen certainly screams. She also wails and growls like she’s possessed, but her roar is visceral and impossible to ignore. This is NOT background music. But man does it work here.
By way of comparison, the closest ancestor to Pagan would be Norwegian metal punks Kvelertak and maybe even their countrymen the furious and violent Emperor in some spots. However like Kvelertak, Pagan aren’t afraid of punk, melody, and the big metal riff. In fact without Brumen’s screams a number of tracks on Black Wash (like Year of the Dog; Wine and Lace; Fluorescent Snakes) are pretty accessible from a black metal standpoint and maybe more akin to a “post-hardcore” band like Alexisonfire.
Guitarist Xavier Santilli fills in every crack and crevice with a plethora of guitar styles and the massive rhythm section of drummer Matt Marasco and bassist Dan Bonnici never waiver.
In the end you can call Pagan what you want, but “Black Wash” is an 11-song, 15 million volt stun gun of a record.