New Band Of The Week: Pagan

Pagan band
(Image credit: Andrew Basso)

Sounds Like:
An underground hardcore punk show with a corpsepaint-covered glitterball on the ceiling

For Fans Of:
Blood Command, Marmozets, Tomahawk

Listen To:
Death Before Disco

“I get onstage and I dance how I want to,” grins Pagan vocalist Nikki Brumen. “Because I want to do what I want! I don’t want to conform to some bullshit, heavy metal subgenre. I get a lot of people, especially women, coming up to me after the show going, ‘If I was in a band then I would love to act and dance like you do onstage. It’s so feminine!’ And I just tell them that I dance how I’d always dance. I’m not going to get onstage and mosh. I wanna shake my butt! It’s important to do what you do and be who you are.”

Pagan are here to fuck with your preconceptions. To go along with the huge, Day-Glo choruses of their music, there is a palpable sense of fun in everything they do, from bright pink gig posters to cute/embarrassing childhood photos of each bandmember on their Facebook page, but it’s all underpinned by the blastbeats and white-hot riffs of the most brutal metallic hardcore bands. And then there is Nikki herself, with her broad Australian accent and friendly and excitable demeanour, you’d think she’s more likely to present a kids’ TV show than front a metal band. But beneath that exterior is a strong-willed figurehead for the idea of individuality within our scene.

“I don’t care about men and women,” she continues at a pace. “I don’t think we should differentiate at all. We’re all doing the same thing. I think you should just look for what is unique and true about you. I’m not interested in getting up to be the next ‘dude in a band’. If anyone comes up to me after a show and says, ‘I want to do what you do but I’m afraid I’d make a fool of myself’, I always tell them to stop dragging their feet and fucking do it! Because you’re going to be the change.”

Pagan’s new album, Black Wash, is everything you’d hope it would be from a band with that motto: a head-fucking mash of styles from hardcore punk to disco to black metal, that somehow manages to remain coherent despite chucking you curveball after curveball.

“One of my strongest ideals in music is having a lack of boundaries,” Nikki tells us. “I grew up in a little coastal town and there were a lot of bands that came out from my area that were metalcore, and there were such strict boundaries. You had to have the right tattoos, the right shoes, the right camo pants, the right way to mosh… like, are you kidding me? That’s the least punk way to be!”

We’re starting to get the feeling that there is just a teensy bit of something inside Nikki that actually enjoys the reaction she can get out of heavy music’s more militant fanbases…

“We like it when a band has a sense of who they are, and we know who Pagan are.” Nikki smiles. “And if that pisses people off… yeah, I quite like that. When it’s us up against a pink wall in our promo shots, that’s just a pink wall we like, we don’t want to look like every other heavy band. Why do they all pull those angry, tortured ‘metal guy’ faces? I’m so jaded with that scene. I want to play with it and push the boundaries. It’s funny to see how restricted people are.”

Leave your preconceived notions at the door: the Pagan party has arrived. 

Stephen Hill

Since blagging his way onto the Hammer team a decade ago, Stephen has written countless features and reviews for the magazine, usually specialising in punk, hardcore and 90s metal, and still holds out the faint hope of one day getting his beloved U2 into the pages of the mag. He also regularly spouts his opinions on the Metal Hammer Podcast.