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“DD Review: Doktra – Pagans.”

Score: 8.5/10

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The cover of Pagans, the flagship album of Indianapolis post-rock mad-mashers Doktra, depicts what is set up as basically a microcosm of vapid capitalism: a bevy of suited, beardless men, mostly white, meant to represent median, upwardly mobile America. It is the very picture of individuality’s lack and nationalism’s pervasion, the classical contrapuntal punk cover a la, say, Green Day’s Nimrod. So when Pagans comes in rather DELICATELY, with a timid drone followed by gentle guitar rotary, it takes some patience to get to a glimpse of the band’s chops, which don’t so much veer toward as they do JERK toward regular, blue-collar post-rock. Many things, though, typify Pagans as the work of focused craftsmen, including band tightness, sound and, perhaps most importantly, the indefinable knack this music has for playing as a sort of white-boy blues, consummately analytical of our current otherwise unanalyzable situation in America.
So yes, in other words, and which I euphemized earlier, this music is like ALMOST a Don Caballero [1] ripoff. The angular, skittish, colorfully hewn guitar riffs meld into unorthodox time signatures over garage-y drums almost compulsively. Adam Mun, though, perhaps here has just a few more sonic tricks from up his sleeve, whether they be complex looping, echo chamber, or even, on the last two tracks, a Metallica element with full teeth [2], in comparison with the Don’s simple Stone Gossard grunge. “Holyfire” and “Lifedestroyer” flare up with some serious attitude, even spanning Metallica’s oeuvre in and of itself from thrash to sludge.
With this being said, the vast majority of Pagans is very mellow music, so other than the last two tunes it will not please many metalheads (for the record the last two songs are hardcore enough though, at least in this blogger’s opinion). “Rivals” plays as sonic achievement over musical vision and rests excessively on repetition, albeit a bona fide sonic achievement which would call to mind the bass sound the Weezer shows circa 2002 for anyone who saw them. This, then, leaves the mid-album mono-themed “Hedonism” trifecta (“Hedonism Pt 1”’ “Hedonism Pt 2”; and “Hedonism Pt 3”) to carry much of the substantive load here. And within this section of the album, we come across the most important trademark of Doktra up to this point in their careers: the penchant for avoiding monotony (I think I speak for everyone when I say that this is important in the age of social media).
Now, don’t get me wrong. There are parts where this album is OVERLY organic. Sometimes I think that a drum machine and some artificial vocal effects, or just any other sense of mucking up the soundscape in some way, could add some personality here. But this is a young band which has apparently decided that they quite fancy the extant post-rock blueprint, one which, as we know, when properly executed, should make for some killer live shows, and probably even some vitalizing work music.
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[1] Keeping it on I-70 here: Don Caballero were a galvanizing Pittsburgh three-piece particularly in the late-‘90s known for double-kick-drum instrumental-math-rock euphoria on What Burns Never Returns and American Don.
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[2] Ironically, in this way, Pagans plays as a reverse trip through Don Caballero’s catalogue, from pastoral to plundering.

 

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