REVIEW: Pågå – The Evil Year

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The renowned Finnish label, Svart Records, is known for reissuing some timeless classics, such as MUSTA PARAATI and KOLLAA KESTÄÄ, as well as discovering some golden underground names like BEASTMILK. Recently, another impeccable post-punk album has just been released via Svart Records, by Sweden’s finest PÅGÅ. Consisting of brothers Pelle and Gottfrid Åhman (also of the defunct heavy metal unit IN SOLITUDE fame), PÅGÅ presents enchanting dark tunes with avant-garde elements. “The Evil Year,” which was released in November 27th, 2020, was handpicked by Mat “Kvohst” McNerney who is also known for being involved in several reputable Finnish post-punk names, such as HEXVESSEL, BEASTMILK, and GRAVE PLEASURES.

Honestly, even though I may be familiar with Finnish post-punk (with my favorite names being GRAVE PLEASURES, SIELUN VELJET, and TYHJÄT PATTERIT), I was kind of new to the Swedish post-punk scene. Even though they’re neighboring countries, when it comes to Swedish music, what I usually listen to the most happens to be hardcore punk and old school death metal. However, discovering Swedish post-punk has been a really pleasant experience, especially with the album “The Evil Year” to start. Svart Records generously opened doors for me to discover more of those units – it’s a record label with such an eclectic and vibrant-sounding rosters. Some of Svart Records’ artists also recently performed in Roadburn Redux’s showcase called Svart Sessions. Though I have never been to Roadburn Festival in person before, I was excited and enthusiastic about it.

With psychedelic-themed artwork created by Pelle Åhman himself and some help from Erik Danielsson of WATAIN fame, the sounds presented on this album ash an inclination towards outlandish psychedelic noir rock. It is an astounding organized chaos, and for a debut album by a newly onboarding project, it’s a remarkable start already. Even though it is fairly different from the occult-themed, heavy metal -leaning IN SOLITUDE, the psychedelic-infused retro post-punk sound of PÅGÅ manages to show its own versatile uniqueness and break boundaries. 

The whole album gives the listener a complete set of thrilling experimental rides. Psychedelic opener “Stellar Vermin” lasts for about 10 minutes and it’s heavy on bass and percussion, accompanied by droning, pitch-warped singing voices, while also featuring a whimsical take on the xylophone. Then comes the lead single “Enter,” which is deeply influenced by Goth aesthetics. “By Ends Great Glitter” is an interlude that features some choir-like vocals, while “Wholly Gone” shows its melancholic side by featuring solemn pianos. The ambient-themed “Wet Star” is probably the darkest track on this album, creating a subliminal soundscape – if this track were a part of a movie score, I’d imagine it could be similar to the score of an arthouse-styled movie, like Ingmar Bergman or Sergei Eisenstein’s material. “Meshes in the Wild Lock” has somewhat jazzy drum beats and while it might not be a conventionally easy-listening track, it might fascinate certain niché markets (I’m thinking that the listeners of PAAVOHARJU might enjoy this one). Next up there’s “Water Strider,” which is a poignant acoustic tune that comes off as very easy-listening and tranquil. The slow-paced “Olili” plays in a repetitive tone, and it radiates the vibe of some occultish ritual if you listen closely. To close this album, we have “Storm,” which presents some classic rock-inspired ambience, while still retaining an experimental side.

Listening to “The Evil Year” has been an intricate and pleasant experience, especially considering the fact that I’m new to Swedish post-punk. This album reminds me of a lot of things, ranging from the Icelandic three-piece darkwave KÆLAN MIKLA, to Russia’s very own famous MOLCHAT DOMA. I think it’s quite diverse when it comes to sounds, and instrumentations in general. There are tracks that resemble dark ambient, as well as those that feature melancholic piano. As for those who ended up checking out this album because of the now-defunct IN SOLITUDE, trust me, even though it is musically quite different from IN SOLITUDE, you won’t regret checking this album out, considering that it stands out in a lot of aspects.

Written by Ralka Skjerseth

Tracklist

1. Stellar Vermin 
2. Enter 
3. By Ends Great Glitter
4. Wholly Gone 
5. Wet Star 
6. Meshes In The Wild Lock 
7. Water Strider 
8. Olili 
9. Storm 

Lineup

Pelle Åhman
Gottfrid Åhman

Label

Svart Records

Links

Bandcamp