PAGANOS, Infierno Real (2007, Pacheco Records)
This cover might have never been added to the Skullection due to the “No Skulls” rule had the Council of the Elders of the Skull not determined that the skull image to the left of the main skull was a mere reflection of the front and center skull. A reflection in a watery sort of mist or fog, perhaps, but it’s not totally clear. The owner of the skull appears to have suffered a dire fate, drilled straight through the noggin by a thick drill bit or whittled tree limb, branded on the forehead like any old cow’s rump and left to drift in a smoky psychedelic yellow purgatory. Man, what these skulls have to go through sometimes.
This is Argentinian metal that uses Bay Area style thrash as its base, some Sepultura references, a tiny dash of German thrash, and also gets into a kind of American ’90s power metal pocket. The latter is heard in a few passages of melodic vocal, which seem to worship James Rivera and Bobby Lucas on a song like “La Unica Razon” but don’t have the control or power of those dudes. It also recalls early Blind Guardian in its mixture of thrash intensity and traditional heavy metal tropes. There are two guys doing vocals, apparently, one more frantic and less melodic than the other…sometimes the “heavier” vocal recalls Mille Petrozza in the Renewal era, which is weird, but that’s what I’m hearing. Although Infierno Real has its moments, it’s frustratingly inconsistent and entirely scattered as to the direction it aims for. Sometimes Paganos shows a proper amount of dexterity to pull off semi-technical riffs, yet other times they stumble over themselves in an embarrassing show of clumsiness (“Quemando el Tiempo” features sloppy guitar playing and drumming…and super-shitty vocals too). I love how the guitar intro to “La Unica Razon” brings to mind one of Joey DeMaio’s ridiculously frenzied piccolo bass compositions. I guess when things start feeling dull, the mind wanders and looks for any old reference to stay alert. The music on this 12-song, entirely-too-long 55-minute album tries hard to achieve something impressive (the eight-minute “Muerte Justa” even roundly qualifies as “progressive”), but too often pulls itself down in blaze after blaze of unoriginality, or incompetence, or both. So why bother? Because there’s a good degree of potential in spots. They put another album out in 2010, one I’m almost tempted to check out.
When we opened up this site, one of our main questions was and remains whether skull album cover artwork revealed “laziness in both musical and artistic execution?” A waltz through the first 100 album covers shows that the answer is “Yes” about 75% of the time. And onward we go…so many amazing covers yet to be revealed. As for musical quality, we make no promises…
— Friar Wagner