Pinoy metal band Paganfire goes from underground to international

Rick Olivares

Posted at Oct 08 2017 11:53 PM

Pinoy metal band Paganfire goes from underground to international 1

Not every Filipino metal band is as successful like Slapshock, Greyhoundz, Cheese (or Queso). The music landscape has greatly changed from the late 1990s to the early years of the new millennium, the heyday for nu-metal as well as its industrial and aggro cousins. Of course, the scene never went away. It’s still there -- alive, kicking, and growling.

Unfortunately, unless you’re from the aforementioned three bands that still perform and release new music, the others toil in obscurity in the underground. Yet some – as we have pointed out before with Dreaded Mortuary which has its album snapped up by a Japanese label – find ways to cope. 

Paganfire, like Dreaded Mortuary, is a four-piece thrash metal band from Quezon City that was formed in 2003, right about the tail-end of the nu-metal scene. 

“We were influenced by Metallica, Slayer, and Venom just to name a very few. But our music has a dash of punk and hardcore thrown in,” shared guitarist Nonoy Padrejuan who handles much of the band’s off-stage affairs. 

Their very first recording back was in 2004 when now famous Japanese sound engineer Shinji Tanaka was getting started with his Sound Creation Studios here in Manila. That eponymous first release was recorded for a measly P5,000 and with the small budget meant not enough time in the studio. The band acknowledged that they could have recorded it far better had they had more money. Yet warts and all, that self-titled debut was picked up by a Thai label and released in cassette form.

Raw, intense, and even brutal, Paganfire’s music dripped heavily with intense shredding, manic and pulse-pounding, and guttural vocals and shrieks. 

In the following years, Paganfire’s works have been released on compact disc, cassette, and vinyl in Greece, Czech Republic, Macedonia, the United States, Germany, the United Kingdom, Poland, Hungary, Malaysia, Canada, Chile, and Brazil in varying quantities. That some of the songs are sung in Filipino doesn’t matter. Even artists from other countries release songs in their native tongue. 

As for the releases, they range from as few as 300 copies to as many as 600 (it is the same for local bands nowadays). A few are made available locally through the band or a local distributor but when that runs out, the only recourse is to order them online from abroad. 

Padrejuan explained the band’s unique approach to its releases, “I have been actively writing to people with common interests since 1997. Aside from that, I also edited a fanzine. I just applied what I am doing to the band where I sent the material to other outfits, zines and ultimately labels who later expressed interest in our music. 

“When we started the band, there were no local labels who would cater to heavy music. There is nobody who would dare touch true underground thrashing metal and if anyone did, there is no market existing for the genre. Since we already established contacts overseas we felt that is the right thing to have them handle it. As for the response, our work was released on all formats (compact disc, cassette, and vinyl) in different countries. I guess they liked it.” 

On the cover art for all their releases is the band’s mascot “The Executor” who will remind you in a way of British metallers Iron Maiden whose animated corpse, Eddie, is on each and every one of the band’s albums and merchandise. The Executor is a humanoid hell-bent for war. 

The band’s work essentially covers two extended play records that can be found in one vinyl release titled, “Invoke False Metal Death” from the Czech Republic, and their full length album, “Wreaking Fear and Death” is released by six different labels from the Philippines, the United States, Germany, the United Kingdom, and Poland; each with a limited run. 

It sounds haphazard but it isn’t. It is the norm for a thriving independent scene whatever the genre. The small numbers help satisfy the local demand and also prevent piracy. And the artists earn something from this. 

“II liked it more during the pre-internet days because those involved in the subculture were really into the music, the DIY ethic, and they were passionate about the scene,” summed up Padrejuan who said that Paganfire is hard at work on its second full length album that should be out by early 2018 once more through international labels. “The internet is a powerful tool if used properly. There are still the fans out there with the right attitude. But they are a vanishing breed. But that will not stop Paganfire from continuing down our own path.”

Paganfire’s CDs can be purchased locally through Thresthold Records (check them out on Facebook). Inquiries about the band or other releases can be made at paganfire13@yahoo.com. The vinyl can be ordered abroad.

Here are some of Paganfire’s vinyl releases:

1. "Invoke False Metal Death" (2010 Monster Nation Records, Czech Republic). Features the first ever recordings of Paganfire including those from that first cassette released in Thailand. Considering this was in 2004, this is old school metal that has me thinking Megadeath with some progressive undertones. 

The opening track, a long instrumental titled “Pagkakamali ng Panahon” has me thinking of Dave Mustaine and company’s “Set the World Afire.” 

That’s followed by the scorcher “Metal Thrashing Militants”. The production quality goes down by several notches in “Glorious Arson”. The last track of the side titled, “Tasteless Revenge” is “Hate Vanishing Point” and it’s just like the last track. But what shredding. Amazing twin axe attack by Nonoy and Rowell Baluyot. 

The second side is titled, “Vehemence Ensue.” Here the quality in the source material drops. Obviously, this was not recorded with vinyl in mind and it shows. Good stuff though. 

2. "Wreaking Fear and Death" (2014 Anger of Metal Records, Germany). An excellent album if you are into heavy and extreme music. Manic and insane. I’ll say these guys can shred (aside from Padrejuan, the other guitarist here is Michael Angelo Molino). I will admit that I am not crazy about how they recorded the drum tracks. It isn’t consistent. Sometimes, they are heavy and I get the feeling that there are several dozen human skulls pounding the skins. And yet in other instances, it’s like someone’s beating on tin cans. But it’s pretty good. Venomous vocals. 

3. "The Witchhammer of the Power Elitist." A live album that is a split record with Japanese band Sabbat (2105, Anger of Metal records, Germany). Surprisingly, not a bad live recording. Show’s the band’s proficiency. The added treat here is Sabbat.