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Album Review: Metric – Pagans in Vegas

3 min read

Pagans in Vegas is a conflicted record at heart. Mixing references to bands such as Depeche Mode and Joy Division with their own style, Metric blend timeless acoustic elements and a modern electronic soundscape to create something wholly new, capturing the essence of the modern world – its dark conscience and the morality of people – within twelve tracks. It’s obvious a lot of thought went into the album here, and there are some truly astounding moments that benefit from their elaborate use of the CS80 synth; alas, the package does have one glaring flaw that holds it back from total greatness.

Metric Pagans in VegasThere are a few tracks that truly mark the scope of Pagans in Vegas’ sound. Fortunes features verses built around a piano loop surrounded by synth beats and melodies, mixing both light acoustic and electronic influences until the chorus replaces the synths with the full fleet of guitar, drums and bass, giving the song a more melancholy sound with Emily Haines’ vocals added on top. The Shade is more on the electronic side of things, featuring drums and building a supporting array of buzzing and beeping synths around it, leading to a gigantic wall of melodies and effects for the chorus; Haines’ vocals are at their best here, purring her way through the verses before letting loose and shouting over the soundscape for the chorus as layers of vocals back her up. The general synth-pop of Cascades with Emily’s distorted and robotic vocals, meanwhile, shows the album at its absolute most synthetic, truly reaching its stride when the clockwork middle eight kicks in.

These are all pre-release tracks, though. The strongest of the album’s newcomers is easily Celebrate. Opening with a sleek synthetic introduction that threatens to drop into a gigantic house chorus, it instead uses the build-up to drop into a two-part chorus that flows from a lone piano with Haines’ vocals to a slow jam synthetic arrangement; it mixes the two styles of the album well, and feels unique in Metric’s discography, standing out in a really positive way. The remainder of the album, however, never really matches the highs of these songs. They feel the most like classic Metric songs, with Too Bad, So Sad hearkening back to the rock of Fantasies and the rest resembling Metric’s low-key side, and they’re all enjoyable; however, the strength of the experimental moments is its greatest downfall, leaving a disconnect between the two halves.

In the ultimate conflicting statement, Pagans in Vegas both feels like something new for Metric as well as something familiar. In a sense that makes the album a success, but the myriad of explosive and experimental songs on the first half does make the second half appear weaker in comparison. The album features Metric at their finest, but only in moments like The Shade and Celebrate, with the remainder being of the usual quality you would expect from them. Which is to say, Pagans in Vegas is an engaging and high quality album, but the brief glimpses at the heights it could have reached can leave you pining for more.