It’s been discussed ad nauseum on the impact that Australia as a whole has had on the core music scene. From breakthrough acts to mainstay artists, if a band is from the land down under it’s almost assured that it will not only be well crafted, but undeniably catchy and worth the hype. Unfortunately for some acts – mainly due to the consistent level of high quality being output – they go unnoticed for far too long, flying under the radar. South Sydney five-piece Polaris found themselves in the realm of the unnoticed until they released their chart impacting sophomore EP Guilt & The Grief in January 2016. Not only did the self-released EP hit high on the charts, it finally drew the attention the band deserved from labels worldwide with the eventual landing span being Australian label Resist Records. Fast forward a year and the band have now found themselves signed on with the US powerhouse label SharpTone Records as well as the impending release of their debut album, The Mortal Coil and it’s clear that fans, old and new alike, have only seen Polaris scratch the surface of what they’re capable of.
O V E R V I E W
When all that’s left for you to cement your year is a momentous release of an album, the pressure can easily swallow some, but that is far from the case for Polaris. The Mortal Coil is a showcase for the band as they’re clearly in their comfort zone in all aspects of production and composition. It’s an album that not only comes out of the gate swinging, but one that – barring a few brief moments to take a breath – continues its relentless assault until the very end. This makes for a release that demands people to take it seriously and the payoff rewards listeners with one of the strongest, most well written metalcore albums the year will see.
F L O W / L O N G E V I T Y / O R I G I N A L I T Y
It’s not an easy task to create an album that can be listened to start to finish without listeners having a desire to skip a track here or there. In fact, more than anything else, retaining people’s attention seems to be one of the hardest aspects of songwriting as it’s a combination of the overall album flow accompanied with creating something that has a dose of originality and a lasting appeal. With The Mortal Coil, Polaris check all three boxes. Each song gives a feeling that it belongs rather than a feeling of being tacked on while the overall movement from start to finish delivers a story, giving a lasting impression that the album actually progressed rather than staying in neutral or being ho-hum.
The other impressive thing about The Mortal Coil is – for the most part – how different it feels from the typical metalcore style. Yes, the aggression and hard-hitting instrumentation exists, but between the sometimes overly technical musicianship, soaring melodies that create and drive a lush atmosphere and incredible balance of growls and enchanting cleans, it truly stands apart from other bands that fall in the same genre. This gives it a memorable sound that ultimately will drive casual listeners to multiple listens while the more hardcore fans will delve deeper to notice the intricacies that drive Polaris’ overall sound.
V O C A L S / I N S T R U M E N T A T I O N
Whether it’s the silky clean vocals of bassist Jake Steinhauser or the raucous, powerful and statement defining screams from frontman Jamie Hails, the vocal delivery on the entirety of The Mortal Coil is consistently exceptional. “Dusk to Day” and “The Slow Decay” are shining examples of this as the screams have an angst to them that oozes emotion while Jake’s voice plays brilliantly as the counterpoint to the harshness prevalent throughout. This vocal balance mostly remains present throughout the full album and plays impeccably well off of the underlying instrumentation which acts almost as if it is a third vocalist. That is to say, there are some fantastic riffs, fills and leads that intertwine with the technicality Polaris always offers up resulting in the instrumental delivery coming across just as important as the vocal side. Adding to it is the fact that the music has a vast array of range, from being bouncy and punchy (“Lucid” and “Relapse”) to atmospheric (“In Somnus Veritas” and “Crooked Path”) or fast-paced (“Casualty”). No matter what style you prefer vocally or musically, there’s an incredible blend of both.
C O M P O S I T I O N / P R O D U C T I O N
While the instrumental and vocal department impress greatly, a lot of that has to do with the extremely song composition that makes up The Mortal Coil. This is an album that was clearly crafted with a desire to make every aspect of a song mean something, whether it’s the underlying wizardry that drives the instrumentation, the individual song structure or the momentous buildups to the powerful choruses and bridges. It’s really a showcase of what strong and carefully crafted songwriting can do for a band as it creates a more complete and cohesive package, across the board. For any of the moments that do dip, they are offset as the weaknesses get masked by the extremely strong composition.
Adding to the composition is the albums production, which deserves its own accolades. Working with Carson Slovak and Grant McFarland (August Burns Red, Galactic Empire, Lorna Shore) in their own studio, the production on The Mortal Coil is incredible. The work brought forth by Polaris lets their musicianship shine instead of relying on an overabundance of programming or multiple backing tracks; not that those moments don’t exist, they are just brief and well incorporated. Additionally, the instrumentals have a high level of crispness and clarity to them allowing you to really hear the technicality in the music while the vocals have a raw, angsty and emotional feel that pack a punch. This allows both aspects to lead the way as neither feels undervalued or overproduced and once again, shows that music can be a third vocalist of sorts.
F I N A L T H O U G H T S
Polaris have clearly learned from the musicians they’ve toured with, the people they’ve worked with and from their own experiences, putting their desire for strong songwriting far ahead of anything else. The outcome of that is The Mortal Coil, an album that doesn’t just serve as their debut album, but also serve notice to the rest of the world that they’re just getting started and there’s so much more to come. Between the technicality, incredible composition or strong production work, The Mortal Coil delivers on all phases that music requires in order to be considered great for more than the hardcore fans, but the casual ones who are after something catchy and well crafted, which is no easy task. This is more than a fantastic album, it’s the one that paves the way in the future while turning heads in the now, leaving a lasting impression on a genre that was growing a little stale.
The Gist | Album Review: Polaris – The Mortal Coil
Between the technicality, incredible composition or strong production work, The Mortal Coil delivers on all phases that music requires in order to be considered great for more than the hardcore fans, but the casual ones who are after something catchy and well crafted, which is no easy task. This is more than a fantastic album, it’s the one that paves the way in the future while turning heads in the now, leaving a lasting impression on a genre that was growing a little stale.