Album Review: Polaris - 'The Mortal Coil'

26 October 2017 | 9:10 pm | Staff Writer
Originally Appeared In

Polaris are the next big thing.

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Australia’s heavy music scene, mostly anything associated with the metalcore variety, tends to stick to a very well defined hierarchy of bands.

Right at the top, you have bands like your Amity Affliction's and your Parkway Drive's who are these long-established acts, have enormous global fanbases and are a guaranteed headliner pretty much anywhere they fuckin' walk. The second tier is also made up of larger bands, for example, groups like In Hearts Wake and Northlane. Sure, they're not quite selling out Festival Hall on their own (well, unless those latter two bands team together) but they definitely do very well and sell out 1,000-3,000 capacity venues easily enough. Thus, it seems that for a lot of the smaller but nonetheless talented local bands our country gracefully houses, it can be very hard to break the glass ceiling and reach that next big tier. Mainly because those aforementioned bands have been in said positions very comfortably for quite some time now, and unfortunately it means I wouldn’t exactly rush out to see either of those bands because I know they’re going to tour once if not twice a year around Australia. As such, the Aussie heavy music scene is definitely in need of some new, fast-rising blood to strengthen its veins between the growing local level and the upper tier big leaguers that dominate said realms. 

Enter bands like Ocean Grove, who are appealing to not only to a long-established fan base but also what I like to call the "Triple J Tradie" audience. You can be as snarky and as elitist as you like about said crowds, but they can be an integral part to a band’s sharp rise in popularity and all it takes is some solid radio play. Getting to my point, Sydney’s Polaris are on the brink of doing the very same thing. This NSW metalcore quintet has seen some massive growth since the release of the stellar ‘The Guilt & The Grief’ EP (2016) and recently secured a national support slot for Parkway Drive's 'Horizons' tour - a spot that countless bands would kill for. They've also just wrapped up a great national headline run with their pals in Belle Haven, Deadlights, and Daybreak, selling out most of the dates. Now, all they need now is a big album release to capitalise on this amazing momentum. And their ripping, long-awaited debut full-length ‘The Mortal Coil’ could very well be just the kind of damned solid release to send the band off into the stars.

Simply put, if you loved what ‘The Guilt & The Grief’ offered up back in 2016, then you'll love this new record front to back. It's a sonically tighter, better written, better produced, lyrical deeper, and heavier-hitting release on all accounts.

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Polaris - The Mortal Coil promo photo by Seakyu

A big trap that a lot of bands such as Polaris often fall into is favouring mere musical ability over an inability to write genuinely catchy, well-structured songs. This, however, is something that Polaris are not a victim of. After all, There’s no denying that the solid guitarist duo of Rick Schneider and Ryan Siew can play very, very well; mixing great riffs, techy moments, with also really memorable chord progressions that boost the songs. The guitar work moves from these moments of groovy, nu-metal bounces (‘The Remedy'), to these mighty fine melodic touches ('In Somnus Veritas'), to these Periphery-esque tech sections (‘Relapse’) so effortlessly, and I’d be completely remiss in my reviewing duties if I didn’t say I heard a lot of influence from the late great Tom Searle in places here. But thankfully, this is never to the detriment of the songs, meaning that the non-guitarists/average music fan can absolutely digest this in the same way any peer or fellow musician can and will.

This album's 11-songs, for the most part, manage to blend together technical instrumental mastery with very well structured songs and some truly powerful choruses, creating a goddamn potent package in the process. For instance, ‘Lucid’ is one hell of a great opener, combining what I feel is a very ‘Singularity’-era Northlane riff and drum pattern with a massive chorus that wouldn’t be out of place on an In Hearts Wake album (but you know, better than anything off  'Skydancer' or 'Ark'). And my god, that track's breakdown is so bouncy that it’s bound to go down an absolute treat live, especially that well placed half-time section!

One of the more interesting cuts on the entire release is ‘Dusk to Day’. The slower, stripped back verses are heavily driven by the drums, clean guitars and bassist Jake Steinhauser’s clean vocals - which have been far better integrated into the band's wider sound than on past releases. I have to say, from where he once was on the ‘Dichotomy’ EP back in the day, Steinhauser’s made some absolute leaps and bounds vocally. The first half of the song is heavily reliant on his voice and he pulls it all off well. Such strengths also shows on the choruses for ‘The Remedy’ as well as on ‘Casualty’, which is actually one of my least favourite tracks off the record, yet I feel as if the bassist/singer gives this (rare weak) song some real life. Lead vocalist Jamie Hails sounds as vehemently strong as ever here. He’s stuck to what he knows he’s strongest at with his vocals, being his mid-range screams and the occasional yells, but this is arguably his best-recorded performance to date. Even on one of the album's standouts, ‘The Slow Decay’, he takes the vocal lead over his bandmate, and it works so damn well.

Of course, 'The Mortal Coil' is not without its faults. As with any metalcore release these days, especially when you have such a technically-driven sound, it can all get a little monotonous towards the end. Being a musician myself, I can indeed appreciate musical intricacies and think “Oh wow, that little section there was really cool” over and over and just not think about it. But I don’t think that the average music fan cares a whole lot. And this definitely sets in towards the second half of the album. It’s not to say the songs are bad by any means - 'Sonder' is a great ending track, as a side note - but there are definitely some parts that all just blend together and lose a little impact. Yet that's the absolute worst I can say against what is one impressive fucking album.

‘The Mortal Coil’ is definitely going to be a winner for Polaris. It’s the logical step forward and upwards from such a successful second EP like ‘The Guilt & The Grief’. It also doesn’t fall into the ever-growing category of bands signing to labels off a strong independent run and then merely releasing something very forgettable. Resist Records (and by extension overseas, SharpTone Records) have found themselves an absolute gem with Polaris, as the crossover appeal between metalcore fans, technical metal fans, and the "Triple J Tradie" crowds will no doubt be cultivated by this solid album.

Now, will 'The Mortal Coil' be the biggest Australian heavy release of 2017? Time will tell, of course. But man, I certainly hope it is!

  1. Lucid
  2. The Remedy
  3. Relapse
  4. Consume
  5. Frailty
  6. In Somnus Veritas
  7. Dusk To Day
  8. Casualty
  9. The Slow Decay
  10. Crooked Path
  11. Sonder

'The Mortal Coil' is out Friday, November 3rd via Resist Records.