Polaris – The Mortal Coil
Released: November 3rd, 2017
Jamie Hails: Vocals
Jake Steinhauser: Bass/Vocals
Rick Schneider: Guitar
Ryan Siew: Guitar
Daniel Furnari: Drums
It was November 2015, and I was at a local venue for Dream On, Dreamer‘s headline tour. Amongst the various local and national supports was this band called…Polaris. This wasn’t the first time they had played my city, but it was the first time since they had released the lead single from their 2016 EP, The Guilt and the Grief, ‘Regress’. Their earlier Dichotomy material was definitely solid, there’s no denying that, but there was something different in the air this time.
And while I seemed to be in the minority of people losing their absolute mind as they played, I was confident that they were, indeed, the ‘next big thing’ (this phrase has no doubt been applied to them hundreds of times by hundreds of people, I’m not claiming some sort of magical clairvoyance). And while they attracted just a straggle of a crowd that night, seeing them easily sell out that very same venue last Friday night was the proof my 2015 self was right. I’d venture as to say that was the last time they’d play a venue that small.
Even the release of 2016‘s phenomenal The Guilt and the Grief, while launching them on their current career trajectory, didn’t instantly set in is a classic. Their headline album tour in my city attracted a small crowd of 30 or 40 people, a stark contrast to their tours today.
But if TGATG started their stratospheric launch, then their first full-length, The Mortal Coil, will no doubt boost that tenfold.
That’s enough of me waxing lyrical about the old days – let’s get into it.
Is TMC Album Of The Year? It’s definitely close. Considering metalcore-esque genres only, it’s definitely one of the most serious contenders ever. I mentioned TGATG in my 2016 wrap up article, and there I struggled to articulate what exactly made Polaris so good – it’s metalcore, not particularly revolutionary, but executed particularly well. And that’s not a critique, mind you – I would argue it’s significantly more difficult to pull of perfect execution than it is to throw left field ideas into a track.
The album opens with ‘Lucid’, which barely gives you room to breathe, before hitting you with a fast paced chorus, dropping into a half time pre-chorus, then some catchy chorus cleans. I had the pleasure of seeing this song performed live last Friday (and had the distinctly weird feeling of being the only person in the audience to know the lyrics) – and I can tell you that even without knowledge of the song, it was an audience hit. And how could it not be? The song is everything Polaris is – switching from double to half time at the drop of a hat, sneaking in little guitar accents, moments of quiet back-to-back with brutality.
Next, we jump into second single ‘The Remedy’. If you’re not living under a rock you’d be all across this track already – getting JJJ airplay, and having more Spotify plays than some TGATG tracks already. Bouncy, energetic, borderline frantic at parts, but tying it all together with a catchy chorus (and that breakdown though). This song, too, killed live. Can’t wait to hear it a bunch more times. Following this up, we have ‘Relapse’. Initially striking me as a little out of place, it soon cemented itself as an absolute classic. The almost too-happy lead melody felt strange, but the way it sits with the rest of the track causes an enjoyable (and subtle) duality that lends the track a unique affectation. Once again, an impossibly beautiful chorus melody leads us in-between half time moments and catapults us into the first single from the album, ‘Consume’.
Again, I’m sure everyone is familiar with this track. A vaguely ambient intro, leading into nimble guitar work, a sonically edgy pre-chorus, and a half-time verse all circle around for the first half of the song, before we finally land at the chorus, almost two minutes in. Bassist Jake Steinhauser‘s clean vocals anthemically soar across the chorus, leading into the track’s mandatory breakdown, complete with a Ryan Siew solo for good measure. And that outro is pure groove. Yes yes.
Track five, ‘Frailty’, I was also lucky enough to hear performed live pre-release. High energy and fast paced, it raises and raises the pent up energy level of the listener, to the brink of release, then drops it all at once (as Jamie Hails opines ‘you look at me like a stranger‘). This build and release of tension is something Polaris are masters of, using it both in small micro-moments, and with a larger scope across entire tracks. The song ends quietly, leading into interlude-ish track ‘In Somnus Veritas’. Starting ambient, before dropping in some slow melodic guitars, the track builds as it leads us into the second half of the album. Lead vocalist Jamie’s emotion work well to carry the track here, with his last strained work echoing across the end of the track, pushing us into ‘Dusk to Day’. Launching the more ‘experimental‘ (word used loosely) half of the album, this track is a little slower, and a little groovier. Clean vocalist Jake takes the bulk of the workload here, with Jamie dropping in for extra effect, as we slowly build through heavier drums and guitars as the song progresses. A classic Polaris bridge drop before a hard hitting end lead us out.
‘Casualty’, maybe my personal favorite track on the album, and possibly the heaviest, hits us in the face with groove from the second it starts. It’s almost as if they wrote a song going ‘hmmm we have too much energy on stage, let’s write a track to tire us out‘. The chorus is, of course, incredibly catchy, with a mid song breakdown following it up. Now’s a good time to mention that, once again, Polaris are able to execute a fairly well-trodden genre of –core in a way that’s so flawless that it becomes an art unto itself. On paper, there’s nothing particularly unique about these tracks (they’re no Ocean Grove or Oceans Ate Alaska), they’re just so tight and carefully considered.
‘The Slow Decay’ jumps in with a bouncy lead riff, and a (less common) unclean chorus. I’m going to take a moment here to mention guitarist Rick Schneider – it seems he gets forgotten slightly with Ryan Siew‘s celerity sucking up the spotlight. However, this track, and the album as a whole, serve to illustrate his expertise and artistry (or maybe it’s just because I dig those chuggy grooves). Penultimate track ‘Crooked Path’ eases us in momentarily with an ambient intro, but the high-energy verse promptly throws that away. The pre-chorus grooves like a well worn record, the chorus is catchy, the breakdown makes you want to backflip and frontflip simultaneously – what’s new?
Final track, ‘Sonder’, echoing ‘Hold You Under’, starts in a similar, building way, with its lower-tempo verses increasing in groove as the song progresses. All the elements of the track slowly but surely increase in ferocity – so that by the time we hit the end of the track, we’re hit with line deliveries of such emotion from Jamie that it’s hard to listen, unaffected.
The Mortal Coil isn’t trying to reinvent anything, but what it does, it does fantastically. I have no doubt Polaris will be entering the upper echelon of Australian metalcore – and I’m definitely along for the ride.
Polaris – The Mortal Coil tracklisting
2. The Remedy
6. In Somnus Veritas
7. Dusk To Day
9. The Slow Decay
10. Crooked Path