April 24, 2024

New Fury Media

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On ‘The Mortal Coil’, Polaris’s bouncy metalcore catapulted them to the forefront of Australia’s heavy music scene – and beyond

Rarely does an EP come along that elevates a band’s fanbase seemingly faster than one can blink. However, that’s exactly what happened when Aussie metalcore Polaris released The Guilt And The Grief in early 2016. The first body of work to include the late, extremely talented guitarist Ryan Siew, the EP would springboard them to success in Australia – as well as garner them a wider audience less than 24 months later with their debut full-length album, 2017’s The Mortal Coil.

Many bands and musicians end up following up a promising EP with a debut full-length that fails to capitalize on the strengths of their initial salvo of work. Also, in an extremely oversaturated genre like metalcore, it can be tough to stand out. It can prove even more difficult to be technical above to rise above, and it’s also pretty hard to write what might be considered a “signature song”. Stunningly, Polaris accomplished all of the above on their debut full-length. From the jump, it’s clear the synergy they have is a special one. Each member is clearly gifted at their craft, yet no one member dominates the proceedings. Whether it’s the improved and more diverse screaming and singing of Jamie Hails + bassist Jake Steinhauser, the startlingly talented guitar duo of Ryan Siew + Rick Schneider, or Daniel Furnari’s drumming, this isn’t a band with a weak link to hide a less talented member.

Many of the tracks on This Mortal Coil follow a similar pattern, but they generally veer off in a different direction enough to differentiate themselves. “Consume” is one of the strongest songs on the record for this reason. With a rapid-fire machine gun-esque breakdown and a first half that might well remind you of the band’s fellow countrymen in Karnivool, “Consume” is one of the most unique – yet also engaging – songs on The Mortal Coil. It’s also a microcosm of what makes TMC special – guitars that dive in and out, well-placed breakdowns, and an unpredictable song structure that really elevates the genre to new heights. Plus, how can you not appreciate drumming that’s this good?!

There’s also “The Remedy”, which is arguably the band’s most popular song to date. The track manages to be a spectacular encapsulation of all that Polaris excelled in writing in their early days, with a huge chorus that many bands in the genre couldn’t pull off in a convincing fashion, being particularly notable. It also foreshadows what appears front and center on the record itself – two massively talented guitarists in the late Ryan Siew and Rick Schneider. Whether adding much in the way of menace to heavier tracks like “Sonder” or showing off more technical musicianship on tracks like “Frailty” and “Consume”, there are no shortage of jaw-dropping moments from a musical skill standpoint. Don’t underestimate the amount of fun one can find on TMC, too. “Relapse” veers into almost post-hardcore territory, with a melodic chorus that has massive crossover potential.

Atmosphere building is one of the strong points of Polaris, to be certain. So too is the band’s confidence, which is fairly uncommon for a band on their debut full-length. For example, what Polaris do as far as transitions between verses and choruses is the mark of a far more veteran band. And Polaris aren’t afraid to color outside the often limited box that is metalcore, either. In fact, ambient and even post-rock/post-metal influences pop up on songs like “In Somnus Veritas”, adding some peripheral influences to the mix. If you look at those influences like an addition to Polaris’s sound palette, it makes a lot of sense. While the aforementioned track is short, it provides some insight about the band as a whole, in terms of the music that inspires them. Pretty neat. Small tricks like this also make one wonder if Polaris could pull off a Devil Sold His Soul-esque post-hardcore // post-metal record, or something else in a similar genre. Clearly, the talent is there.

It’s safe to say that in retrospect, The Mortal Coil exceeded all expectations. A debut album this fully-realized is a rare breed indeed, but when you consider the discography Polaris are building for themselves, it’s even more impressive. Almost immediately, the band’s synergy and songwriting skills, along with their obvious skills as musicians, catapulted them to a wider audience. And as a microcosm of what metalcore can aspire to in modern times, it’s even more essential.

RIP, Ryan Siew.

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