Polaris – The Death of Me (2020)

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Hailing from Sydney, this is the second album from this innovative metalcore band.

Its 10 tracks have a duration of 42 minutes.

Chief lyricist Daniel Furnari described this work as “a record about losing faith in yourself and the world”. It either sounds like a party, or that they have been stalking me for the last week or so. Let’s find out which!

“Pray for Rain” thundered forth with an echoing, atmospheric opening, accompanied by plaintive vocals. We are introduced to the intricate guitar work, which soon becomes a hallmark of this album. The track steadily built depth, becoming much more frantic. Staccato guitar work was evident, before they briefly dropped out altogether. Melodic vocals were accompanied by a powerful tiered musical overlay. The really clever guitar work wove a compelling tale.

“Hypermania” opened with a stripped back, “from the next room” sound. Clever lyrics abounded and “save my soul”, “I can’t tell you who I am anymore” and “something tells me I was always going to pay” caught my attention. This was a track painted from a diverse musical palette, striking the listener strong and deep with its heavy as Hell approach.

“Masochist” painlessly incorporated a number of elements to open – reversed sounds, a rumbling bass line and clear guitars and vocals. It had me wondering if this was the same band… Yep! The shattering angst and punch-you-in-the-face ferocity soon returned. Again, the technical nature of the guitars was noteworthy. This track had a broader-based appeal, but it was a track of two distinct personalities that existed together – Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, if you will. Style, class and aggression.

“Landmine” appropriately, started explosively. It was worlds apart from the other tracks in sound and style – frantic in sound and vocals, with every moment filled with musical mischief. Guitar interludes were woven throughout, with hardcore riffs and soaring solos backed up by possessed drumming and the vocals were particularly impressive. This track pumped all the way to the end, before finishing abruptly.

“Vagabond” opened like a scratchy old record, with a swaggering guitar riff shining through. This was a really engaging opening. This then shifted, becoming much more abrupt. Multi-character vocals were again used, with them being melodic in the chorus. The guitars followed this lead. These moments of melody served as excellent counterpoints. For the duration, this track slipped and slithered effortlessly between characters. One lyric really left a mark on me – “when nowhere feels like home”.

“Creatures of Habit” was a another beast again, with a different musical texture used. It featured a bass heavy sound with guitar riffs that scampered throughout, before morphing again into something more driving. I’ll describe the vocals on this track as concrete – like gravelled vocals, but harder still. This was a track of many different atmospheres. I waited for the melodic arrangement to appear and it did – but very late in the track and briefly. This was a momentary sensory cleanse. It was like the cleanses that hippies do, but without starving for three days and then eating macrobiotic tree trimmings. A percussion heavy interlude followed, that segwayed into a tough and heavy arrangement.

“Above My Head” intelligently opened with complex percussion arrangement, which underlined another shift in sound. There was a lot going on, without their being a saturation of sound – every element deserved to be there. Some really clever engineering was used on the track. It then pared back to clear, but urgent, percussion and other elements, before launching ahead again.

“Martyr (Wave)” opened with a heartbeat, with the vocals seeming reluctant to begin – an intriguing idea. A lyric really grabbed me – “Everyone’s expecting me to say what they can’t say.” The track became significantly heavier and the vocals had much more depth. The track swung effortlessly from slow and low and heavy and deep. One of the guitar solos wailed with intensity, before the sound stripped back to simple guitar and a chattering percussive loop.

“All Of Thus Is Fleeting” had a complex and busy opening, with urgency returning in abundance. The guitar riffs were busy and the speed frantic. The vocals really stepped up, with even the melodic counterpoints having a pleading quality. At one point three different vocals styles combined like a front row in a rugby scrum to smash all before it.

“The Descent” wound up the album with Polaris’s signature complexity, in its instruments and vocals. There were subtle shifts in sound, melodic moments, different vocal styles and a variety of effects, all that complemented each other, like a deliciously complex recipe. The track wound down, stripping back to simple elements. This was a great way to round off the album, reminding us of how Polaris rolls.

“The Death of Me” was emotionally charged and it leaves a deep impact with every listen. Vocalist Jamie Hails can cut your soul in half with his harrowing vocals. The guitar work was exceptional, effortlessly shifting from robust riffing to melodic meandering.

It was occasionally imperfect, often deep and always compelling. Each track had an element of being self-contained, as it told it’s tale. This served to tighten the focus on the subject matter, but it did not affect the flow of the album as a whole. You can zero in on one track, or a couple, or surrender yourself to the whole magnificent journey. These are the ways that this album can be enjoyed.

Polaris haven’t rested on their laurels, creating a work that was a clever and engaging evolution. It served as a significant step forward in sound and intent. There was darkness and despair, lamentation and disdain, delivered in a somewhat confronting manner of light and dark, relaxed and frantic.

It sounded like the perils of humanity.

My last week or so, summed up in 42 minutes…

9/10

Greg Noble.

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