Album: The Mortal Coil
Let us, for a moment, examine the relationship between the soul and the body. There are those that maintain one cannot exist without the other—they need each other to compose a human being, lest we get little more than a functional-but-Hollow carcass or a whisp of a man or woman without tangible flesh and bone to define their existence on this plane.
But that’s just one way to look at it—another might be more cynical, but valid all the same: imagine the body functioning as a prison to our souls. Without flesh and bone, blood and muscle, we have no mortality; and no harm to inflict pain or suffering with acts of aggression and violence. All those tediously intertwined molecules of actin, myosin, hydroxyapatite and hemoglobin offer is a quaint cell for the spirit to reside within. Without our bodies—our mortality—is when we become the true, free versions of ourselves.
Enter Polaris, whose latest album, The Mortal Coil tackles this head on, sloughing off the contemporary chains and shackles of cold, calculates and oppressive metalcore in favor of an intimate, emotional and engaging experience that dabbles in punishing brutality and poignant, progressively-tinted beauty all in one. Sounding curiously like a hybrid of Architects and Northlane at points—while primarily sounding totally themselves at others—Polaris’ The Mortal Coil is a complicated, intelligent and engaging release that doesn’t skimp in awe-inspiring content.
I suppose the first thing the listener should know is that Polaris hail from Sydney, Australia—so if you were skeptical before, you probably aren’t now—and they bring with them every aspect of metalcore the country is known for. Groovy, riff-laden and heavy as Hell all in equal doses, The Mortal Coil dissects humanity’s relationship with Earth, the spirit and each other across eleven tracks of metallic mastery. Percussionist Daniel Furnari finds himself at the center of the band’s dynamic—with “Casualty” seeing him add spicy, flashy fills into a melodic canvas, and opening number “Lucid” seeing him stutter away with choppy, fast-paced breakdowns that oscillate into grooves and bouncy patterns at the drop of a hat. Furnari’s playing is clean, crisp, technically proficient yet not overdone or absurd—allowing him to work excellently with bassist Jake Steinhauser to create a thick low end, especially on tracks like “The Slow Decay” that rely on that low, gritty bass to contrast the sharp, crystal-clear leads and cleanly sung vocals that peak in every now and again. Steinhauser’s bass rarely steals the show, instead adding support with Furnari’s drums to give guitarists Rich Schneider and Ryan Siew the foundation they need to make The Mortal Coil the driving, unique and invigorating album it is. Almost every song sees the duo veering hither and to across the range that divided brutality and beauty—with “Lucid” and “Consume” holding down the heavier end of things and “The Slow Decay” and “Crooked Path” adding beautiful, dazzling and pristine tones along the onslaught of oppressive chugs and grooves that serve as the band’s backbone. This isn’t to say the latter tracks lack teeth—far from it—but the emphasis on adding atmosphere and ethereality into the mix gives them a much more varied feel, establishing Polaris as a wonderfully diverse act.
Just as their instrumental canvas is as varied and gorgeous as Australia’s own landscape, Polaris’ vocal element uses a wide variety of styles to appeal to the listener’s heart—and more crucially, their soul. “Crooked Path” might be the best example of this; with a catchy, somber chorus that wouldn’t sound out-of-place in an The Amity Affliction song, and groovy verses interspersed with devastating breakdowns that give the song teeth, “Crooked Path” is an excellent sampler of what The Mortal Coil is all about. This is thanks to frontman Jamie Hails, aided by bassist Steinhauser, whose range and rapport make Polaris more than another metalcore band that makes use of the heavy-soft dynamic we’ve all become pretty weary of. Hails’ voice covers nearly-sung, belted and pitched yells that pop up between bitter, thick mid-range yells and a fierce, low register that gives the breakdowns and more dissonant grooves real meat. Hails’ lyricism matches this—hell, it may even out do it—as his words on “Sonder,” “Crooked Path” and “The Remedy” are some of metalcore’s best in a long time, likening the band to their US comrades, Currents.
The Mortal Coil, in some ways, might come off as “another metalcore record” if you don’t take the time to listen to it closely. Doing so much more than contrived patterns of clean singing and breakdowns, Polaris take catchy tracks and give them cruel, crunchy heaviness—and vice versa—making The Mortal Coil a varied and vicious release that covers so much ground in just about 45 minutes that it’s almost impossible to believe they did it without sounding choppy, forced or insincere. Polaris’ latest record is a fluid, immersive and near-flawless display of contemporary heavy music that demands to be more than heard, but rather, experienced.
For Fans Of: Architects, Spirit Breaker, Northlane, Currents
By: Connor Welsh