Polaris: The Death of Me – Album Review

Australian heavy hitters, Polaris, have been on an atmospheric rise through the music scene following the release of their debut LP, The Mortal Coil, in 2017. Since that great step, they have moved on to supporting metalcore giants on international tours such as Parkway Drive and Architects. Over the past three years, the band has started to become a household name around the world, leading to their most recent sophomore release, The Death of Me, through Sharptone Records. With this massive success and big shoes to fill with their next release, the question stands as to whether this album lives up to the hype that fans and critics alike have created.

PHOTO CREDITS: SANDRA MARKOVIC

Following the release of their new record, Polaris have continued to roll through with their signature sound. Presenting huge choruses, beautiful melodies, both ambient and technical riffs, as well as crushing breakdowns blended throughout nearly every track, there is something for almost everyone in this particular heavy music scene to enjoy.

The opening track of the album, Pray for Rain, begins with a haunting atmospheric guitar melody, as vocalist, Jamie Hails, opens with the lyrics, “At the mantle of the heart, a river flows inside. We drain ourselves in steady streams until the river runs dry.” As the track progresses, Hails’s aggressive vocals paired with singing from bassist, Jake Steinhauser, over hard hitting riffs, leads, and aforementioned crushing breakdowns provided by the guitars, not to mention bouncy drums, make this song a powerful opener that sets a high bar for others that follow later on in the record.

In an interview with AltPress, breaking down the album track by track, drummer Daniel Furnari says Pray For Rain introduces the album with the idea that we all begin our lives with a reserve of positive energy within us, an innate source of hope and faith in human goodness, which throughout our lives is drained and dried up as we’re exposed more and more to the darker truths of the world, leaving us either cynical and jaded or broken and victimized.” foreshadowing themes of the lyrical content of the remaining 9 tracks.

Track 2, Hypermania, is figuratively a descent into madness through audio form, with vocalists Jamie Hails and Jake Steinhauser screaming their hearts out in this short, yet aggressive, track about the fear of losing your own mind. With a sound reminiscent of southern tinged metalcore, this song marks a change in sound for the young act and, lands with a great execution that gives off high energy throughout the song. With a hard hitting breakdown prefaced by the lyrics “I’m only here because it’s harder to feel than to numb what is real, but I know by now that this state of mind is just a waste of time and it’s turning me inside-out”, the track spirals out of control with the eerie lead work played over a powerful Beartooth-esque riff, further showcasing the themes of insanity presented within.

Similar to Track 1, the third track of the album Masochist opens with an ambient lead riff with Hails singing before building into a powerful ballad-like chorus. Framing the theme of masochism through sabotaging your own mental health, the chorus opens with the lyric “Am I addicted to this misery? Is this how I’ll always be?” This track touches upon the metaphors presented in the opening track and highlights negative aspects of the lives we live, stating that sometimes the things we hold closest to us are the very same things that harm more than they help.

 

Contrasting the more melodic sound of track 3, the fourth track of the album Landmine is balls to the wall heavy and anthemic in nature, with lyrics about the realization that the world doesn’t exist as your own, and how you are on your own in life, as everyone has their own motives and they don’t care if you succeed or fail, arguably a common revelation that many young adults have to reach. Ultimately the message of this song is that if you don’t take control of your life you’ll become an outsider to yourself and have to live through a life that you never asked for, while also being a sarcastic celebration of this realization and asking yourself where to go from here. Between a dark and heavy instrumental, shred-filled solo, and aggressive vocal delivery this song is incessant and Polaris really drive their point home until the end of the song.

Track 5, Vagabond, is a song about not feeling like you belong anywhere and have nowhere to truly call your home, which is a personal track to the band, as they all noted they began to feel like this after the extensive touring they’ve done over the last 3 years since their debut album’s release. A track that expresses many different influences colliding together into a melting pot of genres, this song’s most memorable moments are the bouncy, chromatic intro riff, also reused as a verse riff later in the song, and the huge chorus where Steinhauser sings “Find your peace in a place unknown and see the world in shades of monochrome. You don’t have to walk alone to know what it feels like when nowhere feels like home”, letting the listener know that if you feel like an outsider and don’t have a home, you’re never truly alone, because there are people that experience these same feelings every day.

Track 6, Creatures of Habit (my personal favorite), starts with a lo-fi guitar track and singular snare hits as Steinhauser screams “Can’t you see I’m not your enemy?”, before the whole band comes in. A high energy track with a strong chorus driven primarily by the melodic guitar leads with the lyrics “The night forgives and the day forgets. We paint ourselves in our past regrets”, this song is about how humans are “creatures of habit”, and these habits are sometimes ultimately our demise as they tear us apart. The band expressed that while writing/recording this album they were all put under excessive stress due to the pressure of members pushing each other to produce material, paired with the inability to agree on certain things, resulting in the very thing that brought them all together and made them work as a team now acting as a wedge and tearing them apart.

Track 7, Above My Head, is a more melodic track with an almost happy sounding instrumental in a major key, with lyrics that take on a double meaning. It parallels the band’s fears and anxieties about diving into the process of writing/recording the album with a conversation between two lovers about their uncertainty of the future and the pressure that these things place upon them. Daniel, drummer and primary lyricist for Polaris says that the track “can also be read as a combination between the two—a confession from us to our loved ones about finding it hard to cope with what we were doing at the time.”  This song is the most-melody driven out of any on the album, with guitar being the forefront between the bouncy riffs and melodic leads over the chorus and a tasteful solo provided by guitarist Ryan Siew during the bridge before the final chorus and is a close-second for my favorite track.

Track 8, Martyr (Waves), marks a departure in sound for the band as it is the softest track they’ve released with very pop-tinged elements such as the softly song verses and electronic percussion at points. The track presents a heavy contrast between the verses and choruses as the verses are soft and ambient in nature, while the chorus is explosive with soaring vocals. This song shows both vocalists coming out of their comfort zones with Steinhauser singing the softer verses in his lower register, and Hails singing the soaring chorus melodies. Familiarity is re-established with the solo after the second chorus and Hails’s screamed vocals over the bridge leading into the outro filled with ambient guitar playing harmonics over the main guitar line, which soon fades away into only the main guitar and Steinhauser singing the closing lines of the song. This track while being one of my less-listened to, is the most interesting to me due to what Daniel Furnari had to say in his interview with AltPress. You can read his comments on this song below:

“It actually took me a while to work out what I was really trying to say with these lyrics, and I guess there’s more than one meaning to this song. On one level, it’s about the roles that we all occupy in the lives of the people around us—the need to be a good family member, a good partner, a friend, a parent, a worker, a creator, a person—all of these people that we try to be at once, and in the process, we can end up losing track of who we are and forget to care for ourselves. On another level, I also started to realize this song encapsulated something I’ve been feeling for a while about my role as a writer. Over the last few years, I’ve had these amazing conversations and messages with people about what music means to them personally, and as wonderful as it is, it has also created this strange weight that I now carry. There’s a pressure that comes with knowing that people will look for meaning in what you say and apply it to themselves and a sense of responsibility to express sentiments for people that maybe don’t quite know how to put it into words yet themselves. I try to shut it out and focus on writing for myself because it can just be too much to carry, and that kind of thinking can cloud your judgment, but every now and then, it just crashes down on me like a wave. “

Track 9, All of This is Fleeting, marks a return to form for the band after the previous track of the album. This track opens with a clean delay part reminiscent of Neo Seoul by After the Burial and then dives into a full band intro driven by chords and a bouncy riff leading into the first verse. The rest of the song is reminiscent of Dusk to Day from their debut album yet heavier, as the first verse is Steinhauser singing leading into a soaring pre-chorus before a chorus shared by the Steinhauser brothers, rounded out by bouncy riffs and breakdowns that meet expectations of those familiar with the band. This song has a powerful meaning, questioning the importance of things we do and how little they may actually amount to in the grand scheme of things. Furnari wrote the lyrics to this song during one of his lowest points creatively as he thought about all the art that has come and gone through his life, and how much of it has truly stood the test of time and been remembered over the years. This album may have been well worth all the hard work put into it, and hope that it is one that the scene remembers for years to come as Polaris continues to grow.

The closing track of the album, The Descent, leaves the album in a dark, bleak place with lyrics based upon experiences of the band’s members, the song tells the story of a fictional narrator who awakens in a hospital after a traumatic event, struggling to accept what happened and fighting for control of his mind as he’s pulled in different directions by good/evil and life/death. With harmonic minor riffs, and the dark imagery expressed in this track, there isn’t much room for silver linings/hope of any sort. This track concludes the album perfectly tying up the story of Track 1 with the themes of the remaining tracks and ending the story of the narrator as he descends underground being pulled by one of the forces (most likely towards his death).

In conclusion, Polaris have not only met my expectations for a followup to their 2017 debut, but have soared above it and made an album that I will continue to listen to, and the band has cemented themselves within my top 5 favorite artists. Between the beautiful melodies, bouncy/techy riffs, crushing breakdowns and the well-written lyricism (not to mention the powerful vocal dynamic between Hails and Steinhauser) of this album, there’s not much room for complaints on my behalf as the musician within me is pleased entirely by the band’s efforts.

Listen to the album below:

  

Did you love the album? Did you hate it? Let us know in the comments below!

Polaris: The Death of Me – Album Review
In Conclusion
Pros
Stellar instrumentation
Powerful vocal delivery
Well-written lyricism
Cons
Album isn't longer
4.8

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