24 Feb Polaris ‘The Death Of Me’ (Album Review)
I think there’s a genuine argument to be made that a bands sophomore album is harder to write than ones debut. The second album blues is a very real thing and its brought upon by the expectation set from a band’s debut release. Taking that in consideration Sydney outfit Polaris have unintentionally set themselves a mammoth task in following up 2017s ‘The Mortal Coil’. An album that not only won Backbones album of the year award, but is now constantly used as a benchmark in Australian heavy music.
Since the release of ‘The Mortal Coil’ Polaris have been going from strength to strength touring relentlessly and pushing firmly on their quest for world domination gaining worldwide acclaim in the process. So when the announcement for this album came I was worried that the band didn’t leave themselves enough time to craft there follow up, but alas here we are. So with expectations at an all time high let us dissect the new offering from Polaris, ‘The Death of Me’.
‘Pray for Rain’ opens up proceedings and straight away it feels like the Polaris we know and love picking up from where they left off. The track takes its time to build feeling much more like a traditional opening track as oppose to the kick you in teeth opener ‘Lucid’ off their debut. Constantly changing, constantly evolving with the final minute feeling like an epic conclusion to a Marvel movie.
Moving away from there conventional sound we have ‘Hypermania’ which is a three minute shot of pure adrenaline borrowing obvious influence from one of my favourites bands, ‘Every Time I Die’. The song is urgent and is expertly crafted from beginning to end, I just wish there was another track or two with a run time under three minutes. I think it would’ve helped with the overall flow of the album.
‘Masochist’ is an instant classic being one of Polaris’ most quotable songs to date. Huge chorus with an equally impressive bridge is straight up goose bump inducing, with all the key ingredients for a certified banger this is guaranteed to be fan favourite for years to come. ‘Landmine’ starts like something off the latest ‘Slipknot’ record and explodes into a surprisingly metal track for the most part. A beautiful solo capped off by an unrelenting blast beat just a reminder of how heavy these guys can get. Although I could’ve done without the gang vocals in the chorus.
I think it’s the next three tracks that will dictate your overall opinion of the album. I’ve heard people say that this portion drags and I’ve heard people say it’s their favourite part of the entire record. For me I feel somewhat undecided, ‘Vagabond’ provides a great nu metal feel throughout with some impressive guitar work especially in the southern hardcore/nu metal hybrid crescendo towards the back end of the track.
The overly used song title ‘Creatures of Habit’ feels like a classic case of too many cooks in the kitchen. I love two thirds of the ideas on this track but it’s the final third that holds it back for me making it feel a little messy overall. ‘Above My Head’ contains one of my favourite choruses and has some classic Polaris fiddly guitar work (I think that’s the technical term for it). My only gripe would be the needless breakdown that adds nothing to the track and could’ve shaved thirty seconds off the run time.
Now we get to the best tracks on the album, ‘Martyr (Waves)’ & ‘All Of This Is Fleeting’ are perfect examples of everything coming together to create something truly special. Sonically and lyrically it feels like a new peak for the band with the latter being my personal favourite track on the record. It feels fresh it feels like a band determined to push themselves forward. Jake Steinhauser gives off a huge Chester Bennington vibe circa ‘Minutes to Midnight’ era and the balance that he and Jamie Hails have on this cut is unrivalled.
For all that this album does well ‘The Descent’ feels like weakest offering that overstays its welcome. Nothing new gets presented and it actually is the same feeling I got after listening to the closer on ‘The Mortal Coil’ with the song ‘Sonder’. It feels like the band are stuck between going for the big epic closer and trying to write just another banger with the result feeling quite hollow.
The performances from everyone feel top notch, not enough people talk about much Jamie has improved as vocalist with his enunciation being as clear and concise as ever. Jakes hook writing feels as strong as ever and it feels like he adds new strings to his bow on this record applying different techniques and not being afraid to take risks. Instrumentally everything is stellar with a crisp and punchy production pulling everything together.
‘The Death of Me’ is such a difficult album to summarise. Some will reject this album because of an unattainable expectation they set in their mind, but for me it’s difficult to compare to their debut because it simply feels different. Polaris expand their genre pool but some might think they genre hop a bit too much. Part of this album feels stripped back compared to ‘The Mortal Coil’ and in certain parts it works and certain parts not so much.
Personally this album for me is a more consistent body of work and only time will tell how it holds up. Second album blues this is certainly not and it’s honestly so exciting to be a part of this journey with the band. Polaris will continue to grow as there worldwide takeover takes its form, the shows are getting bigger, the scope is getting wider and the band feel like they’re taking it all in stride. This is progress.