Australian metalcore scene has been in a bit of a sorry state these last couple of years. The once burgeoning scene that gave us the likes of Parkway Drive, I Killed the Prom Queen and The Amity Affliction (when they were still good), has produced markedly less world class acts over the past half-decade or so. Maybe it’s just because I got older, but contemporary pack-leaders Northlane and In Hearts Wake—while fine for what they are—seem to lack the spark and excitement of those bands who emerged in the genre’s heyday during the mid-to-late 2000s. Maybe it’s also because the local scene has seen a pivot toward the more extreme realms of deathcore, with bands like Thy Art is Murder and Aversions Crown proving the country’s most remarkable exports of the modern era. Yet The Mortal Coil only goes to show that there’s still plenty of mileage left in the supposedly well-worn Aussie metalcore tank.
Polaris take the best aspects of those British genre acts still capable of making waves—Architects and Bring Me The Horizon; and roll them into one furious, compact package dashed with hints of Periphery and surprisingly welcome touches of nu metal. There’s nothing in play here that you essentially haven’t heard before, but the finesse and—more importantly—the passion with which the songs on The Mortal Coil are delivered render it a compelling listen that rivals even the better moments of their contemporaries’ more recent output. While the album maintains an impressively consistent level of quality throughout most of its duration, lead single “Consume” remains the star of the show. The track is simply a masterclass in modern metalcore, and its pummeling outro is likely to go down as the definitive moment in the band’s history. This isn’t to say that the rest of the album’s material is far behind, however. “Lucid” is a rager in the vein of Architects’ “Nihilist” that builds to an utterly gigantic crescendo, and the sheer compelling aggression of this opening number coupled with the massively hook-laden “The Remedy” ensures that The Mortal Coil gets its hooks in under your skin early on, and the record hardly lets up from there.
An easy criticism that might be leveled at the record is that it’s perhaps lacking in individuality. There’s no two ways about it, Polaris sound more or less exactly like Architects, especially on The Mortal Coil. There’s nothing essentially wrong with a band being a product of their influences, especially when their output is of this high a quality. However, until Polaris can find their own voice in among all the readily identifiable external elements that inform their sound, being “that band who sound like Architects” is always going to be the first thing anyone associates them with whenever their name is brought up (which it’s bound to be more and more so off the back of this release). The record’s weakest moment, if I’m forced to pick one, is probably its closing number “Sonder”. With this track, the band try their hand at the sort of cathartic composition Bring Me The Horizon have made a staple of their sound through phenomenal cuts like “Suicide Season” and “Hospital of Souls”. Yet Polaris never fully commit to the premise and the song itself is never truly given enough time to grow to full fruition, so that, for all its stirring and swelling, its abrupt ending ultimately winds up being anti-climactic. Nevertheless, while much of the album is essentially derivative, this is the only time it ever really feels like it is.
The Mortal Coil isn’t the kind of classic debut to rival Parkway Drive’s Killing With a Smile (2005), The Amity Affliction’s Severed Ties (2008) or even Northlane’s Discoveries (2011). Yet, the fact that it’s even being spoken of in the same breath as those landmark releases should give you some indication of just how much of a quality release this really is. Polaris really only do one thing, but they do it damn well, and far better than any of their ilk have done in what feels like a very, very long time.
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The Mortal Coil is out via Resist Records on November 3rd.