Polaris – ‘Fatalism’

By Fiachra Johnston

As the last notes of ‘All In Vain’ hit with thundering closure, you begin to see how Australian metalcore outfit Polaris have so quickly made themselves a staple of the scene both at home and abroad. However ‘Fatalism’, their third record, is not a celebration of success, rather it is an acknowledgement of pain, with its context moulded by the experiences of the last three years. Yet it’s also not an insular moment of lamentation, meant only to express the fear and grief of the band. There is something here that everyone will relate to, world experiences of life and suffering that will resonate with anyone who has doubted themselves and their place in life. ‘Fatalism’ investigates catharsis through despair like only Polaris can, with wholly triumphant results. 

It’s not hard to see how much emotional weight the quintet have put into this album. The clean vocals of ‘Overflow’ slowly scale through the verses into these heartbreaking gasping roars at the emotional apex of the song. ‘With Regards’ channels some emo guitar lines into its instrumentals, matching the morose lyricism of Jamie Hails to make for an especially emotional moment on the album that will sadly take on more meaning than intended at its inception – “I never understood the things you faced, the path you had to take”. ‘Aftertouch’ slows it down and uses some alien-like electronic elements to add even more contrast to a track that feels uniquely separated from the rest of the album. Hails and guitarist/backup vocalist Jake Steinhauser shine in these moments, the wailing cry of “I fall away” giving rise to even more fantastic guitars.

A lot of effort has been put into finding a balance between those stinging instrumentals that drive Polaris’ core sound, and the alternative sounds and styles they toy with throughout that both complement and enhance it. The opening track ‘Harbinger’, is defined by a simple yet venomous guitar line but the low industrial electronic rumble and dreamy keyboard notes that encompasses them add so much body to the track. ‘Parasites’ seems to be nothing but wild energy on the surface, but its chorus is beautifully layered with some manic electronic effects, lending an almost drum n’ bass intensity throughout that adds weight to the anxiety-inducing breakdown that follows. 

These aren’t the kind of changes that completely reinvent their sound, but they exemplify how the band are able to make their already unique blend of rock and metalcore sound with such subtle changes, and how confidently they seem to dip into these new styles without compromising their original vision. Lead single ‘Inhumane’ is the most traditionally “Polaris” sounding track on the album and even it gets some eerie touch ups thanks to the alarm-like synths that linger in the background. 

At times this stylistic variance is minimal within the instrumentation, but can still be felt in the energy exuded by each track. ‘Dissipate’ is the most aggressive of the record, taking Polaris’ more traditional sound and simply cranking up the tempo to create a wholly serviceable 2000’s deathcore piece. ‘The Crossfire’ adds layers upon layers to create a wall of sound, while ‘All In Vain’ closes out the album’s ongoing tension with an explosive release with the record’s most violent melody as a result. They aren’t the record’s most impactful songs, but they again show how much Polaris can experiment with by using so little. 

For those who know just how much Polaris have fought through over the course of the past few years, ‘Fatalism’ will be an especially difficult listen, but even casual listeners will see the five of them wear their hearts on their sleeves throughout. The band’s open embrace of fear as both a divider and a unifier has borne some intoxicatingly beautiful moments on this album, and every listener will take something different away from each gut-wrenching, melancholic moment. What isn’t open to interpretation is how masterfully each member of Polaris has played their part, delivering a record that is as quietly hopeful as it is despairing, and though the tragic passing of guitarist Ryan Siew has altered how many will perceive these eleven tracks, it serves as both a beautiful tribute to one of the industry’s most inimitable musicians, and a fitting next step forward for a band who only keep getting better and better

FIACHRA JOHNSTON

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