Live Review: Polaris, Melbourne 10/03/23

Polaris
(Image credit: Press/Supplied)

WHERE: 170 Russell, Naarm/Melbourne VIC
WHEN: Friday March 10th, 2023
REVIEW: Ellie Robinson

Cutting their teeth on gruff, angsty metalcore in PCYCs and pubs around Eora/Sydney – then the rest of the country, then (inevitably) the world – Polaris fast rose to their hard-earned stature as one of the most exciting bands in the scene; especially impressive since their first release came in 2013 (the rough-and-tumble Dichotomy EP, which hasn’t aged too horribly), when the second wave of metalcore was in the stages of fizzling out. So to celebrate their first decade of musical destruction, Polaris took to some (relatively) intimate theatres, a lineup of their closest local mates in tow, for a soul-splitting drag race down memory lane.

Up first were the Berrin/Mount Gambier-native Pridelands, whose transcendent blasts of prismatic energy – ebbing and flowing seamlessly between the atmospheric and cataclysmic – left us feeling paradoxically ravaged and revitalised. As you’d expect, the harder-hitting songs did the heavy lifting, with shredder Liam Fowler shining particularly bright on the frenzied ‘Heavy Tongue’ (a wallop of old-school post-hardcore flavours with a zest of modernity) and pit-primed ‘Antipathy’. We’d be remiss, too, not to gush over the entrancing chemistry shared between screamer Mason Bunt and singer Josh Cory, whose duet on ethereal closer ‘Evergrowth’ felt poignant and personal.

Pridelands left us on a lighter note, but Void Of Vision weren’t keen to keep that buzzing. The genre-bending brutes wasted no time in getting limbs whipping with the convulsive ‘Ohne Sicht’, sending Naarm/Melbourne a bold message: this might’ve been Polaris’ show, but this spotlight was theirs and theirs alone. Dressed like hell’s own Willy Wonka, frontman Jack Bergin traced the stage with a brooding malevolence, fully embracing the grisly, antagonistic atmosphere emboldened by his screams. The band as a whole were nothing short of phenomenal, saturating the bassy and rave-ready slant of their Chronicles disc with thick guitars and thundering drums; ‘Hell Hell Hell’ was an easy highlight, circle pits a requisite for its Slipknot-via-Prodigy-channeling breakdown.

Though they’d been cruelly outclassed by Void, the night’s headliners still delivered a crushing set of riffs and roars, spotlighting each of their four releases in chronological order. The longtime devotees among us made themselves known for Dichotomy cuts ‘Summit’ and ‘The Undertow’, matching their youthful enmity with spirited moshing. When the band moved onto songs from their 2016 breakout EP The Guilt & The Grief, that air of teen angst flipped to miasmic triumph, Polaris celebrating their mainstream eruption with the adrenalised fervour that caused it. 

That was only amplified for a showcase of their instant-classic debut album, 2017’s The Mortal Coil, with ‘Lucid’ and ‘The Remedy’ commanding singalongs that rivalled screamer Jamie Hails in raw force. But his aggression was impossible to crack when he and the band slammed into a showcase of their 2020 album The Death Of Me. Bodied by the pandemic, they weren’t able to properly celebrate the record upon its release. But they did more than make up for it here, belters like ‘Hypermania’ and ‘Masochist’ – the former seeing Bergin roll out for a dazzling guest spot (while Cory sung on ‘Hold You Under’ and Bunt joined Hails for ‘Consume’) – making 170 Russell feel like a testing lab for a new kind of sonically induced hurricane.

The set ended with the unreleased ‘Inhumane’, a preview of Polaris’ impending third album (due out later this year). It left us feeling a tad worried for the record, teasing less of an artistic evolution and more regression – but if any band can take our expectations and shatter them in the most beautiful and brutal of ways, it’s Polaris. Whatever the case, tonight’s career-spanning celebration reminded us of their inimitable strength as metalcore virtuosos, with their biggest and brightest years still to come.

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Ellie Robinson
Editor-at-Large, Australian Guitar Magazine

Ellie Robinson is an Australian writer, editor and dog enthusiast with a keen ear for pop-rock and a keen tongue for actual Pop Rocks. Her bylines include music rag staples like NME, BLUNT, Mixdown and, of course, Australian Guitar (where she also serves as Editor-at-Large), but also less expected fare like TV Soap and Snowboarding Australia. Her go-to guitar is a Fender Player Tele, which, controversially, she only picked up after she'd joined the team at Australian Guitar. Before then, Ellie was a keyboardist – thankfully, the AG crew helped her see the light…