Live Review + Photos: POLARIS at Northcote Social Club, Melbourne, 21/10/17

Over the last eighteen months or so, a lot of people (including myself) have been touting Polaris as the next big thing in Australian heavy music—and for good reason! The band have proved themselves time and time again to be one of the most talented and professional acts on the Australian circuit. Hardcore and metalcore types like to talk up the community aspect of their respective scenes, which was why it was great to see the New South Welshmen taking out some other exciting, up and coming acts from all ends of the country, even if the end relsult only went to show why Polaris themselves are so far ahead of the game.

The most junior members of the line-up, Daybreak came across about as well as you’d expect any inexperienced, meat and barely-any-potatoes deathcore act might. Like every act of the night, the band suffered from technical difficulties and a PA system that seemed to have trouble dealing with more than one vocalist than a time, and the resulting muddy sound robbed the Perth act (and an early appearance from Polaris frontman Jamie Hails) of a lot of their power. The Western Australains are a young act who are still finding their feet, and this tour marked the first time they’d ever played material off their new EP outside of their home state. Yet, even while it may not have been entirely their fault, the set also seemed largely characterised by the band constantly demanding the audience move while giving them little reason to do so.

Of all the support bands on the night’s bill, Deadlights seem by far to be the most promising. Although heavily steeped in the hardcore side of things, they boast an eclectic sound that kept the crowd on their toes and the band’s passionate delivery—lead by frequently-rotating frontman Dylan Davidson—won more than a few fans to their cause. The one major factor holding the Brisbanites back, however, is their insistent interjection of clean vocal sections into songs that really don’t need them. Clean vocals can prove a powerful addition within a metal/hardcore setting, but they needn’t be included in every song, especially when they take such a distracting and often detracting form. With the exception of the masterfully-crafted “Wavelengths” and “Invisible Hands,” the clean sections seemed to do a lot more harm than good to what was an otherwise impressive set. While guitarist Tynan Reibelt pulls off a convincing Ahren Stringer impression his contributions are largely monotonous and also seemed to employ the same sort of vocal pattern each time around. These sections were often also paired each time with a lull in the musical surroundings, so that rather than punching up the songs they often did away with what momentum the band had built up beforehand. Nevertheless, Deadlights proved the most interesting and engaging of the support acts on the night and as soon as they can find a better fit for the clean sections they could be real contenders.

Hometown representatives, and fellow Greyscale Records hopefuls, Belle Haven proved a more polished package. David De La Hoz is a noticeably more accomplished vocalist than those who came before him and the fact that he plays both harsh and clean rolls in a single package only made the feat even more impressive. Their set was a solid and enjoyable one. Yet, for all their polish, they also seemed to lack the fire of Deadlights before them, and what impression they made got largely swept up in the anticipation of what was to come.

Polaris left absolutely no doubt as to why they were billed as both tonight’s headliners and the next great hope of Australian metalcore. They had the biggest beatdowns, the hugest choruses and the most memorable songs of the night by an absolute mile—all delivered with a passion and expertise born from the many miles they’d put in previously. I know I say it every time, but Jamie Hails really is an incredible and compelling frontman—perhaps the best to hit the scene since Parkway Drive’s Winston McCall—and tonight proven no exception. Although this was the biggest headline set his band had ever played, Hails commanded the crowd like a seasoned veteran, and he even threw in a David Lee Roth-style scissor kick during the encore. As well as being one of the most talented acts on the scene, Polaris are undeniably one of the hardest working as well. This was their fourth show in Melbourne this year and over the course of the last twelve months guitarist Ryan Siew has gone from playing largely with his back to the crowd to greeting it head on, and the rest of the band likewise oozed the kind of confidence and command that only comes with experience.

Along with already-released singles “The Remedy” and “Collapse,” the crowd were privy to two new tracks (“Lucid” and “Frailty”) from the band’s exceptional debut record, The Mortal Coil, due to be released next week. Each of these new numbers saw the audience whipped up into a frantic circle pit, and “Collapse” closed-out the basic set before the encore of “Hold You Under” with a vicious wall of death that pushed the limits of what the humble venue could contain. Polaris are about to head off to Europe, and once they return—with all the experience an international tour entail and an outstanding new record under their belt—you can be sure that they won’t be playing smaller venues like this anymore.

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Written by Joshua Bulleid

Joshua Bulleid lives in Melbourne and enjoys reading books with spaceships and robots in them. He also likes death metal.

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