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Polaris: Finding Peace in Fatalism, Comfort in Community & Strength in Each Other

Navigating the most tumultuous period of their lives with the music of a brand new album screaming out loud, the beloved metalcore group reveal the lasting impact of ‘Fatalism’ on them as a unit


Third Eye Visuals

[TW: Readers are advised videos featured in this piece contain images of Ryan Siew]

For ten years, Sydney’s Polaris have been establishing a legacy for themselves as one of the country’s most formidable groups within the heavy genre. 

Across two EPs and two studio albums, the band has shown a fearlessness in their output: a fusion of sonic and arrangements that represent a diverse series of personal and band tastes. 

Where their early EPs – 2013’s Dichotomy and 2016’s The Guilt & the Grief – showed early promise and gnarl from the group, Polaris were quick to amplify that early potential and prove their worth by the time debut album The Mortal Coil came calling in 2017. 

Its release brought Polaris their first ARIA nomination for Best Hard Rock or Heavy Metal Album, a feat the group would achieve again in 2020, with the arrival of their sophomore album, The Death of Me.

In the blend of powerful music and cathartic lyricism, Polaris holds a mirror up to the world and experiences unrolling around them at different points in their lives. A mirror that refuses to shatter, the Polaris perspective has never been afraid to strip itself bare in inspecting human vulnerability, complexity and nuance. 

Rage and fury can exist in the same space as peace and acceptance. Anxiety and fear can lead to liberation if viewed through a particular lens – it’s a lens that the third Polaris album, Fatalism, explores with distinctive poignancy.

The album is, to date, one of the most ambitious Polaris efforts to see release. Musically, the band has expanded their horizons in a way that redefines their core sound; for longtime fans, this is a collection of music to be devoured across many listens. And for newcomers to the fold, FATALISM provides a dark, heavy jump off point for what stands to be a chaotic discography ride.

The journey to bring this album to live is one that led Polaris to discover more about themselves and how they work together. For any relationship to reach a milestone such as ten years, there are bound to be moments of discovery that still wait in the wings, ready to reveal themselves in time. 

In the case of Polaris and Fatalism, these moments came during a creative process that saw the band switch up their songwriting approach – largely out of necessity. COVID forced the band to do more online sessions than perhaps they would have originally done which in turn, has made reflecting on the in-person writing trips they took, more significant.

“Some of the best synergy that we accomplished during the process of the album was probably on a couple of the recording trips that we took during the writing stages,” clean vocalist/bassist Jake Steinhauser remembers.

“We did a few of those across quite a decent amount of time in the year; sometimes they were separated by months and months. We locked ourselves away at a residence for sometimes as much as a week, up in the Blue Mountains. It was good for us because we had the internet, but we also weren’t distracted by our phones all the time, or what was around us. We learned moreso, that everyone has their own strengths.

Sometimes the synergy is there and sometimes you have to make it yourself, in that you can’t always expect certain ideas from certain people. Everybody has their strengths, and you have to lean into that and sometimes trust certain people with their vision for something, knowing that they probably know it a little better than you do. I really enjoyed those writing trips, and I think they’ll probably start becoming a more regular thing; we hadn’t really done those in the past. They turned out some really cool ideas.”

Cool ideas manifested into some of Polaris’ hardest hitting material to date; from the foreboding nature of album opener to “Harbinger”, to the straight up savage aggression of songs like “Dissipate” and “Parasites”. 

While some songs came together quickly, others took their time to iron out, as band members presented ideas that would be constructed and required to be pushed that little bit further. 

Again, being in a band as long as they have, has built the type of dynamic between Polaris members where they have become comfortable in pushing each other to reach their utmost potential. 

As drummer/lyricist Daniel Furnari explains, approaching an album process like this is exhausting but the pay off has been worth it, especially when you know your fellow bandmates are coming from a place of support and positivity.

“We find ourselves liking the same end product, but sometimes the demos sound different to each of us in our own heads,” he explains. 

“You have to take a little step back sometimes, from your own impression of just what’s there in the first demo, and let yourself believe what someone is telling you it can be in the long run. We go through this with every record but at the end of the day, we all do have so much crossover in our tastes. It’s about learning to trust each other in the moments where our tastes don’t fully align. Knowing that if someone else loves it, it’s got to be worth something, even if it’s not what you’re seeing initially. Trusting that that person is coming from a positive, constructive place. 

We all want the same goal, so when someone is saying, “I want you to work on this,” you remove yourself from the personal aspect of it, and keep working on it. Anytime we do that, it always winds up working in the end.”

The articulation of content and themes on Fatalism galvanises the already established status Polaris have made for themselves as songwriters. 

An innate technical flair meets lyricism that is emotionally switched on and highly intelligent – to speak with the musicians themselves, it’s immediately clear how much emotional labour has been poured into creating such an expansive and complete collection of work. 

The intensity of connection Polaris have with their work is an intensity that has permeated their fiercely loyal fanbase; a now-global fanbase who will have the rest of this year to soak Fatalism tracks up on live stages throughout Australia, Europe, UK and North America.

Touching on where an album like Fatalism sits alongside their other work, Schneider says the diversity of Polaris’ catalogue amplifies the band’s overall appeal. You don’t have to like everything, but more often than not, there will be a lane of Polaris music that heavy music fans can find satisfaction within.

“I see a lot of people say, “This song isn’t for me, I like this song,” it’s very rare for people to be like, “This song isn’t for me, I’m just over this band,” he says. 

“There is always a substitute, there is a choice. At least there is a choice. I don’t care if “Overflow” is not for you, because ‘Inhumane’ is. I don’t care that ‘Inhumane’ isn’t for you, because “Aftertouch” is.”

Adds Furnari, “I’ve started to notice recently how diverse our fans’ tastes are within our music. Some people are so adamant that one record is far better than the others. Some people are so adamant that it’s a different one. Some of them think that the very first thing we did when we’d only been a band for six months, is the best thing we’ve ever done. It’s so fascinating now, to realise how much they differ. It’s similar to us in the band, we all love the music we create, but we have different favourite songs.”

The release of an album like Fatalism, marks the beginning of a new chapter for Polaris, on a number of levels –  its arrival serves as both a triumph and bittersweet tribute.

The passing of guitarist Ryan Siew in June saw the fabric of the Polaris family unravel in a brutal way that even now, the band acknowledges they are still nowhere near the end of processing. 

The loss reverberated right throughout the heavy music community, both in Australia and internationally; an outpouring of grief from fans and fellow artists for the impossibly talented young instrumentalist reinforcing the power Siew wielded on every Polaris record he was part of – Fatalism makes no exception.

Siew’s presence on this album gives the listener some of brilliant highlights. The riff work on “Inhumane”, say, is exemplary of his musicianship: intense, masterful and relentlessly engaged. 

There’s no doubt that Fatalism‘s release carries with it additional emotional weight and significance, for the band and fans alike, but as Polaris have found in recent months; the strength the band has found in each other and the wider community has made moving forward, not just with this album cycle, but as a band, easier to navigate.

“When your unit literally gets shattered like the way it has, the most important thing is to pull together and prove to each other and yourselves, that you can still do it,” Furnari says. 

“I know that getting out there and doing what we know we’re good at is probably the only way to keep ourselves sane. To keep moving forward. That’s all we can really hope for, at this point, just to keep this thing going. That’s what we plan to do, there’s no plans to stop doing this.” 

“What was really difficult was seeing how much the fans and the listeners are hurting from what’s happened as well. Watching them go through it, it’s been heartbreaking for us,” he adds.

“But it’s shown us what kind of community we’ve cultivated over ten years. Just to have the support we have, makes us so grateful for the kind of people who are listening to us. I think there’s a reason they identify with what we do and the message we are hopefully sending. I really do feel that we have an empathetic and compassionate fanbase, who want to be there for us and be there for each other. As hard as this has all been, it has been beautiful to see that. I think that’s what is going to help us pull together over the next few months.”

Bringing Fatalism into the live Polaris realm offers up exciting possibilities of where the band can take things next. In continuing to move forward, continuing to explore new territory as a band, and holding each other close, the group stares down a new era with this dynamic record as its bedrock. 

It has been a challenging number of years that haven’t been without their curveballs. Yet in overcoming and finding gradual healing and peace, Polaris stands to emerge stronger together than before. 

“The most exciting thing for me is the shake up it’s going to bring to the set, the different styles we’re going to be able to include. The way that’s going to challenge some of us, myself and Jamie [Hails, vocalist], challenged ourselves a bit more to step out of our comfort zone on this record,” Steinhauser says. 

“We’re doing some vocal things that we would normally leave to one another, we’re singing in ranges we don’t normally take advantage of. It may not digest this way, but this album probably has some of the most difficult guitar and drum parts out of any record that we’ve ever written. It wasn’t necessarily the intention, but sometimes the parts that everybody clicks with, turns out to be an absolute pain in the ass to play.

It’s only rarely that it’s the entire song, but there are certain parts throughout the record that definitely required a bit of extra attention. We probably only feel like we’re truly nailing them once we’ve toured them a couple of times. It’s exciting to have new music out, see how it connects with people; to be able to download onto people what we went through over the past three years and have them go through it with us. We’ll come out of this album cycle a stronger performing band, than we did going into it.”

The road is therapy, Furnari muses. And if that is true, then Polaris have a long stretch of therapy ahead of them, as their packed schedule of shows is set to take in some of the biggest stages of their career, including Melbourne’s Margaret Court Arena and Sydney’s Hordern Pavilion; London’s Alexandra Palace and Le Bataclan in Paris. 

Harnessing that electricity that comes from playing live, bouncing off the fans in attendance, makes all of the anxieties, exhaustion and stress of the creative process melt away. 

The connection between the music, the artist and the fans, is integral to Polaris’ survival as a group. 

“It reminds you of why you became a band in the first place,” Furnari says. “When you’re at home writing music, you’re writing music, but when you’re on the road and playing every night, that’s when you’re actually a band. That’s why you did it in the first place, to go on the road and play shows – really live it. I really think that the live touring experience is the number one thing that makes you a band. 

Often, we’ve come out of these periods where we’re tearing our hair out, we’re exhausted, we don’t feel like we’ve accomplished something amazing. We’re so wrecked that we don’t feel like a unit. Then we go on tour, and we remember what a great unit we are.”

Polaris’ Fatalism is out now via Resist Records (AU)/SharpTone Records (ROW).

Polaris 2023 Australian Tour

With special guests August Burns Red, Kublai Khan TX & Currents

Tickets available via destroyalllines.com

Thursday, September 7th (18+)
Metro City, Perth, WA

Saturday, September 9th (All Ages)
Margaret Court Arena, Melbourne, VIC

Sunday, September 10th (All Ages)
Hindley St Music Hall, Adelaide, SA

Tuesday, September 12th (18+)
US Refectory, Canberra, ACT

Wednesday, September 13th (18+)
Bar on the Hill, Newcastle, NSW

Friday, September 15th (All Ages)
Fortitude Music Hall, Brisbane, QLD

Saturday, September 16th (All Ages)
Hordern Pavilion, Sydney, NSW