When it comes to second albums, it's often said that you've got your entire life to write your debut and then six months to write the follow-up. It's meant to reflect on maintaining momentum at a crucial time to avoid the dreaded Second Album Syndrome, but it's worth taking into consideration the first point. Debut albums are definitive – you only ever get one, and it's easy for such a thing to go awry if it's not handled properly.
This was something not at all lost on Polaris, one of the most promising up-and-coming heavy acts in Australia. For the Sydney natives, they had to be absolutely certain of themselves before they were able to proceed with any kind of confidence into album territory. “It was a bit of a daunting process to begin with,” confesses Rick Schneider, one of the band's two guitarists.
“There's something very all-encompassing about a debut album. As much as we enjoyed recording and releasing our two previous EPs, it was always something that was in the back of our minds. It was the next big step. Even if you don't want it to be, it lingers there. The way we approached it was quite similar to the way we went about the last EP [2016's The Guilt and The Grief]. The key differences were that we had to double it – obviously, given the length of an album – and that we were taking into account everything that we had learned from that process. I feel like we managed a lot better because of that.”
Polaris' debut album, The Mortal Coil, was recorded earlier in 2017 after roughly a year of pre-production. Rather than recording among the hustle and bustle of the city, the quintet instead relocated to the coastal surrounds of Mollymook, some 200 kilometres south of Sydney. “The idea of recording in a house is one that we've always kind of been intrigued by,” says Schneider regarding the band's decision to try out an unconventional recording surrounds.
“We've done our fair share of recording at studios, but we found ourselves doing a lot of the pre-production for this album at one another's houses. It's an environment we're pretty comfortable in now – Sonny [Truelove], who produced our last EP, has a home setup that he uses a lot. We figured that if we were flying out producers to work with us on this record, it would make a lot more sense to do a home recording than shelling out more for a studio – especially because we knew what we were doing. With our gear combined with theirs, we ended up with a pretty impressive little setup to record with.” Schneider is also quick to praise the scenic south-coast location, saying the environment helped a lot with keeping morale up for the band. “There'd be times where the cabin fever was really going to set in,” he says. “Thankfully, we all had our own bedrooms; and a view out the window that looked right over the ocean from the top of a cliff. It was incredibly relaxing.”
The two producers Schneider refers to are Carson Slovak and Grant MacFarland. Having worked on records by bands such as August Burns Red and Texas in July, the duo are no strangers to making slick, heavy records. This was a clear match made in heaven between the two and Polaris, whose material up to this point has been closely aligned with such an aesthetic. The Mortal Coil sees them reiterate such an approach, but also develop it further than either of their previous releases. “Pretty much the entire sound of this record was concocted with us on hand for it,” Schneider explains.
“We've picked up a lot from our previous recording experiences, and I feel like making this record was the first time we've gone into making something where we had a very clear idea of how to achieve the sound that we wanted. We were using all of our own gear, and we were using Axe-FX for all of our guitar sounds. It was a much more involved and hands-on process for us. At the same time, we had two new producers – and neither were ever short on ideas. It was a really positive position for us to find ourselves in.”
One thing Polaris were acutely aware of going into the recording of The Mortal Coil was the omnipresent issue of standing out. Now more than ever, there's a metalcore band spin-kicking on every street corner, most with roughly about as much substance as the Architects tank-top they're wearing. For Schneider, it's a tricky one to navigate in terms of having a stamp of identity – but not impossible. “With metalcore, it's pretty tricky to have an absolutely distinct and unique sound,” he says. “The genre has so many assets these days, as well. It's about going with your inspiration, but never being so callous as to completely rip an artist off. There's a song on the album called 'Consume,' for example. We wrote that because Daniel [Furnani, drums] wanted to do a song where the riffs were done in the style of Lamb Of God. I was like, 'Alright, let's see what we can do.' That's all it took. It sounds like us, but it came from a very clear source of inspiration – that's what you've got to try and do.”
The Mortal Coil is out on Friday November 3 through Resist Records/Sharptone. Catch Polaris on tour throughout Australia this month.