Polaris have just achieved what was once unthinkable – a gutsy, punishing metalcore album swiping the victory of #1 in the ARIA albums chart ahead of albums in all other genres. Tonight, they are bringing the house down at Fortitude Music Hall for the Brisbane leg of their ‘Fatalism’ album tour with a collection of international metalcore and hardcore heavyweights in tow, in the form of August Burns Red, Kublai Khan TX and Currents. It’s the album tour of every metalcore fan’s wildest dreams. But with the terrible weight of Ryan Siew’s recent passing, there was every possibility that it would not go ahead. In spite of all the odds, and with a strength that defies belief, Polaris have persevered, driven by their desire to honour their brother with a tour that no one present to witness it will ever forget.
Flickering strobe lights announce the chunky riffs of Connecticut’s Currents, who deliver a tight, intense performance that packs a real punch for the opening act. A solid mosh breaks out immediately as the five-piece’s satisfying grooves get us moving. There are a couple of tech issues with the live mix – vocals are a little low in some places – but the band more than compensates for this with barrels of energy, particularly bassist Christian Pulgarin who powers through some peppy dance moves that are fun to watch. Currents already have more than a few fans here as the crowd sings along to belters such as Remember Me and Better Days. They’ve set up the stage with a riser right at the front which becomes the unofficial riser for guitar and bass solos – an effective way to easily show off those axeman chops. Fight pits continue to seethe, and a wall of death towards the end of the set indicates that the crowd is good and ready to mosh all night long. It’s a short and sweet set, but Currents have certainly delivered tonight.
Next up is the Southern, hyper-masculine aggression of hardcore favourites Kublai Khan TX, complete with a continuous barrage of dog barks for additional primal flavour. In clear anticipation of the carnage to follow, a wall of death forms as soon as the quartet takes the stage. It’s a strong start to the set, and the mosh just disintegrates from here on in as everyone throws fists to the brutish, brash hardcore chugs. It’s striking how much testosterone-fuelled anger and swagger can emanate from a one-guitar rhythm section, and it’s firing up the crowd as massive fight pits and chants en masse abound. It’s the most Texas display ever, and the band knows it – more than that, they dive in headfirst. Two of the lads from Thy Art Is Murder are subbing in tonight for band members that couldn’t make the tour, and frontman Matt Honeycutt seems to have embraced the Aussie within him as he proudly announces “we’re not here to fuck spiders”. Wrapping up the chaos with banger Antpile, the mosh pit has well and truly descended into what I can only describe as a dog pit. Arf arf.
The mosh regains some semblance of control as we are mesmerised by the unrelenting shreds of metalcore legends August Burns Red, who burst out onto a stage bathed in red lights – how fitting. The five-piece barrel in with a formidable sound mixed to perfection, driven by terrifying harsh vocals, crunchy guitars and razor-sharp drums. As veterans of the genre, these guys are showing us how it’s done, delivering a performance that is slick and polished yet mercilessly brutal. Growing circle pits match the intensity of the sonic onslaught, and I am truly blown away by the sensational guitar solos demonstrated particularly by lead guitarist JB Brubaker, who is a wonder to behold. In Backfire, frontman Jake Luhrs declares that “we’ve gotta warm it up in here” and orders the crowd surfing to begin, an order that is gleefully obeyed by the rowdy crowd. The thunderous power of their sound is striking as the band smashes through bangers spanning their 20-year career, including the classic Composure. Paramount generates a floor-wide circle pit that culminates in half the mosh falling into a row pit. It’s a brilliant set from these luminaries, who will hopefully be back on Australian shores before long.
Now, it’s time. A ghostly light emanates from the stage amid deafening cheers from the crowd. The tension builds as Jake Steinhauser’s mournful vocals resound in opening track Harbinger, and it feels like you could cut the air with a knife. As soon as the riffs kick in, the mosh kicks off, and it’s widespread chaos. Right from the getgo, Polaris captivates us with a flawless performance and crushing live mix that is indistinguishable from their records as they dominate the stage. Nightmare gets a floor-wide jump pit going instantly, and the energy in the room rises to feverish heights as circle pits swirl like a cataclysm during Hypermania. In addition to the stunning light show, smoke jets punctuate the crash of riffs, giving the impression of cannons firing.
With Regards inspires the return of the crowd surfers with its jubilant melodic choruses contrasting with brutal grooves. Thousands of voices chant along to older bangers like Lucid and Landmine as the pit seethes with uncontrollable intensity, driven by a seriously chunky bass tone and strong, sharp snare hits that land like knives. Frontman Jamie Hails assures us that this is a safe space, then bids us to summon the tornado with a massive circle pit, and the atmosphere is truly electrifying. True to its name, Overflow is a real tearjerker live; the chorus really hits you in the feels as the band play solemnly from the risers.
There’s a brief period of silence, and then Hails pays a touching, heartbreaking tribute to Ryan – “you don’t know how much it hurts to not have you here with us, brother”. You can feel the pain in every syllable he utters, and the crowd stands transfixed, each and every one of us moved beyond words. Martyr, the band’s musical tribute to Ryan, is already a powerful song, but tonight, it unleashes an ocean of emotion as the crowd raises their phone lights up to the heavens. Then in Parasites, the mosh tornado gains momentum until a colossal wall of death explodes during Consume. Every time I’ve heard that track live, it hits with such immense force that I feel it in every cell in my body, and tonight is no different. The breakdowns during Dissipate land like the hammer of Thor, low and punishing, until the catchy Masochist gets a party pit going. Inhumane stirs up a searing maelstrom of rage, complete with an incredible guitar solo. Finally, we are treated to two much-loved belters for encores in the form of Pray For Rain and The Remedy, and if punters aren’t moshing violently, they’re singing at the top of their lungs.
As a seasoned metalhead, I’ve attended my fair share of gigs and jumped in more mosh pits than I care to remember. But never before has one particular show affected me on such a deep emotional level. Tonight we have witnessed history in the making – an unprecedented moment for Australian heavy music in which a little band from Sydney’s southern suburbs conquered the world in a stunning triumph over heartbreaking adversity. Vale Ryan Siew, and long may Polaris reign as kings in the metal world.
Thanks to Dallas Does PR + Destroy All Lines