Already heralded as one of Australia’s biggest bands, and undoubtedly the flag bearers for our heavy music scene moving forward, the night of February 28th always loomed as a significant one for Sydney’s own Polaris. Off the back of THREE consecutive sold out Australian tours, and in the middle of a fourth to celebrate the release of their sophomore record The Death Of Me, the metalcore outfit descended onto a sold out Enmore Theatre to bring the chaos. Joined by Melbourne’s Alpha Wolf, along with dual international supports in the form of Japan’s Crystal Lake and Wage War from Florida, it was clear that those in attendance were up for a night of unprecedented havoc.
With a line that stretched outside the venue and around the corner, I took my seat as patrons scrambled into the venue, eager to cement a spot in the room before the entire floor filled out. Taking the stage first up, you’d hardly have known that Alpha Wolf were opening the show based on the reception that the group got. They went full throttle into their set with insane energy, and if all that was expected of the band was to warm the crowd up then they well exceeded expectations.
Playing songs from 2017’s Mono and their 2019 EP Fault, the band had punters flying all over the floor whether they were throwing down in the pit or crowdsurfing – but I guess that’s to be expected when your opener is one of the biggest up and coming heavy acts in the country. After treating the crowd to a brand-new song, the band closed their enormous set with “Sub-Zero”, and had a suitably sized wall of death to match. A befittingly tight set for the occasion, I’d put it right up there as one of the best opening performances I’ve ever seen.
Yet if I found Alpha Wolf’s set impressive (it absolutely was), I had no idea what was in store for me when Crystal Lake took to the stage. A band that I’d only ever heard good things about, I prepared for the set without expectation and unsurprisingly found myself blown away in a matter of moments. Opening with “Aeon” the Japanese metalcore giants were unrelenting from the outset – it had taken them 18 years as a band to finally get to Australia and you could tell they were not taking their visit for granted. After initial sound issues which saw the vocals seem to sit quietly in the mix were amended, the band seemed to have no issue winning the crowd over with their unremitting energy only forcing the onlooking crowd to watch on in awe.
I’ve never seen a band work so hard to put on the best set of the night, yet Crystal Lake might just have done it. Every member played with expertise, and the showmanship on display just made the performance into such a much more entrancing experience. Whether it was the synchronised stage moves or vocalist Ryo Kinoshita stomping across the stage, the emphasis that the band put into both musicianship and performance was obvious. With a set so diverse, I felt like I was watching a million different bands in the one set with no two songs that sounded the same. The band were undeniably dominant in their performance and it was one that I don’t think I’ll be forgetting any time soon. As they finished their set with “Apollo”, Kinoshita walked on top of the crowd all the way to the back and just like Jesus walked on water everybody looked on with about as much surprise in their eyes.
I’m not saying I would never want to be in the band that plays after Crystal Lake but I’d like to think that Wage War dread having to walk out onto the stage following the performance that the Enmore Theatre just watched. Opening their set with “Who I Am”, the Florida natives ran through a remarkably clean and refined set but personally, it failed to live up to the standard that both Alpha Wolf and Crystal Lake had set before them. By no means does that mean they put on a bad set, they performed with precision and have undoubtedly worked hard to have such a high standing in the international heavy scene, but there was something just very ‘meat and veg’ about the performance. Though the breakdowns throughout their songs sounded huge, and the crowd seemed to love what they heard, the band seemed to be formulaic in their performance and almost predictable. Following the energy of Alpha Wolf and the showmanship of Crystal Lake, Wage War’s very straightforward set was appeasing for myself at best.
As Wage War departed and the crowd waited in anticipation for Polaris to take the stage, the venue was clouded by a remarkably thick atmosphere in excitement for the set to come. Whether it was purely enthusiastic fans waiting to celebrate the release of The Death Of Me with the band, or the patrons in the room in acknowledgement of the feat that the band were about to complete, the Enmore Theatre was filled with electricity.
As lights dimmed and the crowd began to scream, there was no surprise to see the band open their set with The Death Of Me’s opening track in “Pray For Rain”. The perfect introduction to the set, the song built slowly, teasing a crowd teeming with excitement before it erupted into spectacular with an outburst from C02 cannons and an incredible light show to match. From the outset of their performance, Polaris raised the bar higher than it had been all night, with unmatched energy and a relentless focus on subjecting the crowd to the best show they had ever seen. The band flew straight into “Landmine”, with frontman Jamie Hails demanding a circle pit in front of him before the crowd complied immediately to his request.
Watching on intently, the set seemed to just fly past like a blur. Polaris were absolutely entrancing in their performance shifting away from their most recent album to deliver the one-two punch of “Crooked Path” and “The Slow Decay” from their debut album The Mortal Coil. With every song the band only grew into the set more, while the crowd only got more raucous to match. If the sheer number of crowdsurfers hurtling over the barrier wasn’t impressive enough, the pit that had opened and stretched almost the entire width of the floor was enough evidence that the night was going to be very wild.
Taking the time to pause briefly at various intervals throughout the set, the band picked their moments to stop and level with the crowd that had so loyally followed them for so long. Being the tour’s hometown show, anybody in the crowd was able to see just how grateful Polaris were for the opportunity they’d be given. Revealing at one point that the entire set was being recorded by triple j, the crowd only seemed to take their energy up a notch. At another point, Hails stopped to explain just how important the night was for the band, explaining that The Death Of Me had quite literally almost been the death of the band but to be on stage in front of a sold out Enmore Theatre made the entire experience worth it.
Continuing through songs off their two albums, the band’s live rendition of “Hypermania” was something to behold. With a circle pit about as huge as the song sounded live, it can’t be understated just how good that song’s chorus sounded live. Yet as incredible as it was, it couldn’t compare to how spine-tingling the performance of “The Remedy” was that followed. The sound of 2,500 people screaming along to “heavy hangs the air, heavy lies the beating heart” gave me goosebumps, yet what I experienced in that moment could have only paled in comparison to how it felt for Polaris. The live mix for the show also sounded incredible, with the drums sounding so supple and full while the guitars and bass sounded so exceptionally sharp. If there was one set you’d want recorded and immortalised for radio, there’s no doubt that this is the one to pick.
As incredible as the band had been to this point, it was their rendition of 2015’s “Unfamiliar” that truly put how far the band had come into perspective. From seeing the band at a sold out Red Rattler in 2016 on their tour for their EP The Guilt & The Grief, to seeing them at a sold out Enmore Theatre less than four years later, it was clear to see how much had changed. Hails proved he has well and truly grown into the role of frontman as he ruled over the crowd all night, putting both his clean and screamed vocals on full display for all to see, while bassist and vocalist Jake Steinhauser also showed just how much he’d developed. Guitarists Ryan Siew and Rick Schneider were equally fantastic, speeding through every riff with ridiculous precision while drummer Daniel Furnari belted on with unbridled accuracy.
As the set continued, the band shied away from other deep cuts instead focusing on songs from their two albums. Phone torches decorated the venue during “Dusk To Day” in what seemed like a much needed moment of reprieve for both the band and the crowd. As the set continued, it seemed like the crowd were struggling to keep up with the band who throughout their set never looked to take their foot off the gas. Like they had timed it perfectly, the opening riff of “Consume” woke the crowd up, before the band demanded a wall of death and got one that stretched all the way to the sound desk at the back of the crowd.
After the band departed the stage following “The Descent”, a solo Hails reappeared to express his overwhelming appreciation to the band’s family and friends in attendance. Thanking them for their patience and support over all the years, the crowd erupted in applause both for the band and their loved ones in what was the most heartfelt moment of the night.
As the rest of the band reappeared for their encore, the final punch of “Masochist” into “Lucid” truly bought the venue and the crowd down to its knees. With singalongs almost as loud as the band themselves, it once again became clear just how incredible of an achievement the band’s endeavours over the past few years are. As confetti cannons rained over the crowd, I’d like to believe it dawned on everyone how integral Polaris are for the future of heavy music not only in Australia, but across the entire world too. To say Polaris are the next big thing would be to do a major disservice to the band; they ARE the big thing.