Polar - Nova | Album Review

It’s almost painful to think it’s been approximately a decade since Polar first charged headfirst into the scene. Young and wild, the group jumped into the chaotic fray that is the live circuit at the turn of the decade with a sound as wildly scrappy as it was abrasive. However, with the passing of time comes the gift of maturity and retrospective. Over the past few releases, Polar has honed their craft, turning their once adolescent frenzy of an art form into a sound that sits comfortably within the walls of post and melodic hardcore. Every record released so far has seen the band chronologically mature both personally and musically, with their forthcoming record Nova continuing this succeeding trend once more. Whilst Nova doesn’t attack the walls of the genre nor breaks new ground, it’s not required to, for Nova is Polar’s most confident, assured and focused record to date.

For those unknowledgeable, a nova is the astronomical phenomenon of a sudden burst of light, predominately caused by the birth or violent death of a star. According to the act, this name was selected for the album as the collective felt that this record stands as their most poignant and brightest material thus far. A tall claim indeed, one that is cliched as it is ambitious, but when digesting this record, it’s understandable why the band chose this moniker. There’s a level of urgent rawness to Nova, with the record serving as a therapeutic platform for vocalist Adam Woodford. Gone are the poorly handled and flimsy political messages found within their 2016 release.

As the slow burn of ‘Mære’ jumps into the flammable riffs of ‘Devil’, it becomes crystal that Polar have spent the past three years evaluating their previous offerings before reinventing themselves. Pyrotechnic bursts of fretwork dance around Woodford’s cragged, larynx tearing vocals as subtle flourishes of respectful electronics compliment the contrasts with their newly polished sound. ‘Cradle’ provides further evidence that Nova has simultaneously a greater scope and a pinpointed focus than it’s predecessors, with it’s massive gang vocals and modulated shimmering, all providing a delightful contrast to the gruff, hoarse and impassioned vocal delivery.

Despite Nova adhering to the conventions of melodic hardcore, with it’s colossal gang vocal choruses and it’s heft inspired the fury of traditional hardcore, it’s still separated from the hordes of insipid competitors due to it’s genuine passion. Authentic emotion is the very nucleus of this record, with Woodford laying bare his troubled coming of age, failures and anxieties. There’s a profound level of vulnerability, one that’s mirrored by a sense of much needed solace. From his strained roars and dehydrated bellows, we feel his search for condolence and peace. It’s a therapeutic exercise we can sympathise with and the stark honesty within this release is only highlighted by the periods of quiet reflection that bookmark this record.

Ambition and a notable willingness to experiment with the building blocks of the genre also play a pivotal role with this record. Despite the record never straying from the path paved by it’s forerunners and dedicating itself to the established ethos, Nova is speckled by moments of tasteful innovation. Amidst the passionate roars within ‘Drive’ lies a neon electronic backbone that would be right at home within a respectively tense scene of Stranger Things, ‘Amber’ chooses to successfully pursue a more tamed hard rock aesthetic and ‘Prey’ seductively flirts with nu-metal themes, only before plunging into a demolishing breakdown that’s set to be a riotous afar live. Whilst countless melodic hardcore acts have attempted to needlessly incorporate experimentation into their craft, Polar pull off their endeavours with finesse and taste, never shoehorning jarring elements into their already physically and emotionally savage sound.

In all, whilst it would be easy to suggest that this record would be another step up when considering the trajectory of their career, Polar have taken the necessary steps to reinvent themselves for the better. Whilst parallels can be drawn to many acts they share a scene with, such comparisons shall only be stated with acclaim and praise.

Score: 8/10

Nova is released April 5th via Nuclear Blast Records