REVIEW ROUND-UP: Polar, ten56., Dryad

Artwork for Polar’s ‘Everywhere, Everything’ - a close-up of what looks like ripples in sand, lit by a pink light


Everywhere, Everything

Polar’s tenacity among a relatively thankless melodic hardcore enterprise has always been one of their best qualities. Particularly now, with the conversation dominated by Casey’s return to the scene and the tunnel vision of plenty of punters in that direction, perseverance through sneaking out a new album with little fanfare is very on-brand for Polar. At the same time, their approach to hardcore hasn’t aged flawlessly, now more deeply lodged in cleaner, sweeping metalcore that’s been naturally depleting in oomph over time.

And withEverywhere, Everything, it’s unfortunately a casualty of that exact power-creep. Continuing from the more spacious cues of 2019’s Nova finds Polar expanding their scope even further, to where that arguably overtakes their better instincts in hardcore ferocity. As has become increasingly common, the guitars are generally more washed-out and hamstrung by a production style less encompassing of heft when it’s needed. Perhaps it’s the curse of Arising Empire finally catching up with Polar; subsumed by metalcore’s wide open space, songs like Dissolve Me simply don’t strike as hard when clad in such polish. It’s the difference made through songs like Burn and Gods And Heathens, which are far better at balancing more considerable viciousness with scale in the vein of While She Sleeps.

Following from that, it’s also worth acknowledging that, in the rankings of metalcore bands pulling every one of their punches and coming out with nothing to speak of, Polar are still leagues away from the bottom of that particular barrel. They still give off the impression of a band who know what they’re doing despite the less-than-ideal execution. Adam Woodford does a lot in that regard as a vocalist, the source of Polar’s firepower that hasn’t diminished despite what’s gone on elsewhere, and aided in the big gang backings that this band have always done well. There’s not a ton about these songs that lasts beyond the moment, but at least Polar feel equipped to own their size while they have it. Playing to hyper-huge emotionality is another calling card of theirs that hasn’t gone away, and while they’ve done better and had more resilience even in the recent past, Everywhere, Everything can generally hold its own.

Thus, a lot of the criticism is largely relative. Yes, it’s disappointing that Polar keep drifting away from their best style, but this isn’t a vertical fall either. Maybe it’s an attempt to nestle among the post-hardcore atmospherics of a band like Holding Absence, an endeavour that’s not entirely nailed-on but isn’t without merit either. Either way, it’s not the best look for Polar, though nor is it a straight nosedive into the quagmire of edgeless, personality-free metalcore. A good-not-great album is still a couple of rungs above that, and at least that counts for something, right?

For fans of: While She Sleeps, Architects, Holding Absence

‘Everywhere, Everything’ by Polar is out now on Arising Empire.

Artwork for ten56.’s ‘Downer Part 2’ - the band’s logo on a white background, with a sticker for the tracklist in the top left corner


Downer Part 2

Among the brain-smog caused by years of exposure to copious interchangeable -core bands, there’s a flicker of a memory that these guys were alright. For a nu-metalcore band, that is. They probably exhausted their genre’s idea pool on their last EP, making the inevitable sequel teased through its Part 1 suffix somewhat iffy to consider. Deathcore wedge can only get you so far, particularly when ten56.’s—ahem—‘selling point’ of Betraying The Martyrs and Uneven Structure alumni wasn’t the startup it could’ve been.

And yet, that’s a hypothesis proven undeniably wrong, if not sooner, then by the third track rls, a full-blown emo-rap song that’s a likely upper limit of contemporising the hard-headed swagcore of a band like Emmure. Not exactly a goal to strive towards, nor do ten56. wring out some hitherto untapped dimensionality from it, but their attempts aren’t bad all the same. Again, for what this is; the big reliance on speaker-rupturing low-ends in the guitars and bass is far more attuned to volume than anything close to precision. Outside of that unforeseen emo-rap moment, nothing is too out of the ordinary, though that’s also where it kind of works well. Perhaps it’s the slimmer confines of an EP that means ten56. aren’t buckling under their own weight, but this is a much more digestible stab at this sort of thing than usual.

From that perspective, the bludgeonings doled out wear their destructiveness and violent catharsis for all to see. Between the writing and a street-level presentation in the deep murk and bezels of uncomfortable glitches, ten56.’s acidic cannonballs have some significant power beneath them. Not a lot of precision, again—it’s kind of par for the course from a subgenre in which untargeted lashing out is its killer app—but also less of a propensity for downright embarrassment like their scene’s flagbearers. Emmure or Attila, this is not. There’s no caricature of ‘playing the villain’ here, seeing as Aaron Matts strikes as having shockingly little artifice for this sort of sound. The usual anger and ceaseless venting feels pretty genuine, or at least enough to where there’s no sniveling contempt just out of frame.

For what it’s worth, that’s a decent signifier of ten56. being at a higher rung than others around them. By nature of the sound, their stock is still drastically limited, but they aren’t actively kneecapping themselves either. This feels more or less straight-laced for deathcore like this, focused on cratering heft and convincing venom that, for now, is enough. The omnipresent torrent of deathcore continues with ten56., a band closer to the top than they are being dragged down with the rest of the jetsam.

For fans of: Emmure, Cane Hill, thrown

‘Downer Part 2’ by ten56. is out now on Out Of Line Music.

Artwork for Dryad’s ‘The Abyssal Plain’ - the bottom of the ocean drawn to be an alien world


The Abyssal Plain

A black-metal album centred around the bleak depths of the ocean is just…kind of a genius idea, isn’t it? If you’re looking to the most harsh, inhospitable climate on Earth for inspiration, why not feed it through a genre similarly as harsh and inhospitable? Already Dryad’s debut The Abyssal Plain is off to a pretty strong start, and the fact they can reasonably keep it up throughout and zero in on the unknown terrors they sink into does a whole lot for them here.

Double it all up as a metaphor for depression and it has even longer legs, mirroring the hard-to-escape spirals of mental anguish in the crushing pressure of the sea, an ecosystem unsustainably strip-mined for resources where hope for survival feels grossly limited. Through the medium of black-metal deliberately rooted in icy, ancient violence, Dryad get their points across with stark efficiency. Outside of some welcome breaks of melodic riffing on Pompeii Worm, The Abyssal Plain’s black-metal is as caustic and imposing as it comes. Between the levelling intensity that properly kicks things off on the one-two of Bottomfeeder and Brine Pool Aberration, and the growls that you’re more likely to confuse for the gurgles of some eldritch ocean horror than actual vocals, it’s a thrillingly no-holds-barred listen.

But to box Dryad into that and that alone would honestly be a disservice to the greater creativity they show here. Yes, the hyper-fixation on lo- to no-fi black-metal is the primer, but the ocean also serves as a source of wonder and mystique on top of abject terror. Thus, there are passages of synthwave expanse like Hadal and Raptures Of The Deep strewn throughout, the pockets of intriguing yet still unnerving bioluminescence among the pitch-dark. What’s more impressive is that they aren’t disruptive to the album’s overall vision at all. If anything, they’re there to amplify the weirdness and the uncertainty, and the alien nature of the environment that Dryad are trying to cultivate hinges quite heavily on them.

It’s definitely an example of black-metal doing something cool and different, without forsaking the roots that many will hold as sacred foundation. Other than the commentary soundbites in a faux-Jacques Cousteau voice (which, thankfully, aren’t prevalent enough to be outright distracting), Dryad really don’t err too often on their debut. Granted, it’s predicated on a visceral nature geared almost exclusively towards those who glug this stuff up already, but it’s not a journey to miss out on either, when it’s so fulfilling at every turn. When it’s this intensely hostile and subsuming, it’s anything but plain.

For fans of: Dawn Ray’d, Wiegedood, Perturbator

‘The Abyssal Plain’ by Dryad is released on 20th January on Prosthetic Records.

Words by Luke Nuttall

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