Some outside the punk and metal scenes may think that these scenes are synonymous with anti-social attitudes – but here’s one band that proves them wrong. With their album coming out on May 6, the UK’s post-hardcore act Polar is on a mission to raise awareness and funds around the issue of homelessness. They just wrapped up a tour of small, unusual venues in the UK to bring their message to the public and raise money for the non-profit CRISIS, and their upcoming album No Cure, No Saviour is devoted to the topic of homelessness.
They tackle the topic with a mix of aggression and emotional depth that gets to the heart of the matter. Their sound is based in heavy hardcore riffs and slightly harsh yelled vocals very reminiscent of Jamey Jasta, although their sound is more complex than Hatebreed’s straightforward riffage, incorporating churning guitar segments, bouncy melodic punk riffs, mellower atmospheric passages, and some very expressive guitar bridges. These “post” touches depict emotions and ideas other than just anger and determination, while blending seamlessly with the aggressive hardcore elements — mostly. I did find some of the clean choruses overly angsty, such as in the first song, “Blood for Blood.”
The melodic parts, meanwhile, made the album for me. They really heighten the emotional aspect of the album, especially in songs like “Until the Light Takes Us.” It starts with a simple punky beat and melody, but soon the drumming becomes more complex and overlaid with doomy layers of slow-moving guitar, the half-sung, half-shouted vocals ceding some of their anger to a sense of despair. A soaring, sorrowful bridge three-quarters through brings the emotion to a new level, which is maintained as all the parts come together again to finish the song.
My favorite from the album, though, is the last song, “No Saviour,” which brings together sad and heavy, harsh and beautiful. The cascades of mournful atmospheric guitar remind me of atmospheric black metal, although the melody that climbs over it is definitely more punkish. Vocalist Adam “Woody” Woodford’s harsh hardcore scream is almost lost in the waves of guitar. At four minutes, the song is average length but feels short due to the long intro and short duration of the vocals; plus, I wish I could enjoy the lovely guitars at least twice as long.
Of course, there are also songs such as “Tidal Waves and Hurricanes,” which is mostly a non-stop hardcore assault, but even there, ethereal atmospheric guitar accompanies the chorus and bridge. And it’s followed by a snippet of an interview with someone who is homeless, which transitions into a pensive acoustic guitar and keyboard melody. There are also songs like “Destroy,” where atmospheric guitar floats over raging underpinnings and vocals for the whole song, with a short desolate bridge that reminds me of Sólstafir’s lonesome soundscapes.
No Cure, No Saviour is something different – both in the sound which blends hardcore aggression with atmospheric beauty, and its single-minded focus on making a real difference for people experiencing homelessness. It is certainly worth checking out for either reason, and hopefully if you come for one, you’ll stay for the other. While I don’t find myself drawn to listen to it over and over, I am glad it crossed my path — to have enjoyed the album, and done a little something to support its cause. I wish these guys well on their mission.