Polar Son’s Wax/Wane (2023): Review

CALEB SCOLA reviews Polar Son’s debut album Wax/Wane, exploring its various sonic influences.


Wax/Wane is the debut effort of Brighton-based band Polar Son, who previously performed under the name Porshyne and released an EP titled Environmental Music in 2017. After a hiatus and name change, they are back with an updated sound, delivering an operatic behemoth of an album. Combining alt-rock influences like Radiohead and Jeff Buckley with the drama and scale of progressive rock acts like Muse and Royal Blood, the album delivers a weighty post-rock punch. Polar Son’s massive sound – fueled by the driving riffs of its three guitarists – switches from heavy to delicate, melancholic to morbid, eerie to danceable, with masterful precision and restraint. If you’re looking for an easy listen, this isn’t it – Wax/Wane keeps you on your toes for all eight of its tracks.   

On its titular track ‘Wax’, the band shows off this unpredictability, artfully navigating through groovy rock verses, intricate math-rock sections, a building, suspenseful bridge, and an insanely heavy, head-banging chorus riff, all within the span of three and a half minutes. All the while, dramatic vocals soar above the dense, powerful instrumental, uniting the song’s disparate sections with a melodic narrative.  

 If ‘Wax’ is the album’s quintessential track, ‘Listen’ demonstrates that Polar Son know what else they are capable of. Rather than centring on their signature distorted guitar riffs, ‘Listen’ is built on a driving, electronic drumbeat and a mysterious, jazzy guitar chord progression. Dark, moody, and atmospheric, it lays bare the band’s Radiohead influence while also maintaining the unique character of their sound, punctuating the moodiness with broad, operatic choruses.   

Offering momentary respite from the driving intensity of the first five tracks, ‘Interlude’ feels like a cool drink of water. Over glassy synth pads and clean, melancholic guitar chords, lead singer Fergal Lyden’s voice is bare and vulnerable. He handles this opportunity with sensitivity, delivering a quietly captivating vocal performance that perfectly complements the song’s gentle yet powerful mood.  

It is hard to ignore Lyden’s vocal talent throughout the album – his voice is sensitive and strong, beautiful and poised, all of which emphasises the emotive quality of his lyrics. These mirror the album’s gloom, with typical alt-rock pensiveness and intimacy; he sings frequently of fear, illness, and confusion: ‘Drowning in guesses / Swimming in our skin / Nothing but restless / And hung up on small sins’ (’Listen’), and ‘Giving into gangrene in the end/ Gotta amputate before it all upends’ (‘Gangrene’). The unsettling edge is balanced by a personal, direct, almost romantic tone: ‘Are you keeping up? / No one else does / Left you on the edge / To keep you honest’ (‘Listen’). It is this contrast between the dark and the sensitive that brings out the drama in their music.   

This drama culminates in the immense closing track, ’Wane.’ Thus, Wax/Wane finishes with its titular metaphor, and as it wanes, it ties up the album’s loose ends, uniting its stylistic diversity in a full-force effort that is as much reflective and beautiful as it is dark and morose. Polar Son pulls no punches on this track, building up to an impassioned closing chorus, complete with growling guitars, anguished vocals, and an orchestral string section.   

As the last string chords of ‘Wane’ fade out, I am left wondering about the potential of Polar Son’s dynamic sound. Following Wax/Wane, I would like to see an even thicker, denser, more maximalist sophomore album. The scale, the theatrics, the intensity of Wax/Wane are its strengths. For the next album, the bigger the better.


Wax/Wane is available for listening on most streaming platforms. 


Featured Image courtesy of Spotify. 

CategoriesCaleb Scola Music