Polymoon blew me away with their blend of psychedelic and progressive rock in 2020, as their debut Caterpillars of Creation offered lush, warm textures alongside roaring layers of distortion that provided a bit more urgency and weight than some of their peers. They were a welcome addition to the ever-growing Finnish psychedelic/prog scene, and are a band I have thought about regularly in the time since that album’s release. For album number two, Chrysalis, Polymoon has signed with Robotor Records, the label founded by members of Kadavar, and expanded further upon their already strong foundation. Where its predecessor let the instrumentation drive and the vocals often hung in the background, the layers have been peeled back in favor of more prominent singing and even more diverse arrangements than before.
Caterpillars of Creation was bathed in layers of distortion and melodies that felt like they were enveloping listeners in a cloud one moment and crashing into them like waves a few minutes later. Chrysalis has peeled back some of this noise and distortion in favor of more clarity for both the instrumentals and vocals but has retained the lush soundscapes and songwriting depth in the process. Opener “Crown of the Universe” makes this shift immediately apparent, as following a period of softer, shimmering melodies and a tempo that keeps increasing in speed, the sound explodes into a soaring melody that sounds like its flying over the peak of a tall mountain. Previously the transitions would’ve handled this through a sheer wall of distortion, but here the guitar leads are crystal clear and there’s a greater emphasis on the power of the individual riff. At points it feels slightly cleaner and poppier but given they are from Scandinavia it’s not surprising that Polymoon treads into some territory that overlaps with metal. “A Day In the Air” has some surprisingly heavy tonality and rumbling passages that fall somewhere between heavy psych and doom, while “Viper at the Gates of Dawn” has some darker melodies that give off a Tribulation vibe. The band has gotten even more adventurous in their writing and has the depth to back it up, as every song has a specific hook that remains stuck in my head but also offers up smaller nuances that become apparent over repeat listens. Combine that with a compact forty-four-minute run that doesn’t overstay its welcome or stretch things out too far, and you have another strong showing.
Along with the increased clarity of the riffs and details of each song, the vocals have become a much more prominent piece of Polymoon’s music. It was obvious there was a noticeable shift given the new band photo, which features all the members front and center rather than having them obscured like the old one. That really shows in the performance, as rather than being light and airy while blending into the background, the singing comes across as much more confident and comes through with much more power. There are still plenty of periods of extended instrumental jams where the layers of atmosphere build naturally without vocals, but when the singing does come in it demands just as much of your attention as the rest of the band. “Instar” is a great example of this, as the singing starts off softer but heads upwards into much fuller, powerful ranges as the song progresses. Stylistically Polymoon still finds a sweet spot between psychedelic and progressive rock, but you can hear other sides of rock seeping in and this works to their advantage.
Some bands fall into the trap of repeating themselves or not pushing forward enough with their sophomore effort, but Polymoon has exceeded already high expectations with album two. Their core sound remains intact, but by peeling back the layers of distortion and giving listeners even more nuances to discover over time the material has plenty of staying power. The more vocal forward approach delivers some entrancing guitar and vocal melodies while there are still some surprisingly heavy moments, and this group remains one of my current favorites in this style. Chrysalis is available from Robotor Records.
-Review by Chris Dahlberg