Out via Rise Records, Remember That You Will Die may easily be Polyphia’s strongest offering to date, bringing them closer to self-actualising the meme of the four-piece being “not only the biggest but the best metal band in the world” – even though they’re not technically a metal band.
The genre-blurring nature of Polyphia’s work is something that their fanbase and the greater music community has come to appreciate. Following the release of The Most Hated EP and then New Levels New Devils, the band has constantly been pushing the boundaries of their musical compositions and technical dexterity. Seamlessly fusing elements of metal, prog, trap, hyperpop and many more, it is difficult, if not impossible, to place the band’s sound or, for lack of a better word, genre. Remember That You Will Die epitomises this by acting as a musical decoupage of their influences and in many ways plays, as a skillful amalgam of some of the band’s most compelling musical releases.
As far as an actual genre goes, guitarist Tim Henson pigeonholes that as “a difficult question.” Scott LePage adds: “The answer I guess I give everyone is that we like everything, and we kind of try to dip our toes in any genre we can. Anything that’s unorthodox to have our style of guitar in, that’s what we try to do and make work.” He goes on to say, “I never know what to call it, ’cause it’s not quite metal.”
Few albums within the instrumental and guitar world have been this widely anticipated, and Remember That You Will Die sees them veer from the strongly instrumental focused approached the band is known for, thus seeing the quartet delve deeper into the world of vocal collaboration. Each track is crafted to perfection with the band giving enough room to their collaborators to shine, despite Tim pointing out that “it’s fairly difficult to do these collabs because we don’t tend to leave too much space.”
Its collaborative nature is one of the most exciting aspects of this album, ranging from solos from legends such as Steve Vai to guest vocals from contemporary singers and rappers including Sophia Black, $not, Lil West and Killstation. But perhaps the most thrilling collaborative venture of this record is the production aspect of the album. With Zack Cervini (BMTH, Coheed and Cambria, Grimes, Blink-182) at the helm of mixing duties, Polyphia have damn near perfected the art of collaboration.
“One of the biggest compliments that I think we’ve ever gotten is from the mixing engineer who mixed this record [Zack Cervini] who said it gave him the same feeling of the Skrillex [Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites] record,” Tim says.
“Tim and I have loved any kind of collaborative album or song,” Scottie adds. “Like when Drake and Future made What A Time To Be Alive … It’s like both of them. I love seeing that, it’s exciting to me. And you can hear…every artist is slightly different, in a way.”
The band’s willingness to take on “different approaches to getting each of these collaborations started and finished,” as Tim explains it, highlights their flexibility and willingness to put in the work until everything “fits together like a puzzle piece.” Highlighting this would be their approach to the heaviest track on the record, ‘Bloodbath’, featuring Chino Moreno, Scottie points out: “That was one that we wrote a song and Chino wrote some vocals to it. He wrote his parts to the song, I took that one home and just redid all of my parts on the guitar. We mold our style around who we’re working with, that’s part of the challenge and part of the fun.”
The sequencing on the album pays homage to the band’s growth and evolution as each track builds from the last. As you make your way through each track on the album, it’s like making your way through a video game until you ultimately face the final level boss. In this case, that would appear in the form of ‘Ego Death’ – the band’s longest track yet and one of the ‘heavier’ compositions on the album – with the band combining classical guitars with seven string shreds, and even featuring one of the world’s best known seven string virtuosos.
The album opens with the aptly named ‘Genesis’, which features the triumphant brass section from collaborators Brasstracks and sees the album close on the same note with a similar brass section. It’s akin to walking through a 12-story house with a different element to each floor; you can see and feel the architectural cohesion, but each room tells its own unique story and, despite the contrast, it fucking works.
The tracks are arranged in a manner that gives the album a sense of cohesion without being boring, keeping the listener on their toes throughout the experience with each track paving the way for the next without giving away too much. The justly titled ‘All Falls Apart’ acts as the perfect interlude as the album delves into heavier territory and we are graced with tracks like ‘Neurotica’ and, perhaps the heaviest song on the album, ‘Bloodbath’. As Tim puts it: “It’s about the whole process from beginning to end.”
Visually, this album is without a doubt Polyphia’s best work to-date. Having created stunning music videos chock full of motifs and having designed individual pieces of art to accompany each track, Tim enthusiastically explains that there are “12 different pieces for each song because there’s so much musically happening it would be like a disservice to not visually accompany it.”
Throughout this conversation one thing is apparent – Polyphia does not fuck around when it comes to their unwavering vision and quest to produce the best they can, musically or visually. This is evident without a shadow of a doubt given the response each single has received, and it’s also a factor that Tim attributes to their continued growth and success. “I think it’s the attention to detail and the genuine want and yearning [from the fans]. Just really honing in and finding our sound. Every part of it has been thought up and executed in a way that we felt was deserving. The fans are noticing that and I feel very good that they appreciate it in that way.”
The attention to detail on this album is further underscored by the approach the band took when composing and creating new songs. “Everything is thought about at the point of creation, like everything from the production to the mix,” Tim says. “With this record, everything from the composing to the producing to the mix is all thought about all at once so the final product actually doesn’t end up sounding that different from the demo, which is a really good sign because that means the vision was carried through.”
The creation of this album also saw the fashioning of Tim’s new signature Ibanez guitar the TOD10N, a stunning axe that was first revealed on ‘Playing God’ with an inlay that pays tribute to collaborator and guitar legend Steve Vai. Having been part of the Ibanez family since 2015 and having several signature models under their belt, Tim is full of praise for Mike Orrigo from Ibanez saying: “He has always been there for us, when we wanted to do something or when we had ideas.” Polyphia credits much of their continued success to their relationships. “Everybody on our team has been here for a long time. Everybody on the team is just very heavily invested emotionally into this project, everybody kind of believing in it and wanting it to succeed.”
Regardless of where you place the band, the album is a testament to their virtuoso technicality with bass-thumping, drum heavy and guitar laden compositions that are produced to utter perfection. One of the gems of this album, and its predecessor, is the band’s masterful use of modern-day production as well as the groove that is consistent thanks to the hard work of both Clay Glober and Clay Aeschliman on bass and drums respectively. The rhythm section has never been tighter and is surprisingly poignant by covering sonic ground of indecent size and weight.
Polyphia’s latest album navigates between the band tapping into what they know but also forging ahead into the unknown future. Genre be damned, it’s that which makes Remember That You Will Die one of the most compelling all-round releases of the year. The album is a stark reminder about what Tim calls “essentially, YOLO.” In many ways, it feels like a call-to-action to live life to its fullest, epitomised by the band themselves pushing the sonic envelope as far as their music goes by dazzling the audience with whirlwind technicality and breath-taking song writing. Listening to the album feels like an almost spiritual experience where the Texan natives manage to reach into the bowels of your soul in an almost transcendent manner.
Despite having cemented their place in modern music as, easily, one of the best bands to have graced the airwaves, Polyphia are constantly challenging and pushing themselves to greater heights. That may be artistically, or, as Tim concludes, a consequence of “making things with so many different people that you learn so much and there’s so much opportunity for growth.”