That conclusion is such: if you try and just jump into this band from this CD after being an avid metalcore fan, you probably won’t enjoy it. You need to follow the band from step one to really appreciate this. I say this because I jumped in at You Come Before You and am just starting to realize why this CD is good. My recommendation is to go all the way back to Distance Makes The Heart Grow Fonder and go from there. Match up the sounds with other bands of their time and try to understand WHY they are the way they are rather than just listening. Almost everyone who has any depth in modern music knows that metalcore is a genre that has gotten a lot of flack over the last decade. Go back to 1999, when The Opposite of December was made. It’s not the best metalcore CD but the production is top-notch. Sure, PTW could’ve made a better CD musically (check out their first EP) but they were trying to make a point. Tear From The Red was released and then lots of big names started jumping in on the band wagon such as As I Lay Dying, Killswitch Engage, and Atreyu. The genre got real populated and, thus, stale. You Come Before You brought a breath of fresh air with its heartfelt parts. Lately the metalcore scene has been a total joke to the point where a CD is nothing be double bass breakdowns with high pitched screams – it’s pathetic! Versions and The Tropic Rot aren’t the best CDs out there but they are original, fresh, and insightful in a genre that could make one nauseous.
South Florida-based post-hardcore titans are back with their fifth studio album, rolling out a wide angle take on heavy music that’s so fully realized in its boundary pushing, it makes it impossible to imagine the genre in any other way. The band works with non-traditional instrumentation, cinematic influences, and bigger-than-ever guitar and vocal melodies. Recorded with legendary producer Steve Evetts (Every Time I Die, Dillinger Escape Plan, The Cure, Story Of The Year).
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Taking the intensity of “You come before You” and mixing it with the experimental dynamics of “Versions” equates to one of the best hardcore albums that has come out in a long time. This is a genuinely unique album that steps away from the traditional recipe of most heavy music to offer a true evolution. Poison the Well has absolutley nailed it on this release, a must own.
PTW was a slow grow for me. The first album I got by them was Versions…a noisy, static-filled, chaotic rock record that sounded like Hank Williams got kidnapped by The Refused and provided half the studio instrumentation. (And the record worked – very well – but that’s not the record I’m reviewing now ) This one is way easier to like on the first listen, and continues to develop, because of how strong the songs are. These guys make a fast punk beat sound so much heavier than any other band. They have a great ear for balancing the clean and screamed vocals to create dynamics within their pounding songs. They continue to push the envelope of hardcore, leaving all breakdowns and gimmicks behind and giving me hope that there’s a future for the genre. (track to sample: “Antarctica Inside Me”)
I always hate ripping on Poison The Well. After all, I really respect them for playing what they want (maybe). I say maybe because I sometimes think they’re purposefully trying to sound weird/experimental and, possibly, trying to piss off their old fans. For me, it really doesn’t make me upset that they’ve gone in a different direction, but it sure doesn’t make me ecstatic.
It’s not really a question of ‘light’ or ‘heavy.’ This album has a decent balance of both, as do most of their records. However, the songwriting just bores, with lackluster vocal melodies, easily forgettable riffs, and a complete absence of catchy choruses, something that PTW was always been great at (see “Nerdy,” “Pieces Of You In Me,” and “Apathy Is A Cold Body”). Some strong points that can be pointed out include Jeffrey Moreira’s improved vocal abilities, some pretty unique guitar tones, and interesting arrangements. But these things don’t matter when you have poor songwriting. The slow tracks seem forcibly slow and the heavy tracks seem forcibly heavy. Verdict – they either tried too hard and didn’t play what came natural, or didn’t try hard enough and just went with whatever came out first, lacking focus and craft.
As a listener, I’ve found that some bands get better as they become softer (Still Remains, It Dies Today) and some bands get worse as they get heavier (Underoath). The opposite can be said though, with others (Finger Eleven) lightening up to much dismay and a few (Chasing Victory, Story Of The Year) upping the aggression and improving themselves. It’s all a matter of context.
In the context of Poison The Well, I feel that they fit well with their first three full-lengths (“The Opposite Of December,” “Tear From The Red,” & “You Come Before You”). Each album incorporated more dynamics, melodic singing, and lyrical growth than the last, while still holding on to that PTW-feel. With 2007’s “Versions”, however, the band seemed to stray too far from their path of progression, ditching it altogether and heading into a musical forest without a map or compass. And with 2009’s “The Tropic Rot”, it’s pretty clear that they have yet to find their way back and are still lost in the woods somewhere.
Like another reviewer here, I’ve been a fan of Poison the Well for quite some time. What I never seem to understand is why people complain about how they’ve changed. Of course Poison the Well has changed since The Opposite of December. They have dug deep into their musical talents and more importantly, their lives. If you can hear the lyrics on this album, you will feel them as well. At this point, I’ve listened to this album more times in completion than I did when Versions first came out (and I love Versions). The other reviewer I’ve read probably heard a few songs before giving their honest opinion. The best way to describe the way this album flows is a mix between You Come Before You and Versions in the sense that The Tropic Rot brings the more raw emotion that Poison the Well brought with You Come Before You, and the more polished and musically pioneering sound of Versions.