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.