03. Turn Down Elliot
04. Rings From Corona
05. Moments Over Exaggerate
06. Horns And Tails
07. Sticks And Stones Never Made Sense
08. Pieces Of You In Me
09. Karsey Street
10. Parks And What You Meant To Me
2002 Trustkill Records
Poison The Well returns with their second full-length, and highly (understatement) anticipated follow-up to the genre-defining "Opposite Of December." Those of you who haven't heard the record yet, have no doubt encountered all kinds of assessments, ranging from comparisons to Deftones, Incubus, and a whole host of nu-metal bands. Quite frankly, I think all of these comparisons are rather inaccurate.
Yes, Poison The Well has changed since "Opposite Of December," there's no doubt about it. Most notable of the "changes" is the pronounced infusion of melody. Many of the tracks have passages that are much more accessible and melodic than anything that appeared on their earlier records. Vocalist Jeff Moreira sings a whole lot more on this one too. He has sung sparingly in the past, but singing is now a major part of his arsenal. In general, Moreira delivers a powerful performance on this one. Both his singing and his screaming are very tight, and he's turning into quite the versatile frontman.
The first track on the album, "Botchla," begins with Jeff singing over a few acoustic guitar chords, but about fifteen seconds later the band tears into some familiar sounding territory, with Moreira shrieking over some pounding hardcore grooves. The chorus that follows is more indicative of the new Poison The Well sound than anything else before it though. This "sound" can best be described as some sort of rock/hardcore hybrid. Personally, it doesn't remind me of Incubus or the Deftones, but it's certainly closer to them than anything hardcore. It's a good song though, regardless of what styles it employs.
The following track, "Lazzaro," is very reminiscent of PTW's older material, at least until the end of the song, where they work some pop-punk into the hardcore mix. Once again though, it's a good song. Next up is "Turn Down Elliot," one of the songs that was made available for download a few weeks prior to the record's release. The track is a great combination of metallic hardcore and more ambient stuff. After shredding through the first two minutes of the song, PTW offers up some stuff they've never done before, with some effective guitar feedback layered over a strumming guitar and some rolling drum fills. I don't know what you call it, but I like it a lot. That portion of the track is soon followed by more of the heavy rock stuff they've been doing, with Moreira singing over some nice chord progressions.
The hardcore returns on "Rings From Corona," which is probably the heaviest track on the album. Unfortunately, it's also the weakest track, with little of note going on. The riffs just don't connect. It's one of those tracks that doesn't suck, but when it's over, you really have no motivation to play it again. Luckily, the band redeems themselves on the next song, "Moments Over Exaggerate," which once again finds them returning to solid songwriting. The chorus is catchy and the verses are nice and heavy. There's even a Hatebreed-esqe breakdown towards the end of the track. Of course by now everyone has caught wind of the next song, the acoustic track "Horns And Tails." It's a very stripped-down song, with just vocals and an unplugged guitar. It's ok, but the band could have spent more time working on it. It's got potential, but it's no "Butterfly" (Weezer). The song kills the flow of the album slightly and probably would have been more appropriate appearing at the end of the record.
If nothing else does, "Sticks And Stones Never Made Sense," the next song, will certainly appeal to fans of the band's older material. With driving riffs and double-bass flares aplenty, this song would have been right at home on "Opposite Of December." Good stuff. The next track, "Pieces Of You In Me," is another display of some new Poison The Well tricks. The beginning sounds like any other pop band you'd hear on the radio, and the upbeat chorus has some very un-PTW vocal harmonization. But once again, it's a good song, and a nice combination of pop, hardcore, and rock. The records' final track, "Parks And What You Meant To Me," was the other track available via download before the release date. Quite frankly, this is the best track on the album. If this is the direction PTW chooses in the future, I won't be complaining. It's got a bit of everything; a mellow beginning (and ending), driving hardcore, a crushing bridge (which kicks ass!), and a nice melodic breakdown.
My biggest complaint with this record is the length. Take away track 9, which is nothing more than a sample or something, and this record is about 29 minutes long. Unless you're Slayer (think Reign In Blood), that just doesn't cut it for a full-length! Oh well, the production is good, albeit it a bit slicker than "Opposite...", and this time around, you can actually hear the bass guitar.
Bottom Line: I'm sure quite a few "hardcore" kids will have a hard time swallowing the "new" Poison The Well. This comes as no surprise to anyone, and PTW was certainly aware of this when they decided to "upgrade" their sound. But why not There are dozens of other bands out there trying to mimic "Opposite Of December," so this type of progression was a predictable step for the band. Now, once again, there is nobody (Incubus be damned) that really sounds like them. And while there are a few mediocre moments on this one, overall it's a very enjoyable experience, and regardless of whether it's hardcore or not, I'd recommend it to anyone.