As I had mentioned previously, I really began to immerse myself in heavier forms of music between the years 2005 and 2010, refining my musical palette. During that span of time I discovered what would become one of my favorite bands of all time; Poison the Well.
I was introduced to the Florida act, though I cannot recall exactly when or how, through their seminal 2003 release, You Come Before You. Prior to hearing this early 2000s opus, I was acquainted with the modern “post-hardcore” scene of the time by way of bands like Thursday and Thrice. But You Come Before You was different, way different than anything else at the time. It was arguably more aggressive and punchier (possibly due to remnants of their former metalcore selves) than a lot of its contemporaries at the time. Couple that with anthemic choruses, flirtations with post-rock and an eye for experimentation, which would be explored further in subsequent releases, then you have an angsty masterpiece on your hands.
Like any good music consumer, I began to dive into the band’s prior releases after being so enthralled with You Come Before You. I decided to start at the beginning (technically the 1998 EP is the “beginning” but give me a break) with 1999’s The Opposite of December. At the time I was not prepared for the 30-minute riff fest that Poison the Well had in store for me.
“People throw around the term “game changer” way too often about records and bands (and everything else). When TOOD (please don’t use that acronym, ever) came out, it opened up the world of ‘hardcore’ so goddamn much… on the one hand, I’m reminded of Dillinger Escape Plan, at some point in the ‘oughts,’ describing Faith No More as being the band ‘so good we forgive them for all the horrible shit they inspired…’ because. yeah. In some ways that went poorly…
…but on the other hand, I literally spent the next 3 years being mad at every band that was able to approach PTW’s sound, out of sheer frustrated jealousy (thanks, ‘college’…and geography. Thanks, Saved By Grace). As a drummer, I’ve never stopped being blown away by Chris Hornbrook, either, but again with the jealousy. Let’s not talk about how young he was/they were when they tracked this.”
-Jon Lane, drummer, Godmaker
The bulldozing drum fill that opens up “12/23/1993” immediately plunges you into the album’s world of metalcore bliss. Thunderous, galloping breakdowns, jarring rhythms and the occasional throttling, dissonant riff deliver more aural beatings in three minutes than most album’s do in 40. Vocalist Jeffrey Moreira spearheads the track with fierce, throat-searing screams and powerful, wailing cleans. His voice is imperfect and nowhere near as dynamic as it would become in later releases, but it perfectly captures the raw intensity of youthful anger. In fact, the entire album does just that.
The record is rife with so many memorable moments that it would be damn near impossible to list them all. The angular riffs that comprise the tumultuous “To Mandate Heaven” are enough rip the flesh from your face, but you will be grinning stupidly despite the pain. “Artist’s Rendering of Me” is full of ridiculously concussive, chugging riffs, moody verses and poetically angst-ridden lyrics such as “I could never swallow your false ideals of a lifeless happy ending”. When you are teenager who hates just about everything, you pretty much base your entire existence around lines such as those.
“Though I came into listening to these guys right after “You Come Before You” was released, this record is still my absolute go-to. I listened to these guys religiously as a teenager and still do to this day. It’s great that this record still holds up almost 10 years later and you can hear how much they’ve influenced so many other bands. Not to mention 12/23/1993 is a constant line check at Godmaker shows.”
“Slice Paper Wrists” delivers some of the more volatile moments on the record, switching seamlessly from storming hardcore riffs, to avalanche-inducing breakdowns, to icy clean guitar-driven interludes. The song’s opening riff alone is enough to compel someone to dive into a hectic mosh pit from staggering heights, as made evident by this classic clip. Then, of course, there is the band’s iconic song “Nerdy”, which pretty much speaks for itself.
I can drone on and on about this record, and this band in general, but I will spare you my barely incoherent blabbering. Poison the Well and The Opposite of December were very important to me in my turbulent teenage years, and are still very close to my heart as I slowly crawl towards 30. If you’ve never listened to this staple of American metalcore, it’s high time you treat yourself.