Poison the Well - The Tropic Rot (Cover Artwork)
Staff Review

Poison the Well

The Tropic Rot (2009)


It took Poison the Well nearly four years to follow on their sole major label effort, 2003's You Come Before You, likely thanks to label woes and member changes. But the album that eventually emerged, 2007's Versions, was a far more progressive and experimental hardcore swelling of ferocious compositions, swaths of eerie atmosphere and even some country twang. It was a major musical success whose ambitious flourishes left behind fans of the band's early mosh-laden days in the dust. Their newest effort, The Tropic Rot, arrives a comparatively scant two years after Versions, and while super solid in its own right, really just resembles a more streamlined version of the latter.

In other words, it doesn't seem quite as dynamic, or generally realized. But that's not to say the driving pace, stop-starts and versatile vocal delivery on frontman Jeffrey Moriera's part isn't there -- it all just seems pretty straightforward. The 47-minute album wastes nary a second when Moriera ushers in opener "Exist Underground" with immediate howls of agitation and angst as muddled guitars pulse, swell and pound around him and his more Deftones-esque musings in the chorus.

That's generally Rot's modus operandi. There are more aggressive cuts like "Cinema," which seems to channel the heavy click-clack of something like "Letter Thing" with its burly, interchanging tempo and more unique guitar tones. A moment like this finds Poison the Well successfully reaching ever-so-slightly out of the album's general spectrum. The bass-heavy tap in the slower, six-minute "Pamplemousse" and lumbering, Pelican-ish riffs make it an interesting endeavor, but still not as compelling as Versions' wilder moments. The same can be said when the spaghetti western vibes make a vague return for "When You Lose I Lose as Well," which starts out an acoustic-tinged cattle ride finding Moriera doing his best croon attempt before the song picks up volume and adopts a slightly more stripped-down setup.

"Who Doesn't Love a Good Dismemberment" makes for a strong mid-album standout, but one sort of wishes it wasn't so subtle in spots. There's a lot of little frills and details in the colliding guitar work but it's so low in the mix one's got to really dig and focus to hear any of it, while Moriera's raspy singing in the chorus ("I noticed it look at me / and not once did I stop its horrible stare") is almost too restrained.

Where musical restraint does work in the band's favor is in their implementation of alternative leanings, though. The Deftones influence is fairly obvious ("Antartica Inside Me"), but it's integrated so well that not once does the band noticeably cater to any one genre.

Compared to other melody-tinged hardcore/metal records of the pessimistic persuasion, The Tropic Rot hardly plays it safe. But compared to what Poison the Well has ultimately proven to be capable of, it could be better. Still, bands wouldn't be ill-advised to ape records of this ilk, The Tropic Rot or Versions, or even the next cacophonous wall of sound and fury Poison the Well's likely to conjure up in the short future.

Exist Underground
Antartica Inside Me