Poison The Well

The Tropic Rot

Written by: PP on 19/08/2009 19:19:32

Welcome to "The Tropic Rot", Poison The Well's newest album, which is this year's most difficult album to review at least for the undersigned. I've been pondering about the content for the review text for a good month and a half now without coming up with anything that'd do enough justice to the band that pioneered post-hardcore and later developed into an iconic experimental hardcore act above all their peers. Their previous album "Versions" is, in this writer's opinion, the undisputed best hardcore album of the past decade, so the expectations for "The Tropic Rot" were understandably sky high. Perhaps unfairly so, considering that even the very best bands are usually only able to write one album like "Versions" during their entire career (unless you happen to be Bad Religion, but that's a whole other story), as topping such a complex and simultaneously perfect work of art is impossible. The interesting part in all this is that Poison The Well itself clearly knows how brilliant "Versions" is, for so many tracks from the release continuously push aside older, fan-favorite tracks (they just don't get "Versions") in their live performances.

Since we can all consider "Versions" to be their career milestone album that everything else they write will be compared against, how would you choose to follow up a release like that? If you asked me, I would've just written another album of southern fried experimental hardcore and become the best hardcore band to ever have existed. But it doesn't look like Poison The Well share my line of thought, considering "The Tropic Rot" feels more like the missing piece in between "You Come Before You" and "Versions", thus acting as a step backward in the band's evolution. The reduction in ambition is significant: brilliantly used special instruments like mandolin, banjo, synthesizers, Wurlitzer piano, trumpets, trombones and Muu guitar all shine with their non-existence in a much more straight forward hardcore oriented sound. It's not that "The Tropic Rot" isn't complex - because it still wipes the floor with the entire hardcore scene -- but it just feels so much simpler and...dare I say it....more boring than it's predecessor as a direct consequence. Frankly, it feels too much like a safe bet from the band, a vibe which is only fortified with the five fold increase in the usage of Moreira's clean vocals, however awesome they may be when used correctly.

But if we shove aside my disappointment, there's still a whole bunch of great tunes to be found on the record. "Who Doesn't Love A Good Dismemberment" sees Moreira engulf the listener in one of his hauntingly beautiful, unique clean vocal harmonies, before contrasting them with his trademark harsh hardcore shout, combing a gruff bark and a piercing scream together into a vocal that's both brutal and strangely melodic at the same time. "Antarctica Inside Me" follows in suit, though the clean vocal harmony here is much softer and if it wasn't for the smash-everything style percussion, it could almost be a ballad at least until the shouted chorus.

Still, even if "The Tropic Rot" is much more straight forward in it's interpretation of hardcore (maybe I should call it post-post-hardcore?), it's still one hell of an inaccessible album despite the increase of clean vocals in the mix. Even the album opener "Exist Underground" explodes straight into an unusual rhythm/time-signature and a slightly off-tune scream that's bound to put off a lot of people like TL in an instant, because it just doesn't want to be friends with you. "Cinema" is probably the track that'll stick to your mind most in the start, and strangely enough, this is also the track that most reminds me of some of the more brutal tracks on "Versions" like "The Notches That Create Your Headboard". It's another quintessential modern Poison The Well track, combining together punishing verse sections and smooth, ambient clean vocal choruses. In the end, the more you listen to "The Tropic Rot", the more you'll like it. If you're an older fan of the band's post-hardcore past, you'll perhaps even like it more than "Versions". This is because although inaccessible to most listeners, it just doesn't require the same effort of understanding as "Versions" did. It's not as big of an aural challenge for the listener. And it's not like I'm able to argue that there is a single bad song on the record, because every one of the tracks is solid, with one or two masterpieces in between. But personally, I find myself time and time again shaking my head over the missing ambition of the otherwise decent record.

7

Download: Cinema, Antarctica Inside Of Me, Exist Underground
For the fans of: Misery Signals, Fear Before, The Bled, Every Time I Die
Listen: Myspace

Release date 07.07.2009
Ferret Records

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