Review Summary: A pleasant change. A new beginning (or ending?).Poison the Well
has had over 50 members but on Versions
Chris Hornbrook: Drums and Percussion
Jeffrey Moreira: Vocals
Ryan Primack: Guitars, bass, mandolin, banjo, synthesizer, piano, and background vox
Jason Boyer (ex-member): Guitar on tracks 4, 6, 9, 11, and 12
Pelle Henricsson (also recorded and produced)
Eskil Lovstrom (mixed and produced)
Original Release Date: April 2, 2007
Label: Ferret Records
four year wait for this release now known as “Versions”. The press has created a whirlwind among this release and the band in general. I hear words like “one of this generations most respected bands” and I certainly would have to agree. I’d have to say that I have been anticipating this since as long as last summer, so that whole cliché of “most anticipated album of 2007”, that every album tries to market itself on, fits here for me as well. As many websites are saying though how they are going to “to turn the heavy music landscape upside down.”, well here’s the reason for reviewal. First I’d like to touch upon some facts and thoughts to ponder before I enter into this extensive review of Poison The Well - Versions. First I’d like to say that this is their 5th album, and the members of this band has been ever changing ever since the start. This is one of the only bands I know of that has had member change numbers that probably range from 15-20 different people yet this band is still able to find success. It feels like this band can never keep a bass player and therefore kept it that way for this release. Ryan Primack who is probably the last original member of the 1998 band with drummer Chris Hornbrook have kept the fire alive in this band. Even as they are the original members it really can’t be compared an album such as “The Opposite Of December” and a more modern day album like “You Come Before You”. It is obvious though that every member who’s entered the revolving door and left it has had an influence on the music. Let’s not forget the label change to ferret records and even though I respect both Trustkill and Ferret as major labels we all know how label changes can do “whacky” things to band members heads. What did Poison The Well have to offer on this long awaited outing?
“Letter Thing” was the first glimpse of the new album that was released a few months back. It’s the first song on the album and kicks off the album in an almost nostalgia era “You Come Before You” sound. The guitar tone has that signature PTW dark, murky tone. The first thing that you’ll notice is the expansion of different instruments and a lot more ambient sounds that feel like a “You Come Before You - Part 2”. The song still contains its hard cutting edge of throaty vocals from Jeffrey Moreira who sounds more then ever matured and ripped for this album. This song was a nice introduction and as it is a faster paced song it’s one of the few on this unique album. “Breathings For The Birds” slows down things to a more settled pacing. The guitar builds up the intro along side with the drums and singing is explored. The instrumentation during this song feels like it sets the mood perfectly for the vocals. The vocals even themselves set the pace of the song as it grows to a climax where it feels appropriate for a more throaty backing. Even during the little interlude during the 2 minute mark you can notice the time put into a more atmospheric like instrumentation with the guitar and the drums.
“Nagaina” was the second song released a few weeks ago pre-release to the album. For me at the time it showed that the band was going into a different direction. A more evolved path. This song once again isn’t heavy but focuses on a lot of harmony and melody. The instrumentation once again creates an epic journey that feels so much more advanced then the work on “YCBY”. The vocals feel faint and delicate but nevertheless soothing to the ear. Jeffrey Moreira will appear to have gone soft to a lot of people but instead in my opinion he has grown. His vocals aren’t focused to tearing people apart with his brute force but instead serenading them and then climaxing with profound impact. “The Notches That Create Your Headboard” which is one of my favorite song’s off of the album has proved that not every song is going to be sung in melody. The song starts off with his rough, throaty screams and once again sounds like the song could have been demo’ed off of “YCBY”. By the interlude though you see the advancement with little things like the little guitar solo and winding song construction. This song will take you by the hair and just spin you around which is what the song construction feels like its based off. The guitar and drums are always winding around the listener with short intervals for the listeners ears to rest and then get gutted by the vocals.
“Pleading Post” is a song that bases itself off of an intense build up. The drums are constantly rolling in the beginning of the song with the guitar phases in and out and almost chanted like vocals. The song feels like it’s constantly winding up. The guitar work on this song just mesmerizes me. The little hooks that come in and out of the verses just show much growth from any of the previous releases. It is truly shown that Ryan Primack didn’t have his work cut out for him on this release. “Slow Good Morning” kind of just blew my mind because it was like no other Poison The Well song. If you thought the songs before this were a little different, well those songs were just dipping there toes into the pool. This song feels like they jumped into a lake. The song starts off with a clean reverbed guitar and some synths. The vocals are amazing on this song flat out. The song reminds me a lot of the covers they did of Smashing Pumpkin songs. Just like the title of the song, it feels like it fit’s the “slow morning” atmosphere perfectly. The song always returns to the introduction riff with little add ins like the piano and synths. The vocals and lyrics are just the best this band’s ever produced. You will be able to know what I mean when you listen to it, it truly can’t be described.
“Prematurito El Baby” feels basically like an open ended song that is unpredictable, fast, but then again has intricacy within. The guitar is fast and furious through the song and most importantly shows that you don’t have to drown out your distortion and gain to be just that. This whole album makes me want to buy an Orange Cab just for that beautiful and destructive tone. Just by the way “Composer Meet Corpse” starts I knew that I was going to like it. It has a very eerie jungle like feeling to the beginning and the screaming fits nice. A song like this shows a different type of heaviness to a band with a lot of post-rock vibes within. The song remains beautifully untouched throughout it’s 2 minutes. “You Will Not Be Welcomed” had the same effect “Slow Good Morning” had on me. It starts out with a keyboard and builds into a clean guitar going at a slow but steady pace. The vocals are once again shown in the more delicate and melodic version of Jeff Moreira. It builds into a throaty, hard, climax that just bleeds with an emotive impact. It follows the same footsteps as the introduction and verse but then sifts through into a haunting guitar like interlude with sung vocals. The atmosphere in this album is harsh when it needs to be and warm hearted at other times.
“Naïve Monarch” like “Prematurito El Baby” feels like an open ended song on the same platform. It’s faster and once again proves that you don’t need to be hard with gain at 11. The verses have a nice little guitar solo and the vocals remain to be the shining beauty down on the tornado of instrumentation. “Riverside” has an elegant acoustic guitar part that grows with a clean guitar. The vocals are fantastic once again on it’s melodic note. Only time I’d say this potential was ever shown was during the “Soma” and “Today” cover. It shows off a nice side of a band that revolved around a dark, alt-metal like edge in the past. The trumpet in this song near the 2 minute mark emphasizes an ever more Spanish like feeling to the song. It just shows all in all a lot of growth. The last song “The First Day Of My Second Life” starts off with a slow leading in guitar. The bass has a nice riff in the beginning of this song which feels like the only time it really makes a somewhat profound experience into the music. The song really puts nice closure on the album mixing in a lot of the songs and styling. This is definitely a song that I would recommend for a listener since it does combine a lot of the songs styling in with each other. It feels like it puts a closure on a nice journey for the listener more then ever.
A New Version?
No doubt in my mind that this album has turned the heavy music landscape upside down. It feels like in today’s genre of music that everyone is trying to copy off of another person Poison The Well has proved that they are in a league of there own now. The softer acoustic sound was more then ever inevitable for this band but the wide range of instrumentation and experimentation with the sound is the making point here. It was unexpected what a 3 piece would do and in no way did they slack off on this album. I can see why a lot of people will give this album it’s griping since it feels like a fresh breathe of air from this band with a lot of new experimentation. In my mind all of the new instrumentation glory and song construction leads onto a more intelligent and evolved band. As much as I would of liked more harder songs from an album like “You Come Before You”, I am very impressed by what “Versions” had to offer. In doing just that it writes another chapter for “a well respected” band.
- Wide diversified instrumentation
- Brings something new to the genre
- Bass always seemed fitting on the previous albums, felt non existent here.
- More live setting, faster songs would have been ideal.