Review Summary: Brutal, Beautiful, Brilliant. South Florida's finest return in fine form.
For Poison the well, a band who continually push their own boundaries and produce perhaps what is the least expected of them time after time, The Tropic rot comes to me as a bit of a surprise.
In their own words, PTW said this of their new album: "It doesn't sound like any other Poison the Well record, but combines some of our favourite elements from the bands history, as far as energy and artistic vision and exploration go, but definitely takes things in a new direction for us, as always."
Throughout their history, the punishing metal riffs seen on 1999's the 'Opposite of December' have slowly melted away into the random but beautifully colourful musical interludes of 'You come before you'. Every album released prior to this seemed to reinvent the wheel in some way. That is not the case here, The tropic rot is instead reminiscent of everything that came before. What we see is the musical experimentation found in Versions combined with the sheer quality and tightness of YCBY, with perhaps some of the aggresiveness of earlier releases.
Revolutionary? Not really. But then it doesnt really need to be. This album is exemplary, perhaps in the way that you'll feel like you've heard it before, but not quite in the same way.
The Tropic Rot hits hard from the outset. 'Exist Underground' is bookended with the harsh, fast paced screams we all know and love from Jeff, and in the middle is everything in between - rising choruses, excellent singing and musical brilliance - the drums and the guitars combining skilfully, something that continues throughout the entire album.
'Sparks it will rain' continues in this fashion. Jeff's voice switches continually from shouting to singing, and the music follows suit, changing continually throughout the song. One thing about this whole album is that the music never seems to outlive its own welcome. There is enough variation in each song to keep each one relevant and interesting. The guitar work in particular is faultless at times.
'Cinema' follows, and contains some of the albums best lyrics, particularly in the chorus - 'I've done with these movie screens in my head, they've preoccupied me long enough'. One complaint levelled at Versions was that lyrically it was so very different to anything they had done before, at times losing the personal touch that PTW once had - not so here.
Bizarrely, the highlights of the album might just be the slower tracks such as 'Pamplemousse', 'When You Lose I Lose As Well' and 'Are You Anywhere?' Moreira's vocals continue to haunt the listener throughout the album - never more effective than on these tracks. Despite taking a while to sink in, once they grab the listener they do not let go - something any long-time PTW fan will be familiar with.
That is not to say that this is a soft album by any means, when PTW do aggressive on this album, they really shine. 'Who Doesn't Love a Good Dismemberment?' and 'Makeshift Clay You' stand out in particular. These songs show how Poison the well can be crushingly aggressive, atmospheric and spectacularly insightful all at once. This is why they are still relevant today; they are arguably one of the few bands capable of producing those genuinely beautiful musical landscapes out of a combination of meticulously harsh music and visceral screaming. As a result they should be heard by anyone who takes their interest in music seriously.
Having said that, PTW are a band ever dogged by a small section of their own fans for not having maintained the brutality found on 'Opposite of December'. If you are one of those fans, there is little in 'The Tropic Rot' that will satiate your hunger for more. For everyone else, this album another spectacular example of musicianship. A slow burner, perhaps, but nevertheless, a definite must listen. Do not pass this one up.