Review Summary: A gigantic stylistic leap which is rewarding given the effort and time.
Poison the Well already made a fairly significant stylistic jump between Tear From The Red
and You Come Before You
, but this time the change is so drastic it almost doesn’t sound like the same band. Guitarist and primary songwriter Ryan Primack revealed in interviews that Versions
is deliberately frustrating and for the first dozen or so listens, this is immediately obvious. In fact, it took me a whopping six months to come to terms with it but now that I have, the genius is obvious. Every song on here is dense with instrumentation and genre – a messy mixing pot of hardcore, country, metal and jazz. It boils together to create one of the most unique albums in core, yet somehow manages to make it flow in a way many other technical and eclectic bands should take note of.
While Poison the Well initially made a name for themselves with their trademark brutal to melodic song structures, Versions
finds them expanding on the formula by making the transitions smoother and allowing entire songs to go by in one style or the other. Letter Thing
explodes from the speakers kicking off the album in a highly energetic way, yet it’s also the weakest song overall (typically it’s also the only single, continuing their poor track record in that department). Fan favourite Prematurito El Baby
is a better example of the more hardcore songs on the record, rocketing along with classic PTW drumbeat and an urgency unmatched anywhere else in the track listing. On the flip side of the coin there are songs like Slow Good Morning
which move forward at a leisurely pace, allowing the instruments and styles time to be heard and weave themselves into tight knots that take patience and a good set of earphones to unravel. As such, it is on tracks such as these where Versions
truly excels if given the time to soak into your ears.
However, the album suffers from some serious flaws. Jeffrey Moreira’s lyrics are at a career low, largely unengaging and evidently suffering as he transitions from his old highly personal style to his new one of weaving unique and twisted stories through characters talking in first person. Lyrics to not completely ruin a record however and the majority of the blame must go to the production, which comes as a surprise since the legendary Eskil Lövström and Pelle Henricsson (of Refused’s The Shape of Punk To Come
fame) were at the helm. It seems a full and evenly balanced sound was sacrificed in favour of instrumental complexity which unfortunately hurts the record tremendously. There is a significant lack of bass (not the instrument), but the treble is weirdly weak considering this. The worst affected are Moreira’s vocals as his usually bear-like harsh vocals are flattened and his cleans aren’t helped out either.
Despite the production problems however, Poison the Well succeeded in creating an incredibly intricate album that, while it will never be as hugely influential as their debut, proves that they are definitely not a one trick pony. They continue to push boundaries and bend genres, creating unique and innovative music.
Slow Good Morning
Prematurito El Baby
Composer Meets Corpse