by Graham "Gruhamed" Hartmann
Today I got a text message from my buddy Joe that I hoped I would never receive:
“POISON THE WELL is on indefinite hiatus”
The official statement entitled “Taking a break for a while…” was released on the band’s Myspace page yesterday (July 14) at 10:05am:
So, after twelve years of being a band, countless tours around the world
and records being released, we have made the decision to take some
time to explore other interests in our lives. We've all reached a
point where we feel like we need to take a step back from the band and
pursue other things. PTW has been an all encompassing, full time thing
for such a long period that this isn't an easy thing to do. We want to
thank everyone who has supported us in anyway, whether it be buying a
record or a shirt, to the occasional robbery from time to time. Once
again, thanks for everything and we couldn't have done any of this
POISON THE WELL burst onto the metal scene with their first full-length album, The Opposite of December in 1999. Released by Trustkill Records, it shook the metal community like few albums have been able to within the 11 years since it’s arrival. The 9-song debut gave us fan favorites such as “Nerdy,” “12/23/93” and “Slice Paper Wrists.” Today it is widely known as one of the most important foundations of the post-hardcore movement, as well as a major inspiration for countless bands that use the technique of breakdowns liberally throughout their musical works. The true beauty of POISON THE WELL however, was their ability to constantly stay one step ahead of their impersonators, bringing a new level of experimentation and depth into the genre.
Tear From the Red brought some hostility toward the band for their departure from the raw and minimalistic style showcased on The Opposite of December. Four years having passed since their debut, PTW added a new sense of harmony and melancholic calm, prevalent in pieces such as “Turn Down Elliot” and “Botchla.” This change resulted in an isolation of their earlier fan base, with many tagging Tear From the Red as a “sophomore slump,” if not a complete downfall. POISON THE WELL could have ventured back into 1999 and made “Opposite of December II,” but as the post-hardcore scene began to dominate the world of near-mainstream metal with bands like FROM AUTUMN TO ASHES, ATREYU and UNDEROATH, POISON THE WELL trudged forward, making perhaps their greatest masterpiece to date, You Come Before You.
You Come Before You was released in 2003, finally burying the first chapter of their creative being. This allowed POISON THE WELL to tread ground rarely explored by post-hardcore acts. Recruiting producers Eskil Lövström and Pelle Henricsson, two of the masterminds behind REFUSED’s legendary release The Shape of Punk to Come gave POISON THE WELL the proper tools to concoct a collection of songs held together by fearless progression and a masterful use of noise, distortion and feedback. Epics such as “Meeting Again for the First Time,” “Sounds Like the End of the World” and “Apathy is a Cold Body” showcase the band’s newfound originality, surrounding the listener with a sense of enthused isolation. The change in Jeffrey Moreira’s vocal style also created a new intensity in the band’s sound; whether it’s his singing in the gorgeously haunting “The Realist,” or his monstrously deep gutturals in “Crystal Lake.” The final line in “Pleasant Bullet” left me especially captivated, with Moreira blaring the phrase…
“I just want to be fucking happy.”
After constant lineup changes during the band’s 10-year history, the three core members, Jeffrey Moreira, Ryan Primack and Chris Hornbrook decided to be the sole writers of their next release, Versions. As with every other PTW album, they remained one step ahead of the bands they influenced. With post-hardcore slowly becoming a joke due to bands such as HAWTHORNE HEIGHTS and FROM FIRST TO LAST, combined with the growing popularity of Myspace which created a flood of clone trend-core bands emerging on the scene, POISON THE WELL gave them the proverbial finger by adding country-western elements to their music. Versions showcased mandolins, slide guitar, horns and banjo, creating a vibe I once heard described as “JOHNNY CASH on acid”… and guess what? They made it work beautifully. The new album included master works such as “Nagaina,” “Breathing’s for the Birds” and “Slow Good Morning,” which explores the concept of waking up to find dead bodies strewn across your bedroom floor. My favorite lyric however is from the opening of “Pleading Post”…
“What if the best position to be in was shoved in the smallest crack in the wall? Where claustrophobia kicks in.”
POISON THE WELL released one final album last year entitled, The Tropic Rot. As usual, the always reliable band created an album cut from their own cloth, with incredibly composed pieces such as “Pamplemousse,” “Are You Anywhere” and the uniquely visual “Antarctica Inside Me,” which includes one of the craziest endings to a song I’ve ever heard.
In closing, POISON THE WELL were one of the most respected and influential bands of the last decade. In the world of post-hardcore, they were THE RAMONES to GREEN DAY, THE DESCENDENTS to BLINK 182, EMPORER to DIMMU BORGIR or SUFFOCATION to JOB FOR A COWBOY. And much like those bands, POISON THE WELL paved the way for a new wave of copycats and imitators, which achieved greater success than the ones who deserved it most. POISON THE WELL was a great fucking band, and an indescribably important part of my life. I’m sure there are countless people who feel the same way, so from me, and for all of them, I say… thank you.