June 5, 2007 | , | 4.5

Poison The Well, Versions

It’s been a long hard couple of years since this Miami group has last put out an album. Line up changes, label moves and more have done there best to keep Versions from ever seeing the light of day. And not only has the band finally released their fifth studio full length, but they have also transcended the genre once again — folding in layers and layers of musical influences most fans of metal would do anything to steer wide and far from.

Initially, I wasn’t going to even check out this album. Every pre-release review I had read buried it before it even really had a chance. I’ve got to say, that despite the good deal of negative press that it has received, Versions is far superior to the band’s last effort You Come Before You.

The melodramatic screams, softly spoken passages and plenty of caustic riffage sure to deafen all most of the band’s fans are all present. But folded into their core sound are elements of sounds one may hear on a country western album. This album is far from a country album. You’ll still be bombarded with the Poison The Well sound with the added touch of slide guitar, a little banjo and a hint of mandolin. The crazy thing is that the band injects all of these new and foreign to metal sounds seamlessly into an album that helps put Poison The Well back on the map in a genre they helped define and build.

Letter Thing
Rapid drums and high pitch guitar kick in quickly just before Jeffrey Moreira jumps in with his signature spoken/shouted delivery. The chorus is vintage POISON THE WELL — caustic and shrieking. We get our first hint of the new instrument infusion with the first slide guitar solo of the album. It works well, giving the song an erie feeling.

Breathing’s For The Birds
Softly sung lyrics and a rock vibe guitar and drum combo bring us to “Breathing’s For The Birds.” It’s a rather meloncholy track until about the 1:15 mark. Moreira never fails to deliver with plenty of emotion. The track ends in a flurry of drums and guitar with layers screams and shouts.

A bluesy bit of riffing and cleanly sung vocals bring you from the din of chaos that ended the previous track. This is a great song — shifting from the blues sound to screaming chorus effortlessly and smoothly. It’s easily one of my favorite tracks on the album. Man, there’s a lot of layered elements on this album. The funny thing is that, so far, none of it seems contrived or over-done.

The Notches That Create Your Headboard
After the slower, bluesier “Nagaina,” the band brings some crushing drums and ear shattering shrieks back into the fold immediately with this next song. It’s got a great pace and excellent guitar moments.

Pleading Post
Slowing it the pace back down a bit, this blues fueled, dark track has lots of emotion and shifts that keep it entertaining from beginning to end. Moreira teeters between several styles of vocal delivery, shifting from one to the other at just the right moment. A bit more slide guitar helps fill this one out.

Slow Good Morning
Coming in at just over five minutes in length, “Slow Good Morning” has a great vibe to it. It’s much quieter at the start of the track, slowly building up layers of sound as each second passes.

Prematurito El Baby
We are greated with a galloping rock influence as this one starts up. After the soothing “Slow Good Morning” this is a nice shift to pick the pace back up. There’s a slight bit of a breakdown at the 50 second mark that’s not quite as heavy as it might have been, but it’s a nice element.

Composer Meet Corpse
Rolling drums and scratchy guitar elements greet muted shouts at the onset of “Composer Meet Corpse.” If there was one thing that hurt You Comes Before You, it was that the album had a some what forumalic sound to it. Versions is anything but — offering the listener so many things to catch on each listen.

You Will Not Be Welcomed
Slowing it down once again, the band makes another pace shift. But not for long as Moreira lets loose with some deeper shouts at about the 1:18 mark. Again, his level of emotional commitment to each verse is impressive.

Naive Monarch
More pounding drums and caustic guitar work accompany scratchy shouts and screams on “Naive Monarch.” There’s a nice, subtle layer of slide guitar on this one that really compliments the track well.

Now, this one sort of does sound a bit like a spaghetti western briefly when it first starts, but that fades fairly smoothly once Moreira starts singing. This is the most mellow track on the album with little to no shouts or screams.

The First Day Of My Second Life
The final song on the album transitions nicely from “Riverside” carrying with it similar riffs and guitar work that the previous track ended with. It’s not the strongest track on the album, but a nice slower paced song to end the experience with.

~ ~ ~

POISON THE WELL have made a very strong “come back” case for a genre they helped define. Aside from the addition of various musical influences (including country western instruments) the band has also added layer upon layer of sound creating a flowing and memorable experience. After a rather stale release in You Come Before You, the band’s latest album is a great listening experience.

Favorite Tracks:
Letter Thing
The Notches That Create Your Headboard

Additional Notes: