Poison the Well

You Come Before You

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More legendary even than their stylistic innovation are the squabbles of these metalcore heroes with their puritan fanbase. Unwilling to accept anything other than a punishing, straight-ahead ass-whupping, a considerable chunk of Poison the Well's fans either deserted the Florida quintet, or spent too much time and energy decrying the band's past forays into melody and glimmering hope. These naysayers will undoubtedly have an issue with You Come Before You, the group's third full-length, which arrives via Atlantic. But in their zeal to condemn, the elitists will miss out on one of the hardest and heaviest yet most dynamic records to be released on any label -- major or otherwise -- in quite a while. It's hard to avoid the blast radius of opener "Ghostchant." But what's most exciting about the track is its refusal to hang with cliché. Throughout its eyebrow-singeing verses, Jeff Moreira's throaty, anguished bellow always retains its vocal definition -- unlike too many groups that use the device and just sound silly. "Loved Ones," too, churns up a hardcore rhythm behind Moreira's scream, but skids on the head of a needle into a bridge that sets his eviscerating screed against a delicate guitar figure. The effect of hard and soft fighting it out is akin to being burned by deep-frozen steel. Of course, left-field stylistic shifts aren't innovative. But performing them with an utter lack of pretense is, and that's what becomes obvious even in the first few minutes of You Come Before You. Like Dillinger Escape Plan, Poison the Well is unsatisfied with the limited dimensions of metal-influenced hardcore, even if it is astoundingly good at creating that sound. Instead, Before You's second half becomes a three-way tug of war between melody, metalcore, and genre-shifting self-expression, with neck-snapping rockers giving way to atmospheric instrumentals, which in turn lead into something like "Apathy Is a Cold Body," where psychedelic soundscapes are sliced apart by garroted vocals and steamrolled into manageable packets of post-hardcore conventionalism. "You see what you want to see," Moreira sings over the song's ending rush, before summoning his mike-swallowing yawp to hurl the line like an invective at anyone who can't or won't accept Poison the Well's furious desire to reinvent.

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