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This Is Hardcore: Poison The Well - The Opposite of December

Gallows guitarist Lags picks his essential hardcore and punk releases – every Thursday on TeamRock.

In 1999 Poison the Well released The Opposite of December, a record that once again cemented the healthy relationship that exists between metal and hardcore. Whether it’s Black Flag citing Birmingham legends Black Sabbath as their heroes or Metallica covering the songs of Discharge and Anti-Nowhere League, punk and metal have consistently influenced each other.

The ’90s saw punk take a huge shift towards metal. In Cleveland, Integrity were injecting their rapid-fire hardcore with mid-tempo guitar chugs while Straight Edge crew Earth Crisis revealed a penchant for Pantera’s groove metal on their debut album Destroy The Machines. Even Brooklyn’s Biohazard were taking the furious sound of New York Hardcore to festival main stages around the world thanks to their growing metal fan base. In Florida especially there was a thriving metalcore scene. The Sunshine State boasted young bands like Shai Hulud, Culture and Morning Again who were loyal to punk’s DIY ethos but heavier than anything played on MTV’s Headbanger’s Ball at the time. Miami’s Poison The Well were among this new breed of rising talent and The Opposite of December doesn’t hold back when it comes to metal influenced hardcore.

12/23/93 launches the album in true metalcore fashion - with a series of punishing breakdowns. Guitars and bass lock to Chris Hornbrook’s relentless double-kick while Jeff Moreira’s guttural vocal delivery adds to the vitriolic dynamism. Guitarists Ryan Primack and Derek Miller deliver angular riff after angular riff, cutting various paths before joining in the middle. Tempos fluctuate until everything drops to cleanly picked notes, moments of reflection that are integral to Poison the Well’s sound.

Jeff Moreira’s lyrics are deeply poetic and somewhat ambiguous, making them somewhat unique to both metal and hardcore alike. The line, “I could never swallow your false ideals of a lifeless happy ending”, from Artist’s Rendering of Me comes to life on the record in a poignant outpouring of emotion. Moreira switches from screaming to spoken word, bringing his poetic expression even more to the fore.

One of the album’s many highlights is Nerdy - a cacophony of crushing guitars and Jeff Moreira’s impassioned lyrical delivery. The chorus however is far more melodic, with souring guitars emerging from the chaos and a sung vocal hook which carries with it raw and unbridled emotion in the words, “I just want to feel this way forever/ Sleep on portraits painted as perfect as you”.

Poison The Well’s blend of harsh metal and emotive hardcore brought some much needed credibility to punk rock. For once there was a band playing heavy music without the meathead mentality that was once so dominant within the scene.

However, as more and more bands adopted Poison the Well’s heartfelt approach to writing it was soon evident that metalcore was close to becoming a parody of itself. Verses were getting heavier while choruses were getting lighter, and it became clear that the once magic formula had run its course. As a result, metalcore has returned to its hyper-masculine ways, fuelled by misogynistic imagery and sexist lyrics. The sentiment and poetry has now gone from the music, yet we can still look back on The Opposite of December with great fondness and respect. 

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