Back on the Deck: Poison The Well – ‘The Opposite Of December’

By Glen Bushell

Nowadays melodic hardcore is often considered a dirty turn of phrase. The scene has been saturated beyond the point of repair, and even using the term to describe some bands would be deemed wildly inaccurate. Back in the 90’s however there were bands that embraced crushing metallic riffs, spoken word vocals, and a DIY hardcore ethos that would shape the future of underground music.

Florida was renowned for having one of the best regional hardcore scenes through this era, and spawned the likes of Culture, Morning Again, Shai Hulud, Strongarm and many more, and while some used elements of metal more than others, they all had a very similar sound to them that was instantly recognisable. This months ‘Back On The Deck’ feature looks back at probably the biggest band to rise from this scene and the album that would change the face of melodic hardcore forever. The band is Poison The Well, and the album is the timeless ‘The Opposite Of December’ which turned 15 years old last month.

Poison the well promo

Around the time of the album’s release, nu-metal was being lapped up by the media across the world and heavy bands were starting to gain more mainstream success than anyone could possibly have imagined. Yet down in South Florida, Poison The Well were readying their debut full length which would make all the angst-ridden bands dominating the world seem irrelevant. Having already made a name for themselves with their ‘Distance Only Makes The Heart Grow Fonder’ EP, Poison The Well attracted the attention of Trustkill Records that had already put out classic releases from Despair, Turmoil, and Brothers Keeper.

The band parted ways with original vocalist Duane Hosein, and recruited Jeffery Moreira who’s monolithic vocal would become part of the trademark Poison The Well sound throughout their career. The band recorded the album with Jeremy Staska who was responsible for some of the genre-defining South Florida hardcore records  such as ‘Atonement’ by Strongarm and ‘Born Of You’ by Culture, and with a bolder production than its predecessor, ‘The Opposite Of December’ was unleashed on December 14th 1999. It instantly became a melodic hardcore landmark and essentially catapulted the genre that would be known as metalcore to a new level.

The opening drum roll from Chris Hornbrook on ‘12/23/93’ kicks the album off with a thunderous crash. The triplet guitar work of Ryan Primack and Derek Miller, along with the earth-shattering screams of Jeffery Moreira would set the unrelenting tone for the record. The album had everything that was great about the Florida hardcore scene, yet every element was increased tenfold. The distinctive spoken word vocals cutting through the cacophony, while dropping into the heaviest breakdowns this side of a Morning Again record – particularly on ‘A Wish For Wings That Work’, that contrast of both dark and light sounds spine-tingling.

Something that was the main attraction of ‘The Opposite Of December’ was Moreiras poetic lyrics. They were often ambiguous, and while he played his cards close to his chest with regards to the subject matter, there was enough there for anyone to take something from. While their New York contemporaries were singing about brotherhood and the streets, Poison The Well dealt with matters of the heart. If lyrics such as “How could words slit wrists and close doors on present day heartfelt memories” on ‘Artists Rendering Of Me’ were a world away from the tough guy image that hardcore bands portray, they were every bit as potent, and offset by the heaviness of the music underneath them.

15 years later, the song that still stands out on this record for many people is ‘Nerdy’, which appears midway through the album and will probably be the moment that Poison The Well will always be remembered for. It shows the band at their heaviest and most melodic on this record, as the verses hit your chest and collapse your lungs, leading into the soaring chorus of “Sleep on portraits painted as perfect as you”, which still makes the hairs on the back of your neck stand up. Lets face it too, if at some point you didn’t have a lyric from ‘Nerdy’ as your MSN Messenger status in the early 2000’s then you were definitely doing the internet wrong.

That’s the hidden beauty in an album like ‘The Opposite Of December’, is that it is one of those timeless albums that makes you think back to that period when you first heard it. Maybe it was where you were the first time someone played it to you (my friends living room, January 2000, personally), or a memory that you associate the record with, it will take you back to that place you was in. For all the melody on this record, there are still plenty of more abrasive points. The razor sharp metallic riffs of ‘Not Within Arms Length’ have been lifted straight from the At The Gates playbook of guitar work, and the breakdown of ‘Mid Air Love Message’ is simply pummelling. The album ends with the stunning ‘My Mirror No Longer Reflects’ which decays into softly picked guitar playing underneath Jeffery Moreira’s guttural screams of “End me” repeated until the albums fade out.


The critical acclaim that came with ‘The Opposite Of December’ did not phase Poison The Well, and they toured relentlessly in support of the album. The band eventually began a u-turn of sorts in their sound, and chose not to do what would be expected of them and just put out another record that was exactly the same. The band became more experimental in its wake, adding more melody, and a more diverse range of influences that would see them even end up on a major label at one point.

Changes aside, their sound was constantly progressing and never felt forced, much like the path that Cave In’s career followed. Never trying to make ‘The Opposite Of December Part 2’ has meant that the status of this album, and its timeless legacy, will remain solidified in the annals of hardcore, melodic hardcore, metalcore, or any other subgenre that it gets classified as forever.

You can pick up the reissue of ‘The Opposite Of December’, which comes packaged with its follow up ‘Tear From The Red, via Rise Records now.