Hailing from Florida's southern tip, Poison the Well arose quickly within the underground hardcore punk scene, becoming a major touring act in several U.S. markets on the strength of a confident debut album and energized live performances. The band favored a style of metalcore that evoked the guitar histrionics of Slayer and the brutal stomp of Hatebreed, while also balancing the proceedings with doses of warmth and melody. The result attracted attention from major labels, resulting in a brief stint on the roster of Atlantic Records. Although the band's tenure in the major leagues was short, Poison the Well remained a potent draw among hardcore punk fans, and albums like 2007's Versions illustrated a willingness to push boundaries without losing the band's metal-styled muscle.
Poison the Well initially took shape under the name An Acre Lost, a band formed by original Poison the Well vocalist Aryeh Lehrer and guitarist Ryan Primack. After releasing a split 12" through Ohev Records, the musicians adopted a new name and issued 1998's Distance Makes the Heart Grow Fonder, an EP featuring new material and several tracks from the spit 12". Poison the Well's lineup was amorphous from the start, hinting at the numerous transformations in personnel that would later occur. Since the group's formation in 1998, however, the most recognizably stable lineup has consisted of Primack, guitarist Derek Miller, vocalist Jeff Moreira, bass player Mike Gordillo, and drummer Chris Hornbrook.
In 1999, the band signed a record deal with the notable New Jersey-based hardcore imprint Trustkill, and they commenced work on a debut full-length album after spending that summer on tour. The Opposite of December was recorded at Studio 13 with producer Jeremy Staska at the helm, and the album proved to be a smash success on the hardcore scene. Combined with the group's incessant touring regimen, it helped establish them as a premier metalcore act. Poison the Well spent most of 2001 on the road, touring with the likes of Cryptopsy and Candiria while working on material for their sophomore effort, 2002's Tear from the Red.
The band's innovative third album, You Come Before You, was released in 2003 by Atlantic Records. Poison the Well had graduated to the major leagues, and the guys closed out the year with a slot on the annual Take Action Tour and end-of-year concerts with Every Time I Die and the Bronx. Lineup changes also took place, and by early 2005, Poison the Well were comprised of Primack, Moreira, Hornbrook, guitarist Jason Boyer, and bassist Benjamin Brown. The bandmates continued to tour and work on new material through the year, and the following summer was spent on the third annual Strhess Tour alongside acts like Shadows Fall, It Dies Today, and Still Remains.
By the end of 2006, Poison the Well had lost their association with Atlantic and returned to the indie world by partnering with Ferret Records. Additional changes arrived in the form of the band's fourth album, Versions, which incorporated instruments like banjo, mandolin, and slide guitar into a brash, Western-tinged sound. Two years later, however, the band returned to a traditional hardcore sound with The Tropic Rot.