4 out of 5
Produced by: Scott Hull (ANb), Converge
Just look at that cover. While the notebook sketch nature of it has always seemed a little unpolished to me, I love the high level concept: a doughy angel reaching out to the right; a gigantic hand from beneath reaching up and clamping down on her face – there’s something going on there, fully befitting of two bands warring it out on a single disc. Those two bands: drum-machine pummelers Agoraphobic Noseblood – imagine your throatiest punk band dialed in intensity up to 11 – and hardcore pioneers Converge. The Poacher Diaries is rightly maligned for some odd production choices, which maybe makes ANb sound too crisp and Converge too murky, but the strengths of both bands peel past that. I’d also compliment something quite often overlooked on split albums: sequencing. ANb is all speed and aggression, and yet their tracks are mixed up enough in tone to make them mostly distinct, saving one of their slower songs – Infected Womb – for last, to smartly hand the thing over to Converge. On their half, Jacob Bannon and crew do something similar, front-loading with two 1.5 minute blasts of time changes and shouting, before launching in to some excellently layered, dense hardcore to close out the album.
As I’m a bigger fan of Converge than I am of ANb, I do, admittedly, tend to tire of the latter’s shtick by the last few of their songs, but they’re not a chore to sit through: tight riffing, interesting lyrics, and an aforementioned awareness of trying to mix things up as much as possible amidst their minute long blasts. On the Converge side of things, recognize Locust Reign is a classic, but the muffled production really undersells its complexity, making the shouted vocals of This Is Mine a bit more notable. But the two (to me) knock outs on here are They Stretch For Miles and The Great Devastator, both of which almost make use of the murky sound to elicit a perfect sense of quiet for guitar and vocal explosions to burst through.