Agoraphobic Nosebleed / Converge - The Poacher Diaries (retro review) (Cover Artwork)

Agoraphobic Nosebleed / Converge

The Poacher Diaries (retro review) (1999)

Relapse Records

The 1999 split between grindcore sideshow Agoraphobic Nosebleed and metalcore titans Converge seems like the perfect fit in retrospect. Although both acts were relatively young and years away from their defining works, The Poacher Diaries is nonetheless a split LP with the kind of energy and mania you’d expect from both acts.

For such a defining band of so-called “cybergrind,” most of AN’s side is pretty light on electronic elements. Perhaps JR Hayes (of AN’s sister band Pig Destroyer) being on vocal duties influenced the songs to be more straightforward. Still, the songs are short bursts of discordant energy, propped up immensely by Hayes’ stocky voice.

Although AN’s half is mostly a non-stop barrage, I would mention “Destroyed” as the best. Its sludgy production and slight drop in BPM makes the track surprisingly catchy by extreme metal standards. At the very least, it’s certainly not as ugly as the rest of the songs sound. I also quite like the final track, “Infected Womb”, which also slows down slightly (as well as implement some unsettling vocal samples) to ease the listener into Side B.

Converge help transition the change by putting their two shortest songs first. “Locust Reign” and “This is Mine” are both chaotic bursts of deranged vocals and noisy guitars. And while these tracks certainly aren’t bad, Converge’s half starts to get really interesting with “They Stretch for Miles”. Jacob Bannon’s muted vocals on top of a clean, ethereal guitar lick sounds more like The Mars Volta than a metalcore song. Eventually, layers of noisy guitars and gravelly shouts pile onto the mix. This build-up reminds me a lot of “Hell to Pay” from their iconic album Jane Doe (released just two years later).

The real jewel of this whole split, however, is “My Great Devastator”. This track is even more proto-Jane, and in my opinion one of the best songs of Converge’s lengthy discography. The noisy production lends itself to both the sludgy first half and the mathy riffs and tortured screams of the second half.

“The Human Shield” veers into grindier territory, further keeping in line with AN’s side. “Minnesota” is another slower track that foreshadows Jane in production and style. Although the song is fairly good, I can’t help but feel that “My Great Devastator” would have made for a much more impactful closer.

The Poacher Diaries is an underrated split from two of the most iconic bands in heavy music. It’s certainly worth hearing just for “My Great Devastator”, but the whole release is a great reminder as to why these bands are so revered in the first place.