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After several well received releases (including 2009's Doom Cult), Diocletian returns with their best effort yet, with 2010's War of All Against All. While songs on the Sect of Swords EP presented listeners with a sound leaning more towards black metal, Doom Cult displays Diocletian's Canadian war metal influences, with bands such as Revenge coming to mind.
War of All Against All, however, has Diocletian showing off more of their death metal influence, yet retaining the dark atmosphere that their previous output has always had in the music. The sound of war and explosions greet the listener on Black Dominion, before a doom-laden riff reminiscent of death/doom bands such as Coffins introduces the listener to the chaos that is to come on War of All Against All. Do not be fooled though as the introduction is merely a means of preparing listeners for the main onslaught as the muffled growls of Southwell, the frenzy riffs and drumming begin, the trem-picked guitar riffs leaving the listener anxious and constantly on the edge of his seat. The chaotic guitar solo on songs such as Infernos once again remind listeners of the aforementioned Revenge. The rumbling bass provides an added heaviness to the music, with instances such as on Kingdom of Rats being a good example where the bass is given much higher presence, leaving a deeper impact on listeners.
The drumming here is nothing flamboyant or fanciful though, as it seems that the main purpose is to maintain the speed and intensity of the music, with the constant blastbeats that back up the rest of the band. The at times echoey tone of the drums, sounding as if it were a rumbling thunder at the background certainly provides a heavy touch to the music. The drums also display the various influences on the band as well, such as the pattern and the pick-scratching on Might is Right, instantly bringing bands such as Archgoat to mind. Throw in a nice, raw production and you now have the perfect blend for some dirty black/death metal.
While songs such as Desolate Earth and Blood Aeon come and go in a whirlwind, the finale of the album, Fortress of the Unconquerable is a 16 minute epic track, and presents a different face of the Diocletian that we all know. The howling wind and the haunting atmosphere is broken by the once again doom-ish riffs that were presented at the start of the album, a pace that the song will carry on in for the rest of the track, pierced by the seemingly random noises at the background, almost as if invisible people were whispering in the dark, driving the listener almost insane. Finally, after more than 5 minutes of droning guitars, vocals come into the picture, an almost welcoming moment, yet staying at that same, painfully slow pace before leaving listener with a final 8 minutes of droning and feedback once more, this time without the guitars, replaced by seemingly random sound effects instead.
While Fortress of the Unconquerable sounds like an experimental effort by Diocletian, it certainly alienates fans of previous outputs of the band which are considerably more straightforward. The first 9 tracks have undeniably been an enjoyable moment for me, but Fortress of the Unconquerable caused the experience to slightly falter, taking a few listens to get used to.