Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Review: Diocletian - War of All Against All

After listening to this album a couple times in fits and starts, as I read and fucked around on the internet, I decided I wanted to really listen to it. I'd already heard enough to be very impressed, but hadn't invested enough energy to connect with the music. I wanted to get it. Normally, what I'd do is crank this up on the speakers, stand in the middle of the room, and headbang, gesticulate, thrash out, whatever. But I'm recovering from surgery at the moment, and extremely tired. So I did something different. I just lay down on my bed and let War of All Against All wash over me.

In an instant, I was half asleep. My imaginings transformed into dreamings. But then a particularly commanding riff would snap me out of it, and for a minute or so I would listen with rapt attention before lapsing back into slumber. Even as I dozed, the music loomed over me like an iron fortress veiled in fog. In my most vivid dream, I looked down on a glowing chamber where jackal-headed gods carried out some brutal rite. I owe these visions to Diocletian.

The trance passed as the album reached its denouement. I woke up a few minutes into the fifteen-minute final track, "Fortress of the Unconquerable." On my first couple listens I'd quickly lost interest and skipped over it, taking it for the usual pompous outro track. But since I was already lying in bed, I left it on. I remember feeling slightly disappointed with myself for falling asleep, since I hadn't consciously paid attention to the album in the way I had hoped. Then, I fell asleep again.

Some five minutes later, I swam back into consciousness only to be seized by sudden dread. I felt as if my surroundings were no longer safe, as if mundane reality had receded and the vacuum had been filled by a hostile force. Instinctively, I tried to figure out what was wrong. Then I remembered there was music. I heard layers of pulsing drones and shimmering, shifting humming noises. Over all of it was a repetitive keening, the lament of some fantastical instrument that must have been half flute, half sawblade. I was about 2/3 into "Fortress of the Unconquerable," and the plodding martial riffs had given way to an extraordinarily eerie ambient passage.

It had really crept up on me, I thought. And then I realized that this was the sound of the war of all against all. Because most of the time it's not the thunder of guns and the clang of steel on steel. Mostly it's a secret war, those undercurrents of violence that course constantly around our feet. The little acts of mastery and domination that characterize our relationship to the world, for worse and for better. The hostility buried within apparently civil interactions. The power of the police and the schools. The strangulating grasp of the market's "invisible hand." And underneath it all the world-wrecking forces of Chaos, ever present yet ever concealed, whispering to us of ruin and liberation...

Listen to this one the whole way through.

Buy this album on Amazon


  1. Been jamming this quite a bit lately. Some of the better material related to the 'war metal' slew; at least the music really does match the title. What do you think of Witchrist?

  2. I would even say that this is kind of a game-changer for war metal. They understand that "noisy" isn't the same thing as "powerful"--heaviness and aggression come from cool riffs. Haven't actually heard Witchrist yet, but I'll check 'em out!

  3. Yeah, they're one of the only 'war' types to actually inject a bit of personality within the music. Unlike Proclamation and such, the music's driven by things other than the sheer extremity of it all. Witchrist is like Diocletian's brother band - sharing three members and being a more grimy, death metal version of the Diocletian sound. I dig 'em quite a bit.

  4. oh i didn't realize they were related, that makes sense though. listened to a few tracks yesterday and dug it. the riffs aren't as interesting to me as diocletian's, but at least there ARE riffs, and they contribute to the overall sound in a cool way. i get the sense that Withcrist are more about a droning, hypnotic feel, and I'm totally down with that.