1914 are a Ukrainian death/doom/black metal band who sing, play, and seem to ooze the tales of the First Great War. They immediately resonated with me the first time I heard them on their 2015 debut Eschatology Of War but it wasn’t until their album The Blind Leading The Blind, released on November 18, 2018, the 100th anniversary of Armistice Day of World War I, that I realized how enamoured I really was.
I come from a military family. I was fourteen years old when The World Trade Center was attacked. My father was seventeen years old when he lied about his age to go fight in Vietnam. Inspired by stories of glory with romanticized images the Great Wars were portrayed in media. His father, my grandfather, carried with him a sense of guilt for never speaking of the true horrors of war, and my father initially was still pretty much himself, but decades later he changed so much to the point no one could recognize him. His PTSD symptoms increased to the point where no one can currently have any contact with him.
Rank, name, and jobs of 1914 are as follows:
2.Division, Infanterie-Regiment Nr.147, Oberleutnant – Ditmar Kumar – Vocals
37.Division, Feldartillerie-Regiment Nr.73, Wachtmiester – Liam Fessen – Guitars
5.Division, Ulanen-Regiment Nr.3, Sergeanten – Vitalis Winkelhock – Guitars
9.Division, Grenadier-Regiment Nr.7, Unteroffiziere – Armin von Heinessen – Bass
33.Division, 7.Thueringisches Infanterie-Regiment Nr.96, Gefreite – Rusty Potoplacht – Drums
A 1914 tradition is to begin each album with a War In titled track, setting the scene for the time period at hand. Where Fear And Weapons Meet is no exception as 1914 takes the words written by Paul Rubens to harken the times of war used for advertisements. Images of camaraderie until a sound of carnage begins as we are led into FN .380 ACP #19074. It doesn’t take its time on build-up. Instead, triumphant guitars lock you in and our soldiers begin their trained auditory assault. There is no random chaos as so many extreme metal bands relish. Instead, a very calculated attack is planned and executed. A stoic orchestra comes in without a stitch of pretension and the stage of what we’re in for the next hour is officially set.
My father would take me to veteran meetings, which were essentially group therapy sessions when I was in grade school. The World War II vets would recount their war stories. Their cartoonish heroics would turn into all-encompassing stories on how I envision the act of killing the faceless enemies and become a hero. Occasionally, a man who knew he didn’t have much time left would speak a tale of unspeakable horror, and the idea of being a hero lost its appeal. After 9/11 my dad told me any strategies he knew of to avoid the draft.
Powerhouse Vimy Ridge (In Memory of Filip Konowal) suffocates each second… ending with a somber wind and leading to a sample as Pillars Of Fire (The Battle Of Messines) then blends metal with orchestra once again. Echoed vocals from Ditmar Kumar circle around guitar feedback and a tale of stepping forward in a battle blindly. Screams tangle around the guitars from Fessen and Winkelhock as well as the bass from von Heinessen, while the drum work of Potoplacht keeps the pace constantly moving forward and never ceasing.
I was given presents from World War II before I was born. I was named after my grandfather who passed away shortly before I came to be. He felt it right to hand down to me several items that are drenched in mystery as the only people who know the full story are dead. A Jewish Wedding ring with the words ‘even in death our souls will be together’. As well as a fire pistol pin, a dagger, and a lighter, all made in Austria.
Don’t Tread On Me (Harlem Hellfighters) recounts the tale of Private Henry Johnson. Taking a drastic change into Irish folk Coward and features Sasha Boole for a gorgeous change to what we’ve been listening to. Like soldiers entering a foreign bar in a peaceful city and seeing a different side to the people they’ve been fighting against. Seeing them with friends. Falling in love. Being human.
Written in a ‘we regret to inform you’ letter to an already worried mother …And A Cross Now Marks His Place features Nick Holmes of Paradise Lost fame, his vocals provide a forlorn quality that really pushes the depressed feeling to the next level.
My grandmother passed away in 2011. My mother, sister, and I were cleaning out her garage and I found my grandfather’s real ivory clad and platinum line Zippo Lighter, entombed with fur and piss from seventy years’ worth of stray cats at the bottom of a box called ‘junk’.
Beginning in a patriotic fashion, Corps D’Autos-Canons-Mitrailleuses (A.C.M.) soon drastically turns into a doom soaked march. Strings that flow melodically permeate each minute. Tones and drums crash like waves until the harsh vocals begin, telling the story of a slew of epic travels and how the military can bring the excitement of seeing something new, but with the promise of another massacre and the vague memory of home.
Mit Gott Für König Und Vaterland begins with a sample from the film All Quiet On The Western Front. A fury of blinding rage soaks every sound. At this moment the realization that these stories aren’t special. This was everyday life for a soldier. Stories from hundreds of thousands that are wholly different, but somehow the same.
The Green Fields Of France is a reimagining of the Scottish folk icon Eric Bogle. Those familiar with the original had to assume 1914 would take that, then infuse it with enough piss and vigor to bring this whole bloody affair to a head, dripping with so much infection that all the alcohol in Europe couldn’t kill the pain of. The sounds of distant weapons firing grace the ending as a lone drummer and bagpipes play until the job is finished.
The music is spectacular and grandiose. Nothing here is taken for granted. A War Out track ends each release by 1914. This one, penned by Al Piantadosi and Alfred Bryan concludes this madness. With a hollow yet jolly sound putting an end to the blood-soaked tales. It feels like the rolling of credits as images burned into your mind’s eye replay so hard you can’t make out a single word of the lyrics.
I will never know my family who fought in wars without battle changing them. But I’m so thankful they did. I never played with G.I. Joes. I never wanted to enlist after seeing what war could do to a mind. But I’m still thankful. Those who fought in the trenches are either too old or sadly no longer with us, to reimagine the fear of what war was in those times. We need the music of 1914, movies like Come And See, and books like First Light that show the blood while muffling the screams after you’ve lost your hearing.
Scribed by: Richard Murray