Album Review: 1914 - Where Fear And Weapons Meet
Reviewed by Sam Jones
To say that I was excited and hyped for this album would be an understatement. Following my chance discovery of 1914 a few years ago, having listened to their 2015 Eschatology Of War record and then moving on to their 2018 Blind Leading The Blind, and then being resultingly stunned by the latter, I was absolutely on board with anything 1914 could perchance throw at me. Originating outside Lviv Oblast, Ukraine, the band have become a championing band of this part of the world considering how we don’t really hear of too many extreme metal bands coming from Eastern Europe. What sets 1914 apart from others though, even throughout more typically war-based bands in thrash and death metal, is their emphasis on the First World War (even in their name) because this is a period of warfare that really doesn’t get covered all that much. It was such a titanic shift in socio-historic perceptions of war that its amazing this brief but cataclysmic period is barely touched upon, 1914 therefore have been doing some great metal concerning this conflict not merely from an extreme metal standpoint but also from a genuine educational standpoint. You might actually learn something from their music, but its now time to see what wounds the band are prepared to inflict upon us with what is now their third full length studio record.
The band return with the familiar, bookmarking motif of opening and closing their record with early 20th century-sounding radio pieces. Now these sections may only be short but they do help to inject a touch more immersion into a time period that none of us would have lived in ourselves and yet it’s one that we can’t simply ignore, owing to the nightmare that the First World War induced. They also continue to cement the band’s identity in this time period, demonstrating they’re far from done with the Great War. There are plenty more tales and battles to be told as of yet. What I really took to was how “FN. 380 ACP#19074” seems to add a great deal more orchestral flair into the band’s songwriting and makeup than their previous works have otherwise done. It’s curious they chose to undertake this decision in the first real song on the album, immediately opening up new horizons for their sound to penetrate and therefore introduce their audience to. 1914 aren’t merely performing for their established and recognised audience, but for any potential new and fresh fans who have stumbled upon them.
Continuing on with that orchestral element, it’s nice to see that the band may at times just completely dispense with the primary instrumentation altogether and instead just give us moments of pure, symphonic majesty. I could totally see 1914 undergoing a potentially symphonic-focused death metal record in the same vein as Fleshgod Apocalypse. Judging by this record’s performance, 1914 could honestly go down that route and succeed rather vividly. Even though the band do implement a stronger orchestral presence this time round, it’s good to know they didn’t just go to town and make the record overly bombastic. The root of their sound is still the same as it’s ever been with that particular emphasis on war and the human side of brutality but also the vocal performance. You’re able to fully and coherently follow what the vocals are actually saying despite all the blast beats, string sections, brass horns in the background etc going on at the same time and that’s where praise should be applied to their mixing efforts. This is a really well balanced and dynamic album that is able to walk the line over what is ruthless and relentless with what is sombre and pained to hear. Being able to somewhat understand and follow the vocals only helps to pile on that immersion (and if you’re a history nerd like myself), it just helps to give this record a greater foothold in reality which of course is precisely what the band are all about. The First World War was a slew of carnage and outdated, tactical insanity the likes of which the world had never seen before, and 1914’s vocal performance as well as the lyrics themselves channel that fury and fear and terror into your senses. I think that’s why the intro and outro pieces are as effective as they are; they give you an idea of how chivalrous and character building people believed this massive European conflict would be, before grim and naked destitution sets in; one you can’t escape from. The vocal work is one rather memorable to fans of 1914: a balanced duo of more gruff, baritone work compared to a slightly raspier and higher version that takes the band’s performance into more visceral and punishing territory.
The inclusion of brief samples prior to most tracks’ duration continues that established immersion the band instil right from the start as well. Whether it’s the sound of artillery fire, the whistling that cues the charge of men soon to die or the rattling chattering of German soldiers e.g. “Vimy Ridge (In Memory Of Filip Konowal)” etc it helps to keep invigorating us not only with the album’s atmosphere but with the realisation that such a catastrophe actually happened. In a way it’s reminiscent to the guitar work on this album as 1914’s riff work isn’t founded on punching us head on or creating any sledgehammer-esque segments that come down on us with all the force they can muster. Since the band are vying quite considerably for that atmospheric flavour, the riffs are the kind that mesh seamlessly with the rest of the band’s performance to create a sound that is one, complete and realised product as opposed to the guitar work standing on its own two feet while the rest of the band choose to uplift it for example. Guitar solos are pretty absent here as they have been with the rest of 1914’s album catalogue. The riffs here feel stretched out, not merely in the death/doom approach to their songwriting whereby those riffs would usually gather crushing strength when they fall on you. Instead the riffs often back up the vocal work whereby the latter is a rather prevalent and forward moving force on this record. It’s why I really appreciate 1914, they place great emphasis on their vocal work and regularly utilise the riffs to reinforce the vocal performance as opposed to the other way around.
The other aspect I think will continue to draw people into this album is speed, or rather how steady the band choose to keep it here. We’ve heard it faster and slower from these guys in the past, but throughout this record the band showcase they can write 6 and 7 minute long tracks consecutively without boring their audience and yet maintain a very steady and gradual pace. This isn’t an album where you may want to rush your way through from one track to the next, the pacing of this record won’t allow for that. However if you’re looking for an album that will utterly consume your attention as well as submerge you in atmospheric immersion this could be 1914’s most successful venture yet. If Blind Leading The Blind was their record focusing on the human tragedy of the war, then Where Fear And Weapons Meet is the band’s fixation on the carnal slaughter of the war especially as “The Green Fields Of France” envelop us within the most chaotic and blisteringly rabid piece the band have ever included on an album of theirs. This commitment to the murderous nature and uncaring attitude of industrialised warfare is one that we can feel flowing through the record. It’s a rather different beast to their previous work which considering they’re playing material about the same time period, is actually rather impressive as we now have a total of three full length records by 1914, each of which can be summarily enjoyed within the spheres of their own duration. Listening to one album does not in the slightest mean you’ve heard them all, the same rule also applies to Where Fear And Weapons Meet. With each new album, 1914 only continues to expand not only their own sound but the means by which they’re capable of exuding themselves.
In conclusion, 1914 give us a much more vicious and cold-blooded view of the Great War than the sorrowful and morose take Blind Leading The Blind took back in 2018. The band’s songwriting may not be thoroughly geared towards a punching and blunt guitar assault as other war-based bands may direct themselves as, however 1914 have certainly amplified the visceral and searing quality their music has always possessed to a point where tracks here are definitely alongside the most ruthless and evil they’ve done yet. As mentioned beforehand it’s fascinating how we can observe their standalone albums and get a different sensation from each one even when the band are giving us content about the same period in time. It certainly felt like the band took us out of a first-person view and instead gifted us with a third-person, panoramic view where we can see the full extent of death and decay and slaughter that this battlefield truly has waiting for us. This is mirrored in the songwriting too where there’s a particular focus on the band’s all-round performance as opposed to what each instrumental component can bring to the record. That’s always been 1914’s approach to band interplay and yet here it comes across as more solidified and deliberate than ever before. While I’m still vehemently under the belief that Blind Leading The Blind is their best album, Where Fear And Weapons Meet is still a sublime work, and especially when we consider the ridiculously high level, consistent quality 1914 have become established of giving us.