1914 – “The Blind Leading The Blind” (Napalm Records)
Well, if you’re gonna theme your band on the First World War, and especially its horrors of trench warfare, gas attacks and machine gun slaughter, then playing blackened doom death would seem to be the way to go! However, going well beyond a concept is this Ukrainian band, both named after the start of WW1 and intentionally formed in 2014, the 100th anniversary of The Great War. Even more fascinating is vocalist Dmytro Kumar’s historical and archaeological obsession with that war, not just studying battles and its historical aspects to great detail, but also digging to uncover lost forgotten soldiers in his personal life! As such, 1914 is no loose themed outfit, even if the guys dress up as (German) soldiers and have somewhat ludicrous titles of ‘2.Division, Infanterie-Regiment Nr.147, Oberleutnant – Ditmar Kumar’ (!), but actually are made up of 20 year + veterans of Ukraine’s underground scene covering hardcore-punk, grindcore, brutal death, black metal, stoner, noise, industrial, nu-metal, MDM. Whatever your views on the concept, “The Blind Leading The Blind” is the band’s sophomore, and an impressive one at that across its 11 tracks, including an excellent cover of The Exploited’s ‘Beat The Bastards’. With an immense and dark sound, the music of 1914 interestingly isn’t content to rest on its obvious aggression and ghastly brutality, but commendably succeeds in being powerfully atmospheric and actually moving in places, possibly because the band themselves aren’t war mongers but seem more like philosophers, pondering on what it is in man’s nature that makes him so violent. Equally, being from a country with a history and indeed, at present locked in war, their music is particular poignant ‘…because those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it..’. Of course the war theme isn’t new with Sabaton immediately springing to mind, but 1914 are less singalong, more epic and certainly far darker. Grinding slowly like a sturmmann shining his bayonet, ‘A7V Mephisto’ closes in menacingly through vicious, dirty riffs and Kumar’s dark drawls, then as the drums chatter like a machine gun, cold melodies burst like star shells as Kumar starts to get increasingly rawer until they go over the top with speed before returning to the freezing blackness of the night as defined by slow precision drum and cymbal work, contorted riffs and the ugly, visceral tones of Kumar. Bombarding in before launching a full black death assault on ‘C’est Mon Dernier Pigeon’, the drums fire like relentless artillery while a mixture of screams, roars and chants of ‘kill! kill! kill!’ amid a ferocious kick beat bring home the insanity before a slow death passage with plenty of reverb and deep bass runs set the tone for an ominous melody and Kumar growling like a beast, all humanity lost. At 10 minutes long, ‘The Hundred Days Offensive’ lives up to its title in being the longest track on the album, beginning with light acoustics before a black death epic of powerful catchy riffs, cold clanging melodies, pagan roars and mid paced double bass drumming unfolds, shifting between faster and slower speeds along with quieter pieces graced by spoken word but always exuding a captivating presence throughout. Indeed, it is this hold on the listener that 1914 have attained and whatever their eccentricities, this is a remarkable album to their credit. And just as a final thought, “The Blind Leading The Blind” was released at the 11th hour on the 11th day of the 11th month (Central European Time) – the 100th Anniversary of the end of The Great War.