‘War, war never changes…’ But it did, and particularly in 1914, it showed that advanced technology and ancient battle tactics can combine into a horrible cocktail of death and decay. That is the theme taken by the band 1914 from Ukraine.
Their live shows are a spectacle, somewhere between re-enactment and death metal extravaganza. Their latest album, after a long time fighting to get their own sound heard, here is ‘The Blind Leading The Blind’. A work that tells of the folly that is war and the horrible situations it created, This definitely get the sound noticed, which is something I’m very happy about. The band takes their sound further though, and the fascination with World War I goes much, much further. You can re-read the interview I had with singer Dmytro Kumar about that here.
The blood-soaked fields and trenches
1914 delivers a firm death metal masterpiece with a sense of melancholy and despair woven into the very fabric of the songs. Repetitive riffing, stomping rhythms and firing on all cylinders, the band marches on and on with tunes like ‘Arrival. The Meuse-Argonne’ and ‘High Wood. 75 Acres of Hell’. Every song adhering to the theme, as cavalrymen swing their swords while galloping towards machine guns. Mighty tanks getting bogged down in the mud… It’s a blind dash for death. The only spark of hope is in the Exploited cover, ‘Beat the Bastards’, as a sense of rebellion emerges, but it soon submerges as the war continues.
Obviously, there’s a link to be made here to the mighty BoltThrower. No wonder then, that on ‘Passchenhell’ we have Dave Ingram (also Benediction of course) singing along with the Ukranian battalion. But perhaps my favorite track on the album is ‘The Hundred Days Offensive’, which derives, like much of the album, a lot of force from the introducing sample. Here we hear a soldier talking to the man he just killed. “When you jumped in here you were my enemy, I was afraid. But you were just a man like me, and I killed you.” It’s here that we feel so deeply the disgust of the human tragedy, which we failed to learn any lessons from.
Musically, the album is versatile and very catchy. From fierce, pounding death metal, to harrowing melodic passages. 1914 has everything and more to offer. No wonder they just got signed to Napalm Records.
Ukraine has always had a strong metal scene. Some of the bigger names are well known, but also sort of ignored in the west. That’s mainly in the more black metal side of things, but politics (usually a reason for censorship) are almost unavoidable for bands. The same goes for 1914, even though their main theme is the Great War of a 100 years ago!
The band 1914 has a fascination with history, particularly the great war, which heralded an era of darkness for there part of Europe. The idea of a Ukrainian nation was crushed for years during this period of turmoil by the Soviet Union. The world saw huge changes and took the shape it still largely has.
So I got in touch with Dmytro Kumar, frontman of the band, who is fascinated with the Great War. Not only does he find it a historic time that he wishes to explore, he sees a continuation of sorts in our current history. That and more in this interview.
1914: Eschatology of War
Hey 1914! Can we start by introducing 1914? Who are the band members and how did you guys get together as a band?
We started 3 years ago, on the anniversary of the Great War, in summer 2014. And as it usually happens, first year was spent for rehearsals, grinding in, crew changes. Actually crew changes finished just this summer. So 3 years ago (when we split up with my hardcore punk band) I just wrote to a few good guys in Lviv with proposal – let`s play some kind of black metal and sludge, what do you think?
They said – hmm.. good idea))
So guys, what do you think about WW1 theme, soldiers fate, despair and a lot of history?
They said – ok, man, don’t fuck our brains with all of this, it`s up to you))
And we started.
Did you play in other bands before? And where did the need come from to form this band?
Yeah, all band members had a huge musical experience in another bands and styles – hardcore-punk, grindcore, brutal death, black metal, stoner, noise, industrial, nu-metal, MDM. As for me – my music story was started 20 years ago with my first punk band. So very different experience, but when we started together we liked the result. I define our style as trench core
There a few past band of our members: Disentrail, Ambivalence, Ratbite, John B Gut, and ForceOut.
Your theme is mainly World War I and surrounding themes. What made this theme so compelling to you? Is it the drama of it or maybe its idealism?
I think this type of questions always will be at our interview and will follow us everywhere)) So about Great War:
Over 10 years ago I went into war archaeology, actually WW1 archeology. I love this war, this history, uniforms, weapons, armament, stories about battles, the fate of soldiers. I am a really big fan of Great War. Here in Ukraine, there were many battles of Great War – Brusilov`s offensive, Carpathian winter operation, Galician battle. All kind of troops was there – Russian, German, Austro-Hungarian, ottoman, Belgian, Romanian soldiers…they all here.
So I dig up dead soldiers – skeleton, with uniform, weapon, ammo, with all the stuff and wrote songs about their fate, silent death, their feelings, and fear.
I have always been inspired by this theme. I love films, books, stories, artifacts of this war. And no, it`s not about idealism. You cannot idealize any war – because war is always about shitty politics and bullshit propaganda, death, mud, mass graves, suffering, broken lives, despair. I just love history and this strange feeling – when you dig up a soldier, who died here 100 years ago, you sit down near these bones which once were human, with all human’s stuff – love, feelings, hope, some hobbies, maybe he was a beer lover, traveler, good musician, painter, maybe just good father or son, whose parents were waiting at home, you think – why and for what did he die? Why this fucking homo sapiens always killing each other? I don’t know, I just don’t have an answer.
Your music has a sort of grandeur to it, while not shying away from the dark and grim reality. In many ways World War I was a transition from one world to another. Is there a sense of melancholy or nostalgia to that for you?
Hmm…nostalgia. Yeah, maybe nostalgia is a right word. The Great War – this is the time when I would like to live, the strangest war, the last war of gentlemen and knights, the death of all empires, a time when the whole world was changed. I think my irrational love to this war and actually, this period of history was rooted in this word – nostalgia.
Fuck, typing this passage and understood what a boring old fart I am…
How did you find the sound of 1914? What sort of choices do you feel make you guys sound the unique way you do?
To be honest – I don’t know. A lot of rehearsals, good guys and a few bottles of moonshine. We`re just creating our songs the way we consider correct, with passion and every song some kind of a story about soldiers, how they died, their feats, about battles, gas, machine guns and tanks, about all of this deadly stuff of Great War, with all these emotions about nonsense and senseless war.
Are there any bands that inspire you and in what way?
As you can understand there are different musical tastes in band, so I’ll talk about mine
Music that I listen to and about influence – it will be a long list from Japanese noise to grindcore, from true BM to old school rap, from hardcore punk to industrial, electronic, death, doom, sludge, stoner.
Actually, I am a big fan of Misfits, Exploited, Anti-Nowhere League, New Model Army, UK Subs, Bolt thrower, Lake of tears, GBH, Paradiselost, Bathory, Grave, Obituary, Asphyx, Merzbow, EinstürzendeNeubauten, Blackflag, Mork Gryning, Aube, Mayhem, Bad religion, Darkthrone, Socialdistortion, Unleashed, Atrax Morgue and tones of old-school hardcore punk, death, true black metal from early 90`s and noise\industrial from 70-80`s. I fucking love Japan noise and some British and Scandinavian bands like Nordvargr, Dead Voices On Air, CremationLily, In SlaughterNatives. I`m a big fan and collecting releases of noise\industrial\ambient labels like Cold Meat Industry, Slaughterproduction, Cold Spring, Old Europa Café, Drone records, Ant-Zen etc. A lot of awesome new music we can have today and it`s great. If we talk about just one band what give`s me an inspiration I think it would be Lake of tears.
You’ve recently released the single ‘Stormtrupp 1917’. Can you tell a bit about that? Maybe what its about and what it signifies to you? (and is it related to the 1934 movie?)
This a first single from our upcoming album. About this song, we received different feedbacks, but mostly positive. The song is about German assault troops, and it’s neither about their glorifications, nor about propaganda or ode to Stormtrupp. No, it’s just a story from the first person, German’s soldier who loved to kill peoples and war. Because at the Western front this Stormtrupp were the most horrible and successful assault brigades. The same we have about Italian, British, Ottoman, Ukrainian troops. And yes, I wrote this song with a strong influence of this propagandist movie and book Storm of Steel by Ernst Junger, he was a German’s assault trooper, he was fought on the Western Front during the Great War. I even receive a letter with words like this – song about German soldiers with iron crosses, why? Are you a nazi band?
What could I say? Just no, it`s about human nature, homo sapiens behavior, history, and war. And – fuck nazis and all kind of totalitarian shitheads.
When I saw you live, I was quite impressed by the stage presentation and the outfits. It was quite powerful. How did you come up with this look and do you think it helps you to get into the state of mind your music requires?
Remember Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas?
– Not that we needed all that for the trip, but once you get locked into a serious drug collection, the tendency is to push it as far as you can –
If you know what I mean. If you get locked into a serious WW1 theme you cannot stop. So we use a some artifacts from WW1, some of this stuff I dig up by myself (all buttons, grenades, trench axes, helmets, etc) we use a real working Mosin–Nagant rifle as custom microphone stand, we use a lot of things to create an atmosphere of Great war – sounds of war, hymn samples, sounds of machineguns, speeches between songs about this part of history, old and rare video footage from WW1. Now we are planning to buy a copy of uniform from WW1 period (British, French, Russian, Austrian) and use it on the stage, so we becoming a real re-enactment. But all this stuff costs a lot of money, and I hope that some WW1 re-enactment clubs and teams will help us with this.
What role do politics play in the music of 1914? Dealing with themes of the World War automatically brings up connotations with the world we live in now. Do you put any of that in the music or does it play a part in themes you chose?
We’re 100% non-political band and we don’t want to have any relation to all that shit. To all that teenage ideology games within system boundaries. Yeah, we against all this bullshit like racism, nazis, commies, religions, all kind of discrimination and totalitarianism or any dictators shit. My only policy is to live, to love and to let others do the same. All the ideologies, politics, subcultures, games of movements that allegedly change the world can go fuck themselves.
War ended a hundred years ago, but still, we’re facing its consequences. Second world war, this monster – it’s an ugly child of Great War. All the geopolitics and Balkan conflict are the heritage of Great War. The Communist regime and the iron curtain, concentration camps and Third Reich, mustached dictators – this all started in the times of Great War. Arms races and conventions, tanks, aviation, chemical weapons – all stems from that time. Great War is way deeper and stronger in our life as you used to think.
I imagine being a band from Ukraine politics are impossible to keep out, seeing what the country is dealing with. At Kilkim Zaibu you paid homage to the Ottoman army who fought against the Russians You also drew a parallel with the modern world. Could you elaborate a bit on that?
As you know (or don’t) Russia invaded the neighboring country as usual. It’s their way of life – shit under every fence around, capture other’s land, and after all, that keep whining that nobody likes Russians. In fact, they invaded us again, as they did during last 100 years. Just the same way they invaded Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, the Czech Republic, Hungary and so on, just like they once in the middle of Europe boldly captured Eastern Prussia and Konigsberg. This is what’s happening here right now – military intervention and seizure of territories. Of course, we’re all affected, I have many friends on the frontline now, my fellow musicians. It’s really hard to realize that in 2017 when Tesla rolls over the world and drives out fuel engines, water is found on Mars, Elon Musk plans private space journeys – our young guys are dying just because some insane post-soviet dictators imagined themselves to be masters of the world and invaded a foreign country. And Europe still feels deeply concerned with their tongue stuck deep in the ass. Such a position of frightened impotent. Or do you think these fuckers gonna stop on us?
How does 1914 create its music? Is it a band-effort or are there separate roles and one person in the lead?
I write all lyrics, concept and all this stuff. 90% of the music created by our guitar player Oleksa (Liam Fessen from 37.Division, Feldartillerie-Regiment Nr.73). He just brings to rehearsal some parts and ideas, let`s play this way this and this. After that I often just have a picture in my head – oh… this new piece totally about Somma or about panzer A7V or about a British soldier in the shell hole.
I imagine you draw inspiration from history material. Are there specific books or films that you would recommend as required reading for people who get inspired to dig into this part of history through your music?
There are thousands of great books about WW1, tones of documentary films and photos. Of course books of Gerard De Groot, David Stevenson, John Keegan, Alistair Horne, Erich Maria Remarque and Ernst Junger, Martin Gilbert, Irving Root, Christopher Clark, Barbara Tuchman, Pat Barker, Paul Fussell, Siegfried Sassoon, Dalton Trumbo….i can type and type a thousand names. There are great publishing houses like Pen & Sword,Schiffer Books, and Casemate Publishers, they published a lot of great stuff about WW1. Very recommended their books. About films – there is not too much good films about Great War, some like 100 I think. So if you started right now watch it all, one per day – you will be finished around early spring And of course BBC and History documentary films.
In what way should we look at history? Should we make it a guide for our future or should we see it on its own?
Just a simple phrase – Those who don’t remember the past are condemned to repeat it.
What future plans does 1914 have?
Tell about the Great War to the whole world, to all metalheads, to all military fans. Told this part of history to all who can hear it. Record a new fucking awesome album, make a video clip, collaborate w a th big label (first of all find one), playing tours and gigs in EU as much as we can, and of course – creating a good music and stories about Great War. Sounds like plan?
If you’d have to describe 1914 as a kind of food, a dish, what would it be and why?
Bottle of Carpathian moonshine with marinated cucumbers and homemade salo. Why? Have you ever tasted it? Because it`s fucking good!
Label: Purity Through Fire Band: Bergrizen Origin: Ukraine
Bergrizen is remarkably enough a solo project by Myrd’raal. The band hails from Kiev. The music is self-described as HelCarpathian black metal, which was not a term I was familiar with up till now, but listening to this record I’m quite sure that its a fitting term for the furious sound.
The band has been around for a good 10 years now and in the live setting, there is a full band playing the songs, so that must be something to behold. This is the fifth album by Bergrizen, with the ominious Hegellian title ‘Der Unsterblichen Geist’.
The sound of Bergrizen combines a classic somberness with the rigid sound of straight-backed black metal. Pitch black, but surprisingly enough, also very listenable. There’s an inherent darkness to the sound of this band, with many remorseful and melancholic passages in the quieter bits. From the points where the music swells, we get powerful arches, tremolo riffing and pained howls.
The singing is often inaudible to an extent that only the feeling is conveyed in almost bestial screams. Musically the record cover might suggest much grimmer and harrowing sounds, but surprisingly Bergrizen is full of melody. On ‘ Ankunft der Winterdämmerung’ we also hear a deeper, more abyssal voice full of evil promises. Then again, on ‘Entsagen’ we actually get a bit of that rock’n’rolling sound and feel.
Bergrizen has a lot of the traditional black metal vibe while being much more easy to listen to. That doesn’t diminish anything of the grim and dark atmosphere on the album. It just makes it pleasant to delve into it.
Raventale has been around since 2005. Since then the atmospheric black metal band has been steadily pushing out new records. The band revolves around Astaroth Merc, who seems to be a busy little bee with various projects. Just a to name a few; DeferumSacrum, Balfor and Chapter V:F10. Raventale is his main project though, in which he does literally everything.
Raventale has dabbled with various themes, from Tibetan buddhism to Native American mythology. Astaroth draws inspiration from pretty much everything in order to create his art. It makes the music deep and ritualistic, with cosmic pretences. This is something special for sure.
‘Gemini – Behind Two Black Moons’ immediately launches with a big guitar wall and a thick, melancholic atmosphere. The slow pace is reverential, mighty and the backdrop for furious vocals, that preach in an apocalyptic tone. The guitar work feels very classic heavy metal. Soaring and full of strength, they really have an almost magical effect.
The regal sound makes way for a more forceful track on ‘Bringer of Celestial Anomalies’. Though the big wall of sound remains, it packs more aggression and energy. Another fact you’ll notice is how the production is exactly how it should be. Expansive at some points, and narrow at others to give you exactly what you need.
Even when the band interjects brief interludes of just guitar, a hazy wave of distortion keeps ringing in the background. Silence never falls in the universe of Raventale. For the following tune, titled ‘At the Halls of the Pleiades’, a more rigid, stripped-down sound can be heard. Blaring melodies and strong, steady rhythms are a show of muscle. Nothing about Raventale is gentle or measured, everything is about the grand gesture and that is something pretty cool in how this band does it.
A record for those who need some power and cosmic darkness in their playlist. I encourage checking this out.
This time from that deep underground, I’ve got Turnstile, Forgotten Tomb, Moloch and Anfinnsaas for you to indulge in. Enjoy listening to some cool music.
Turnstile – Nonstop Feeling
Oh shit! Did I just get pulled back into listening to hardcore with a cool nineties vibe, remniscent of Shelter and Cro-Mags both. There’s also a tinge of some of the groove metal stuff going on in the day, but surprisingly, this band is super young. In fact this is their debut. The Baltimorians (is that the word?) have been around since 2010 and now delivered an awesome debut record. The album is out on Reaper Records, known for acts like Terror and Trapped Under Ice.
Turnstile has no problem putting back some emo in the core, without becoming whiney. There’s less of the tough guy bullshit, which is too often part of the New York sound they embrace. That gives way more freedom for music, since the songs don’t need to be laced with breakdowns and circle pit frenzy. There’s a lot of that going on, creating that catchy vibe of the more ideological laden hardcore bands of the nineties, specially with the vocals feeling a lot like those of Ray Cappo. Some effects, like on ‘Can’t Deny It’ empasize this fact. Looking forward to seeing these guys play in my town.
Anfinnsaas – Anfinnsaas
There are records, that you put on and just gradually enter your consciousnes. They fit the patterns you expect to hear and just kinda mellow into your hearing. This is not one of those records. This record is a hectic, frantic, noisy and chaotic amalgation of different styles and genres into a product that feels loose and uncontrolled. That would be quite far from the truth though, this band seems to absolutely know what they are doing on this debut. The group exists since 2013 and the name is funnily enough a combination of the last names of both members; Knut Finsaas and Geir Anfinn Halland Johansen.
The record is out on Autumnsong Records and it has six songs on it. These are strongly percussionist songs, even the strings appear to be hammered in some songs, which brings a bit of a djent feeling forwards. No, it’s not like that. The loose sound makes sure that there’s a continuous flurry of twanging and clanging guitar strings, making this feel like an overdriven machine. It’s quite an atmospheric and enjoyable record with a lot of exciting elements to it. Just not for easy listening.
Forgotten Tomb – Hurt Yourself And The Ones You Love
Forgotten Tomb is one of the bands pioneering the genre of DSBM. Often controversial, always provoking and in a way brilliant, this is their latest album which immediately betrays some interesting influences in the arwork, atleas the music seems to take a bit more of an industrial/heavy metal approach. Not that the group around Ferdinando Marchisio (Herr Morbid) ever relents in their misanthropic views, but the sound is more accesible.
Tracks like ‘King of Undesirables’ carry a certain Satyricon-like groove and rhythm, which could be a crowd pleaser live. Take that with a big pill of Celtic Frost heavy and slow, and you’ve got yourself a winner. The theme remains very far removed from that greater audience, expressing a true disdain for humanity and life itself. Specially the title track expresses these feelings without any symbolism. The production is done very smoothly by Brad Boatright (known from Nails, Beastmilk and such), which works with the sound of this band. It is probably not their most extreme record, but it sounds pretty awesome.
Moloch – Abstrakter Wald
The idea of recording your album in the Carpathian mountains with an open tape is kind of bespelling, specially considering it was done in a winter night by the Ukranian project Moloch. So imagine that, in the forest and in a part where myth and reality are not that far apart. Where the night holds terrors that have no names. This is very much what sound you can expect from this black metal project. True, there is little metla going on, but that is not diminishing the atmosphere of the recordings one bit.
Eerie, slow rising synth sounds are reverberating gentle in the air. There’s a sense of peacefulnes to the sound, but always there is also a threat. A gentle drone is constantly there, humming, growling but just out of reach. I used black metal project earlier, since its in the description of the band on bandcamp. Obviously, this recording is much closer leaning to ambient and experimental music, even taking a bit of postrock into it. The titles are all the same, except for numbering. That’s why ‘In Dem Gewaltigen Wald Wo Das Echo Sich Selbst Verlier’ stands out, also due to its cold synths and fuller, more open sound, leaving the drone a bit behind for a short moment. A bemused experience, this record is all that.