If I said that a new 1914 album is a big deal for me, it would be a huge understatement. The band’s 2018 opus The Blind Leading The Blind, I watched the metalverse collectively lose its mind over what 1914 accomplished on that opus was a quite possibly the one of the most surreal and humbling experiences I have had whilst listening to music. The methodology that the band used to almost flawlessly merge their theme and their music seemed to resonate with people, and it certainly didn’t take long for the band to attract attention and get snapped up by major label Napalm Records. While watching great bands jump to major label oft is a cause for concern, I didn’t seem to be too worried. 1914 have already shown with gusto that they are consummate pros with a clear objective, and I would have been shocked if 2021 follow-up Where Fear and Weapons Meet was anything less than great. Spoiler alert: it’s better than great.
While the 1914 sound has developed on Where Fear and Weapons Meet, it’s instantly apparent that the band has a very individualistic and unique approach to songwriting that makes them almost instantly recognizable. Yes Bolt Thrower and Asphyx parallels persist from The Blind Leading the Blind however, this time they’re allied with the groove-filled melodeath of Amon Amarth and the somewhat ominous symphonic approach of Septicflesh—and yet again, a blackened glaze is drizzled over the top of it all like a sweet balsamic dressing. However, even with these lush new textures, press play on embedded single “Pillars of Fire (The Battle of Messines),” and you’ll straight away know what band you’re listening to. The classic 1914 war sample gives way to a mammoth epic symphonic blackened death intro, and the rest of the song alternates perfectly between aggression and atmosphere, leaving our a drone like subterranean detonation in our ears from the titular battle resonates across the field. The unique storytelling cadence of vocalist Dymtro Kumar is as potent as ever, his growls and shrieks appearing even more puissant this time around.
Where Fear and Weapons Meet is a masterpiece in the true sense of the word, a thematically and musically harmonious work of art built on tracks that proudly stand on their own unique merits.
As the want of 1914 , “War In” sets the scene, this time in the form of a Serbian song from the era whose pleasing melody predictably devolves into sheer carnage and abhorrence as we witness almost first hand the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand and his wife. “FN .380 ACP#19074” follows, it’s like you are imprisoned in the mind of Mr Princip 19-year-old assassin with its almost mournful tremolos and beautiful orchestral swells. “Vimy Ridge (In Memory of Filip Konowal)” is a lesson in groovy yet bludgeoning death metal, and “Mit Gott für König und Vaterland” pulverises us with a bombardment of blackened fury. I guess most people reading this will have by now, most of you have probably heard the immense death/doom single “…And a Cross Now Marks His Place” featuring Paradise Lost lead vocalist Nick Holmes, but it seems to be taken to a whole new level of brutality on the record when it follows “Coward,” a ballad performed by Ukrainian folk musician Sasha Boole that documents the perilous fate of a British deserter. These two tracks form the album’s heart wrenching middle.
A listen to 1914‘s debut, Eschatology of War, demonstrates that the band has influences lurking in sludge metal, while the modern-day 1914 sound may be more polished and melodic, with few shameless leftovers of sludge remaining, those roots still inform everything that they do. Everything on Where Fear and Weapons Meet is doused with a sentiment of sheer density. The regal and pompous symphonic death/doom of “Corps d’Autos-Canons-Mitirailleuses (A.C.M.),” the melodic black/death of “Don’t Tread on Me (Harlem Hellfighters),” the blistering black metal of the aforementioned “Mit Gott für König und Vaterland”—they’re all bolstered by a huge wall of sound that rampantly increases the heaviness quotient. And as a reminder that they can still sludge if notion desires, the album’s last proper track is an absolutely beautifully filthy cover of “The Green Fields of France,” a folk song by Eric Bogle—and (in)famously covered by Dropkick Murphys—that postulates the fate and motivations of fallen WWI soldier Willie McBride. The song’s bleak sludgy intro, blackened middle, and almost electro-industrial doom finale close the album on a breathtaking yet devastating note, the final blast reverberating for a full forty seconds as it bores straight into the listener’s soul.
I’m sure there are some people that won’t be sold on the band’s more polished approach this time around, but then again, some people wouldn’t know good music if it clubbed them over the head with a snow plough. If The Blind Leading the Blind left any doubt whatsoever, Where Fear and Weapons Meet firmly places 1914 at the vanguard of the modern extreme metal scene. These guys conjure more foreboding atmosphere than a thousand other death/doom bands combined, and they do so while writing soul wrenching yet memorable songs filled with even more memorable moments. This is easily one of the most excellent albums of 2021, and potentially one of my favourites of all time.