There are tons of bands in the heavy metal world whose lyrics are all about warfare, but I’ve never heard a band execute it like 1914. As with 2015’s Eschatology of War, the Ukrainian group’s second full-length Blind Leading the Blind is exclusively themed around World War I, with period-appropriate samples to match. It was even released on November 11th, 2018, the 100th anniversary of the armistice that ended the conflict. Such a move would suggest gimmickry or exploitation in lesser hands, but this group is dead serious, and the material benefits accordingly.
1914’s musical style is readily comparable to a band like Bolt Thrower, but they could hardly be called derivative. While their songwriting is anchored around grinding death metal riffs, tempos frequently fluctuate as various tracks explore doomy breakdowns and give way of blasting black metal swells. Through it all, the drums stay tight, the guitar tone is meaty and monstrously low, and the death grunts are disturbingly legible. Even the take on The Exploted’s “Beat the Bastards” manages to fit right in.
Much can also be made of the samples that run throughout the album. They cover a broad emotional spectrum whether they be the crackly patriotic songs that bookend the album, ambient sound effects, or the dialogue pieces that most often serve as song intros. Some of them may run a little too long, but they’re never awkwardly wedged in and perfectly establish the atmosphere. It’d be quite cheap if it wasn’t so damned effective…
But what really separates this album from the other war-boys is the sheer pathos behind it, especially by death metal standards. The articulate vocals and unsettling samples may serve as an aesthetic gateway but combining these elements is what truly makes something special. There is something distinctly haunting about moments like the violin rising from the slaughter on “Passchenhell” or the lamenting soldier’s monologue giving way to brutal tremolos on “The Hundred Days Offensive.” Much like the opening of Saving Private Ryan, it’s obviously stylized yet horrifyingly real.
Overall, Blind Leading the Blind doesn’t differ too much from its predecessor, but it may do an even better job of highlighting 1914’s distinct style. While the wide genre pool can make it more accessible than most death metal out there, the emotional intensity and overwhelming period adherence can make it just as challenging to listen to. Whether you’re a seasoned extreme metal fan or a 20th-century history buff, this album is essential listening.
“High Wood. 75 Acres of Hell”
“The Hundred Days Offensive”