Where Fear and Weapons Meet

War and Metal – It’s like peanut butter and jelly. Peanuts and beer. Peanuts and Chocolate. Peanuts and… uh… more peanuts? (I like peanuts. A lot). And generally speaking, while I’d prefer a world without war, I tend find myself gravitating towards metal bands leaning into wartime themes.

Of course, some bands do the theme better than others, and one of the best in recent memory has been, without question, Ukraine’s 1914. Since 2015, the band has been putting on an absolute masterclass in how to create mood and atmosphere with their music, pairing it with some truly punishing Blackened Death/Doom to create a sonic experience that can be both emotionally draining, and utterly exhilarating. Of course, the band’s focus on arguably the bleakest and most brutal of wars (World War I) certainly lends a hand to heightening the entire experience, but the band’s ability to transport you to some bullet-ridden, blood puddled, diseased and rotten trench on a burnt-out battlefield in France or Germany is, in my humble opinion, second to none.

With Where Fear and Weapons Meet, the band certainly left themselves with quite an act to follow – 2019’s “The Blink Leading the Blind” was a culmination of everything the band had built to that point, delivered with pinpoint precision and absolutely brutal efficiency. The band deployed every weapon at their disposal, including a real talent for being able to integrate samples and wartime sound bites and effects into their music to elevate the experience without becoming a distraction.  The best example I can give, for those of you who aren’t already familiar with the band, is the opening buildup from the track “The Hundred Days Offensive” which beautifully uses a scene from the 1930 film All Quiet on the Western Front to set the bleak, hopeless stage, before the band launches into one of their best songs to date. Absolutely gut-wrenching. So with such big combat boots to fill, it’d be understandable if the follow-up slightly missed the mark, right?

Well, one thing is for sure – 1914 has decided to up the “epic” factor, namely in the strategically placed use of deep, grandiose orchestrations to accompany the music. After the band reintroduces themselves with “War In” (a tradition they’ve held along with closing track, “War Out,” on both of their previous LPs), they break out the heavy artillery with first proper track, “FN .380 ACP#19074” (I will laugh very hard if I ever hear vocalist Ditmar Kumarberg introduce that song title live) – coming right out the gate with those beautiful, cinema-esque orchestrations over a full-on blitzkrieg attack of guitars and blasting drums that hit with the force of a 10 megaton bomb. It’s a super-aggressive start for the band, even featuring some punky D-Beat drumming and riffing that I certainly did not see coming upon first listen, but certainly goes a long way towards solidifying the all-out-attack tone of the track. The band brings the orchestrations back again on 4th track, “Pillars of Fire (The Battle of Messines) – setting a super ominous tone over yet another breakneck track that seems to eschew some of the more doom-leaning aspects of their prior work in favor of unrelenting speed and power… that is until about midway through, where the band breaks things down into their first proper, heavy, doomy stretch that seethes with mud and blood and guts. It’s short lived, however – as the band shifts back into full throttle and continues it’s deafening assault.

By the time we get through “Don’t Treat on Me (Harlem Hellfighters),” I’m finding myself a little overwhelmed by the onslaught. There’s been a concerted effort at this point towards all-out aggression, and though well-performed, I’m finding myself wanting for some of the more doomy dreariness that made their prior work so compelling. But it’s there that the band takes a clever turn. “Coward” is a haunting acoustic folk song featuring a banjo, harmonica, and clean vocals telling the story of some poor sap caught in the middle of an impossibly terrifying situation, and choosing flight over fight. It’s a total mood-changer, turning the tide of this war back into a much darker direction. “… And a Cross Now Marks His Place,” the band’s first single from this album – ranks among the band’s finest – is written from the point of view of an officer writing to a fallen soldier’s family to inform them of their death, blown to goddamn oblivion by an enemy artillery shell. The band really puts their experience to use to once again expertly craft just the right tones and paces through the song, echoing the somber occasion of the song’s subject, while also reflecting the absolute chaos of a world exploding with relentless enemy shells. The Legendary Nick Holmes lends his vocal talents to the track, just giving it even more to stand on. Follow-up, “Corps d’Autos-Canons-Mitirailleauses (A.C.M.)” really pulls out all the classes 1914 tricks – starting with a jaunty, old-time track of military bugles, before lumbering into the album’s doomiest, most plodding sections yet, layered with a subtle use of those newfound orchestrations that really set a gloomy atmosphere. Halfway through, the band launches back into another burst of blasting drums and furious guitars, before closing the band finally punches you in the mouth with a crushing, doomy breakdown that pounds you to dust beneath its immense heft.

After the band picks up the pace again on “Mit Gott für König und Vaterland,” proper closing track “The Green Fields of France” really brings things to a cataclysmic end, layered thick with piercing screams, cannon blasts and tortured bagpipe accents that paint a horrifying picture of all-consuming warfare that ends poorly for everyone involved. It’s a fitting way so see out what is, in the end, another thrill ride through a bombed-out hellscape of war. That said, in many ways, Where Fear and Weapons Meet is certainly a much more straightforward offering than The Blind Leading the Blind. It doesn’t quite have the emotional depth of agony and despair that its predecessor captured, and instead relies on more of an all-out barrage of senses-smashing chaos. That’s by no means a terrible thing, but in an album as long as this is, a little more variety to break away from the blitzkrieg would be nice. However, this is a beautifully produced album, that still paints as vivid a picture for its listener as anyone in the game. I had some lofty-as-fuck expectations for this one – probably unreasonably so – and while I’m walking away with a few criticisms, I’m still walking away loving this thing. All-in-all, I think that’s a job pretty friggin well done by these gents.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Steve K
October 20th, 2021


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