If you haven’t already picked up on such from the band’s title, 1914 is a World War I themed endeavour which aims to further publicize its forgotten atrocities. However, rather than leaning towards political or regional biases, 1914 stands between the trenches, reducing historic battles to primitive warfare; man against man.
1914 hails from Ukraine, a region that most likely contributed to the band’s desire to sing about World War I. Prior to when Ukraine was called Ukraine, it was a region caught between the territorial acquisitions of the Austrian and Russian empires, which undoubtedly caused issues during the World Wars. The Russian Bolshevik revolution in erupted in 1917 following an unrelated Ukrainian civil war, which further entangled the country as the Red Army acquired the region. Ukraine followed to be unrecognized as a country for many years, caught between the Allies and Axis in the 1940s, only to be governed by the U.S.S.R. until its dissolution in 1991, when Ukraine finally achieved independence. In recent years, the country was invaded by Russian troops in 2014 due to political issues.
Being part of the Eastern world, Ukraine has been caught in the midst of international and regional warfare since the dawn of the twentieth century. This corrupted history has undoubtedly influenced our brethren in 1914, who have put forth a fantastic battle-focused work for us to dissect today.
The Blind Leading the Blind is coined as blackened death/doom, which is probably the most suitable term that could be attached within our current array of subgenre classifications. However, I would say that the death and the doom is mostly separated, at least for the first half of the album. “Arrival: The Meusse Argonne” is built upon interchanging sets of blast beats and doomy riffs which take turns occupying the soundscape. The release is dosed with a healthy black metal infusion, but this isn’t the death/doom you’d expect if you’re a fan of Hooded Menace or bands to the like.
The second half of the album melds the death/doom style more smoothly, which offers a great change of pace in comparison to the frequent time signature changes found prior. The second half features a handful of prominent samples which take the listener back and reminds them of the subject matter at hand. Reading song titles regarding battles you think you may have heard about in your high school history class kind of gets the message across, but hearing a soldier’s cries during the beginning of a song ties us all in to the emotional aspect of war. While there are a few citable parts I could discuss, the sample during the beginning of “The Hundred Days Offensive” is especially effective. The intro consists of two soldiers talking over a depressive acoustic melody, and while its hard to make out at certain points, the conversation moves from somber talk about why they were chosen for the army to one of the members crying for forgiveness, presumably regarding his contributions to the horrors of war.
This moment exemplifies the beautiful creative direction that 1914 took with The Blind Leading the Blind. There are no sides taken. It doesn’t matter whether you’re listening as an advocator for a certain country, none of your presupposed opinions will get in the way of your consuming of this release. You listen to the soldier’s discussion and its evolution, and it just reminds you how different your life could be if you grew up in a different age, especially as a young male like myself who would have most likely been sent overseas. This definitely ties into the album’s release date, being Remembrance Day and also fairly close to Christmas, as it is commonly known that the opposing soldiers in the trenches would often seize fire during Christmas day.
The work itself seems to be in part an inherent metaphor for how the World Wars have modified and changed the world as we know it. From culture to technology, our modern world of reformation, smartphones, and among others, the internet, are all fruits of the world-scaled warfare of the twentieth century. Prior to this age, both culture and technology had slowly evolved over the process of hundreds of thousands of years, but for the most part, remained stagnant from the invention of the wheel to medieval castle warfare. However, with the innovation and economic boom found post-1945, humans have evolved lightyears quicker than we ever have during our existence prior.
We’re reviewing a blackened death/doom album today because of this cultural and technological reformation. This abhorrent, tinnitus-inducing, rough music would never have been possible a hundred years ago, both due to widespread societal backlash and the lack of electric guitars. If you expand such an ideology far enough, it wouldn’t be a stretch to claim that indirectly, the atrocities of the World Wars have resulted in the expansive music scene today, not only in pertinence to heavy metal. So, The Blind Leading the Blind is in part an emblem of the innovation of the twentieth century. This view can also be applied to any other part of modern civilization, not only to music.
The album cover is a great piece of imagery to describe what I’m talking about. Depicting a grim reaper standing among a handful of soldiers wearing blindfolds, the cover is decorated in a grayish-yellow hue that old paper turns to in its old age, and seems to be suffering from some water damage on the top-right edge. The album is obviously designed this way to look like some old relic, or album, you’d find in a used record store amongst other forgotten treasures. The war-like blast beats, chaotic screams, and death-infused music provided by 1914 results from the atrocious events that happened earlier, and thus serves as a different kind of relic you’d find from the time.
The album is simply a great commemoration and reminder of past events that are starting to be washed away from our young generation’s minds. This isn’t a questionable usage of war themes, as its not created with the goal of spreading pride or hatred or anything like that. The subject content found on The Blind Leading the Blind is neutral, and aims to publicize the atrocities of war, especially from a mere innocent soldier’s point of view. The album is a little long clocking in at just under an hour, but I think that plays into the themes of the album nicely; this isn’t supposed to be pure entertainment.