1914 “A Dispatch From the Front”
By Dr. Abner Mality
In recent years, there has been a renewed focus of interest in the First World War. After decades where the focus was on World War II and Vietnam, people are reacquainting themselves with the first Great War where many nations engaged each other. For example, the recent movie “1917” gave a cinematic look at the “war to end all wars”.
Ukrainian band 1914 is so obsessed with the subject, they have taken their name from the first year of the conflict. I first became aware of these metal soldiers on their album “The Blind Leading the Blind”, which was a blistering attack of doomy death metal that dealt purely with World War I. As good as that album was, it was just a warm-up for their latest assault titled “Where Fear and Weapons Meet”. Here is a spoiler alert from the Good Doctor: this album will be my #1 pick for 2021. Not only is it heavier than an entire tank brigade, it has a historical and emotional component that allows it to transcend the description of “just” heavy metal.
So it was time to get an interview from the trenches. I communicated with 2nd Division Infantry Regiment #147 Oberleutnant Ditmar Kumarberg, in charge of vocal assault and received the following answers. Put your gas masks on and prepare to head into battle…
WORMWOOD CHRONICLES: Greetings and hails to 1914! Your previous album “Blind Leading the Blind” was quite a great achievement in its own right, but “Where Fear And Weapons Meet” seems even bigger and more overwhelming. Was it your intention to create something that was the “last word” on World War 1?
DITMAR KUMARBERG: Thank you for the warm words. We didn’t have any specific intention while creating new music, maybe except the ‘storytelling’. There was one general thematic idea that we were following during creation and that’s it. So, everything you hear is just emotions of the 5 people turned into a sound.
WC: You must have done tremendous amounts of research for the new album. How did you go about finding the old WWI songs and movie samples and other touches you used?
DK: This all is a result of a massive research – archives, thematic forums, movies, etc. When you have some first demos ready and the picture becomes more complete you see what is missing. And you won’t be putting a sample from the movie about Americans into the song about Belgians, right? So you seek for something that illustrates the events described in the song the best and put it in.
WC: Was being the ultimate metal band dealing with WW1 your intention right from the start? Was there ever any discussion about talking about other wars or subjects?
DK: Yes, that was the intention from the very beginning – to combine our two greatest passions – WW1 themes from our singer and heavy music from the rest of the band, metal addicts. And we don’t have any plans to change the topic, the WW1 is such a huge episode of history that even 20 albums will not be enough to cover it. If we ever want to change the subject it would probably be for another band or project.
WC: Getting so deeply immersed in a conflict that killed so many people must have an affect on a person. Has it changed the way you think about the world and people in general?
DK:No, it didn’t. I still count that people are stupid cunts, that instead of living, loving, raising children, discovering new planets and cures for cancer they are still killing each other in wars for their own ambitions or even worse – religion.
WC:The press sheet for the album says it is really more about life than death. Can it be more terrible to live after such slaughter than die? I would imagine survivors of trench warfare would wonder themselves.
DK: I don’t know, I never been to any armed conflict. There are a lot of guys who were wounded because of the Russian aggression in the east of Ukraine, those who lost legs and arms, and when I see their pictures or watch videos in social media I see the will to live and find happiness that they are still here and can be with their families and kids. I think life is a precious gift and should not be wasted.
WC: You guys are from Ukraine, which is involved in its own grinding war. Can you see some links from World War 1 to the present situation there?
DK: Of course, as I mentioned before there is one main link – people are stupid to still drive the conflicts for their territorial and political ambitions, and I hope Putin and all Russian leadership will end up in the Hague, or better yet, hanging from the tree.
WC: Getting to the sound of the band, I’ve seen it described as blackened death metal, doom/death metal, epic war metal and other descriptions. How would you yourselves describe it?
DK: We are invited to play on black metal gigs, also on death metal gigs, on doom metal shows as well, I’m not mentioning mixed events, so I would say it is some blackened death/doom mixture.
WC: “Coward” is an unusual sound for 1914. Could you see yourselves doing more of this?
DK: Don’t know...maybe, at least we don’t have any straight plans for it. If we have another song that brings such vibes and doesn’t fit being played on drums/guitars/bass so of course we will experiment more.
WC: Parts of the new record are very symphonic. Could you see working with an actual symphony down the road?
DK: No such plans. It was an experiment because we felt some songs need the symphony. Cannot foresee what would we use in the future. A cello? Another round of violins? All of it could be.
WC: You really seem to cover the war from every side...the assassin who kills Archduke Ferdinand, the Germans on the attack, the Harlem Hellfighters, the British deserter. How important was it to really talk about all sides in the war?
DK: This is our main intention – to make people get more interested in history, it’s events, and analyze the past to avoid mistakes in the future. We want to show that there are no winners in the war – only Death wins.
WC: Which song and story affected you the most?
DK: I’d say it is “‚...And A Cross Now Marks His Place”. We have never created such a personal track in the meaning of the story behind it. And even more stunning was the fact that after we released the song, our singer messaged me and told me ‘look, he found me’, and showed me a real photo of A.G. Harrison that was added to some archives by his relatives. That story gives me shivers.
WC: Is 1914 a live band? Have you had much live experience?
DK: We have some live experience...people in the band have 10 to 20 years experience playing live but there is always a lot to learn.
WC: Being on Napalm Records will help you get a lot more exposure. Did you have interest from other labels or was Napalm the only choice right from the start?
DK: We had a couple of messages from other cool labels but we and Napalm chose each other because of various reasons, one of which is really fast communication and total transparency.
WC: Do you have any ideas for what lays beyond “Where Fear and Weapons Meet”?
DK: Hope and a will to live lay beyond this album. I think we subconsciously selected that main line while working on the album after spending all 2020 in the lock down without opportunity to travel or play live. It was a hard year for all of us in terms of health issues, losing jobs, survival in general. And working on the material was very hard as well. Damn, it was like a continuation of this shitty year, but I’m happy we managed to finish it.
WC: Have you ever visited some of the historic sites that you talk about? If so, what was the experience like?
DK: I cannot forget our first trip and first shows in Belgium. We have probably visited all possible sites in the Passchendale area and I am extremely happy about the fact of how the locals and Belgians in general keep the heritage and memory of those events. Must return there again, definitely.
WC: If you could ask any 3 people from history to dinner, who would they be?
DK: That would definitely be Chuck Schuldiner, Jeff Hanneman, and Lemmy Fuckin‘ Killminster.
WC: Have you ever had a “Spinal Tap” experience live or in the studio that you could share with us?
DK: I was googling what is a Spinal Tap for a long time, and except for a lot of gross results I have found out it is some kind of a movie where people do weird shit. Anyway, I do not have answer for that, sorry 😊
WC: Thanks for the interview! Any last words for the fans?
DK: Those who do not remember the history are doomed to repeat it.