“We are not youth any longer. We don’t want to take the world by storm. We are fleeing. We flee from ourselves. From our life. We were eighteen and had begun to love life and the world; and we had to shoot it to pieces. The first bomb, the first explosion, burst in our hearts. We are cut off from activity, from striving, from progress. We believe in such things no longer, we believe in the war.”
This touching segment, taken from 1928’s “All Quiet on the Western Front” by Erich Maria Remarque, perfectly encapsulates the reality of war for the people who have to fight it, and the horrors experienced by soldiers in combat. This was not a welcome message in interwar Germany, where the imposition of the Versailles treaty had created the resentment and anger that would eventually lead to WWII.
While it’s no surprise that the Nazis hated the book, so did the military of countries like Austria, Australia, Italy, and Czechoslovakia, all of whom rejected the anti-war message of the novel, and banned its sale. The film based on the novel was similarly controversial, and was banned for its “pacifism” not only by the Nazis, but also by France, Australia, Italy and Austria. Historically, the push for hiding the reality of war and maintaining a steady supply of cannon fodder has made no ideological or geographical distinctions, and it continues to this day.
It’s because of these pressures to show war as good that projects like Ukraine’s 1914 are so interesting to me. Coming from a country that has experienced genocide, famine, and war (all in the last 100 years) 1914 put forward an openly anti-authoritarian and anti-war message, all wrapped in an amazing blackened death metal package (plus some very appropriate samples from old films and radio programs). The lengths to which Dmytro goes in order to research his songs have paid off, creating some of the most lyrically interesting songs that I’ve seen in a long time.
My interview with 1914‘s Dmytro Kumar (vocals) and Vitaliy Vygovskyy (guitars), where we discuss this historical and political background, as well as their upcoming third album, Where Fear and Weapons Meet, can be watched below.