Italian masters of occult horror doom metal Abysmal Grief, who formed in 1996, have reissued their latest album ‘Strange Rites Of Evil’ on cassette via Horror Records and after seeing them at Roadburn Festival where they stole the crown “band of the weekend” (according to our editor, Louise) we needed to interrogate them about the album and their future plans. Known for their dark, occult imagery and lyrics, Kat Gillham caught up with guitarist Regen Graves to get his take on the band’s themes and the state of modern doom.
Your excellent new album ‘Strange Rites Of Evil’ was unleashed upon mankind recently, please tell the readers what they can expect from it in your words.
The new album was released on digipack CD by Terror From Hell Records on November 2, while the LP was unleashed by Horror Records on Christmas eve and just now on cassette. Yes, we’re satisfied with the whole work, and I can say this is exactly what Abysmal Grief look like today: a punch in the face of positiveness and life.
Please tell us a bit about the lyrical concepts on this album, what initially made you so interested in such dark and esoteric subjects?
This album is quite different from the previous, concerning lyrics: it’s not a concept album, but every songs is connected by a line of scorn and sarcasm which was not so sharp in the past. I was mainly inspired by all the false “happy” values around us, created by religion and the various stereotypes of today’s life, and I needed to make some statements about the way all this stuff fouls up the feeble minds of people. The final result is a coherent vision of a miserable life, scarred by superstition and the fear of Death, from the point of view of Esoterism.
Where was the new album recorded/mixed and why did you choose that studio and person to work with?
This album, as all the previous ones since 2006, was recorded, mixed and produced by me in our studio. I prefer working on my own on my music, because in the past we had many problems with sound technicians completely ignorant concerning our sound. What you can hear today is exactly the sound of Abysmal Grief.
You played in England earlier in the year for the first ever time, how was that experience for you? What can people generally expect from an Abysmal Grief live show?
It was a good show, as most of the shows of our tour, actually. The club was little but very cool, and people were very receptive. Our show is basically an evocation, and people need to attend with the right state of mind: only in this way you can perceive the real substance of our music.
You have a very striking looking stage set up and image, with the altar, incense and dry ice, do you think that is very important to capture the right mood and create the right kind of atmosphere?
Concerning our music, it’s mandatory. We don’t play to show our skills or to have some kind of party with friends and fans: we play to evoke Disgrace, and every detail and symbol is extremely important and never left to chance. Without this care for symbolism, our efforts would be completely pointless.
Italy has a rich history of dark and occult doom/music from the days of Death SS, Black Hole, Jacula, The Black etc, via Mortuary Drape to the modern day with active doom bands such as yourselves and Black Oath, why do you think this is the case?
Italy was never just the country of sun and beaches, my friend: the more you see appearing images of light, the more something evil and sinister is crawling behind them. Musical occult tradition from Italy is the longest-running and continuative in the whole extreme music worldwide, and it’s because of our religious traditions that could create so much hatred and aversion during the centuries.
Are there any new occult dark doom bands from Italy that have made a musical pact with the darkside who you can recommend to the readers?
I suggest you to listen to Disharmonic, Soul Of Enoch, Saturnine or Tony Tears. This last artist is not “new” but his musical project was kept hidden just for few adherents in the past, and now finally many people seem to acknowledge his esoteric message.
What were some of the bands that made you decide to create a musical pact with the devil and play this style of music?
When I started playing guitar I immediately wanted to create something that was not just for friends, parties and fun. I never associated my musical efforts to a funny mood or, even worse, to an exhibition of skills: the aim was to spread a message, but only to those who were so “receptive” to get it in his original and purest form. I got this attitude probably from my readings of Occult texts, whose primary prerogative is the secrecy. In that period I was listening mostly punk, post punk from ’80s, and black metal, and only subsequently I came across those big bands who influenced me a lot, as Paul Chain, Death SS, Goblin, Devil Doll or Mortuary Drape. Concerning the name, I was always obsessed by funeral art, so I just wanted to search for a name which could express in the best way the feelings my music was supposed to recall.
Abysmal Grief preceded the current occult rock/doom movement by quite a number of years, what is your opinion on the modern occult doom scene, any bands you feel a particular “affinity” with?
The bands we mentioned above are the ones we feel the most affinities. Without forgetting the mighty Epitaph, of course! Anyway my opinion on the modern doom scene is not so positive unfortunately. I can say it’s mainly boring. I prefer to listen mostly to new old-school thrash\black acts nowadays, especially coming from South America.
If you could provide the soundtrack for any one horror film from the past which one would you choose?
Ah, a very difficult question. Honestly I wouldn’t be able to answer in the right way! I can say that we’ve been always deeply influenced by the soundtracks of Goblin or Fabio Frizzi, so I imagine we could fit very well with a movie by Dario Argento or Lucio Fulci: not original, but they are our basics.
What is next for the band? What will 2016 bring for you doomed souls?
At the moment we’re working on a new European tour with our mates Epitaph, and at the same moment we’re just starting to work on something very special for our fans, occurring our 20th anniversary in 2016, but I won’t reveal nothing more, as you can easily imagine.
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