We are all used to our doom being a little on the slow side and that certainly proved to be the point with a package of three discs, including this one which took over a month to even arrive in the post from Italy. The inadequacies of certain countries postal systems aside it proved to be well and truly worth the wait as far as I am concerned with Abysmal Grief. This Italian band have been around since 1996 and have a fair few releases from singles, demos, splits, EP’ and compilations to their name. As far as this is concerned it’s their third album and was my first introduction to the band. I noted that they had a guitarist from Tony Tears band and a drummer (one of many through the years) who used to be in the rather strange Spite Extreme Wing. I wasn’t totally sure what I was going to get here but after one quick play I was hooked and knew this was definitely my sort of slow stuff.
Basically put Abysmal Grief play Gothic Horror Doom and do so with the long established historical relevance of their country in all facets of the above. The ten minute opener ‘Nomen Omen’ gets more than a little Latin on us taking into things with religious hymnal music and then dropping into a creepy organ / synth line that is pure-evil, grand-guignol and baroque in the style of Fabio Frizzi and Goblin. The gothic touch comes in with singer and keyboardist Labes C. Necrothytus eldritch tones which are austere and also at times suitably rasping, suiting the music straight down to the grave. Creepy atmosphere and one that is more evil than camp hammer horror histrionics rule here and the track slithers along now freed from its tomb like something from an early Mario Bava classic. The backing choral work on this one just goes and enforces it all the more as it stalks away. The funerary rites continue with the title track starting again with a hymn being chanted (a good effective trick) before slowly plodding in with a slothfully paced morass of dark doom. There’s something about the dramatic vocals that began to have me scratching my head on the first listen to this and as the album progresses it becomes more and more apparent that at times Labes sounds more than a little similar to Carl McCoy of Fields Of The Nephilim, probably another reason I instantly felt enchanted by this. The organ sounding work and chanting choral parts are all pretty much in the background compared to his rising vampiric tones until a guitar solo wafts away and uncoils making the strange rite all the more engrossing. ‘Cemetery’ takes us well into City Of The Living Dead territory and picks up the pace a little as figures rise from their tombs, no doubt summoned by the necromantic cries of the vocals. Some flamboyant fretwork textures this until it slowly dissolves leaving you shivering and feeling like something has just walked well and truly across your grave.
Something I had not realised at first is that ‘Child Of Darkness’ is a cover of a Bedemon track, a group that have had some coverage by us. Perhaps I wouldn’t have been surprised to learn it was a King Diamond song as it has that sort of vibe to it but thankfully without the falsetto vocals. It fits in right with the rest of the album and feels like it is a classic song in its own right. The thumping drum work from sticksman Lord Of Fog (had to mention him) provides good ballast and Regen Graves drops in another spiralling guitar motif. ‘Radix Malorum’ really goes for the horror side of things with the organ work malevolently and melodically twisting and turning away with a zombie like presence that really reminds of plenty cult Italian nasties and vocals that take back right to Dawnrazor era FOTN. It’s a shame that there are only six tracks but at least last one ‘Dressed In Black Cloaks’ is another epic one. Sounding as if a spirit is playing a harpsichord it frays the nerves building sinisterly before a venomous roar is unleashed and the terror behind it is oozed out wraith like and tenebrous. The neo-classical feel behind it merges into thick cloying riffs and vocals that sound like they are hungering for the souls of the damned. The final nail in this particular cadaverous coffin leads all the way back to the deconsecrated ground it crawled out from with a final overloaded flourish it’s all done and dusted leaving you feeling like your spine has been well and truly chilled for the last ¾ of an hour.
Abysmal Grief proved a lot more accessible than a lot of music such as Tony Tears, Death SS and Paul Chain that I have heard in the past and really did leave a bloody mark on me. Luckily it would seem that they have plenty of old stuff to go and dig up, best find my spade and do just that.
(8/10 Pete Woods)