Italy has a very proud and revered history of both horror films and occultist themed doom and Abysmal Grief have been melding both together with spine chilling finesse since the late 90’s. It took me till last album ‘Strange Rites Of Evil’ at the tail end of 2015 to fall under their spell but their ‘gothic horror doom’ proved compulsive and enjoyable listening so with a new album, their 5th landing, I was keen to get to hear just what these creatures from the grave were dishing out next. Although the themes of horror are all present and correct this is not the jagged slice and dice of Dario Argento at his deadliest but more in line with the crypt like fear dished out by the gothic horrors of Mario Bava in the 60’s, perfect as I have just revisited Kill Baby Kill (1966) a film that would make a great visual accompaniment to the music. Abysmal Grief are not a band to completely terrify but similar to a group such as Bloody Hammers, they serve a ghastly yet fun filled sound that can be enjoyed with a DC comics sense of fright as much as anything else. Of course you can go into this with memories of acts as diverse as Tony Tears (who was once in the band as bassist and who guitarist Regan Graves is still present in) as well as Death SS and even a bit of Mortuary Drape.
The intro piece (The Occult Lore) sets things up with eerie and macabre keyboards provided by the bands eccentric (in every way) vocalist Labes C. Necrothytus. Violin is also heavily employed to add a sense of ghostly graveyard exploration and some spoken word parts are summoned in a witchy fashion that will probably remind people fleetingly of Opera IX muse Cadaveria. With violin weeping away we stomp heavily into ‘Behold The Corpse Revived’ and bounce around the bone-yard pursued by ghastly, gravid, rasping vocals. It’s all incredibly theatrical with a sense of the Grand-Guignol about it. Bells toll and fog no doubt swirls, close eyes and the vision of Barbara Steele will haunt you every step of the way. Although in no sense as insular as traditional doom this will lead you all the way to the dark candle mass and with the grimly fiendish keyboard cavalcade of ‘Maleficence’ it is a journey that you will not be too afeared to face the sea of darkness, and all therein that may be explored. With the majority of the songs stretching into the 8-9 minute mark you are dragged into the dark ride with little hope of escaping your doom but why would you want to when you are having quite so much fun and there is plenty of that to be found here.
Presiding dark nocturnal ceremonies the ‘Witchlord’ is summoned by carnivalesque keyboards and rasps with bloodthirsty intent as he summons up a legion of the undead to stalk and crawl from their eternal mortuary. The witch herself returns and is possessed by evil with some thundering drumming and thick bass-lines courtesy of Lord Of Fog and Lord Alastair who complete this unholy covenant. There’s some great acoustic parts swirling and installing a chill and fleshing the songs out; whoever provides the female vocals does a great job at ramping up the atmosphere as does some austere organ work. ‘When Darkness Prevails’ is an instrumental black mass with sinister choral parts and scary whispers before the band fire up the torches and guitars swaggering into final act ‘Ruthless Profaners.’
Creepy and kooky in all the right measures Abysmal Grief have delivered exactly what I wanted here right down to the phantasmagorical giallo sounding outro part of the album. Seek them out and be prepared for some devilish fun.
(8/10 Pete Woods)