For what concerns music, dark sound it’s one of the best things Italy could offers. Even if most of the people in this country ignores it, many italian bands are very much appreciated in the doom metal world, like Death SS, Paul Chain (Violet Theatre and his solo works), The Black, Run After To and Black Hole. The band that can resume the whole dark sound experience is Abysmal Grief. Hailing from Genova, in the North-western coast, they have always been recognizable for their grotesque aestethic, the impressive scenic design and their massive use of the organ, which is the most important melodic element in their music (instead of the guitar, more used to strenghten the rhythmic section). Even if in the beginning they faced many problems to perform live shows, in the last years they played a lot around Europe and they did a big tour to promote their last album, Blasphema Secta. I asked to the mastermind of this project, Regen Graves, some questions about the band and how their occult/esoteric concept has been developed over the years
Italian version here
This year your new album, Blasphema Secta, has been released. How long did it take to compose and record it?
Usually we don’t want to pass more than a year from the beginning of the composition process to the final product. I think a record should be something extremely extemporaneous, at least for what concerns the mood and the whole style of the work. It was the same for Blasphema Secta.
AG’s last opus, released by Terror From Hell Records
The main AG’s lyrical theme is Death. How did you develop this concept during the 22 years of the band’s activity? Is there any book that have inspired you or helped you to write the lyrics?
Yes, during the early days- They were mostly books on pure spiritism or necromancy and most of the lyrics I wrote were grounded in these things. On the other hand, in these last years I preferred to leave those references and focus more on my own experiences and theories. This allowed me to proceed freely in our esoteric concept.
Keyboards/organ parts are a key factor for Abysmal Grief. While many bands use them to create atmosphere, they are an important melodic feature in your sound. Are you influenced by some classic composers to write those parts? I’m not an expert, the only one that comes to my mind is Bach
You should ask to Labes about his musical influences and what composers he studied, I can name Simonetti or Frizzi! For us, they can be considered “classic” composers, without going too much back in time…
“Crypt of Horror” video
During the last years your live activity has increased a lot and the feedbacks were always enthusiastic. However, in the early days you hadn’t played live shows for a very long time (from 1999 to 2004). Was it a choice?
Yes, in the beginning, even because I have always consideredAbysmal Grief more of a studio project than a live band (In part I still think that, since I never liked to be on a stage, in the spotlight, neither in the past, nor now ). But after our first releases we have been asked to perform and then our scenic design born. Sadly, we couldn’t play live so much due to lack of appropriate drummers for the genre (I fired almost ten drummers in all our 20 years of activity ) and also because we needed almost two other people to work for us moving our scenic material. This would have raised the costs for an almost unknown band like we were at the time. Things started to get better after the first two or three albums, and now all is settled in.
Your scenic design is a fundamental part of your live performances. Over the years you included new elements like the statues of the blood crying Virgin Mary. How was it in the beginning? How did it change over the years?
In the beginning we toured with homemade crosses and things we “borrowed” from our favorite places. We always modified something, depending on the mood of the album we were promoting. Honestly, I don’t like to change our setting too much. I think it’s extremely comfortable like this and I don’t think we will change something in the future.
What about the Chrismon Studio? Most of your material was recorded there.
Chrismon Studio is my personal recording studio since 2006. In that year I decided to not leave any sound engineer putting his hands on our works anymore. I’ve never been a big fan of clean sounds and clear productions (I have a punk background) and I was tired of paying thousands of euros for works that were not representing me at 100%.
Working “on our own” helped us to create our own sound, which is not that competitive (especially if compared to the newest production of even lesser bands), but it’s personal enough to allow us to be recognizable. Also the last Tony Tears works and my solo project were recorded at Chrismon Studio.
Abysmal Grief live @ Evil Fest, in Alvignano (near Naples, Italy). In this video you can see their grotesque scenic design used for their live performances.
Dark Sound is a genre that could not have been born somewhere else than Italy, due to our catholic tradition and to many things related to it (rituals, processions and ossuaries). Do you agree?
Yes, absolutely. I can tell you that outside of Italy our concept and our style are not always understood. That’s because the norther you go, the less people is affected to these cancers called Catholic Religion, Superstition and Fear of death. In Norway or Sweden, for example, many of those who come to our shows for the first time don’t really know if consider us as clowns or not. Sometimes I see this their eyes while we are playing… I envy them, honestly.
How do you feel when people label your band as “Doom metal”, when you’re not?
Yes, as a matter of fact, it’s a label that doesen’t fit very well with our sound. It probably came out in a time when doom was at its peak and it was easier to label us that way. Anyway, it’s undisputable that there are some doom influences in our songs, even because it’s a genre we’ve been listening to since many years. I don’t hate labels, actually I just would like my music to be labeled with more attention and accuracy.
Are there some cemetaries (monumental or not) that fascinate you more than others and that you’ve visited more times?
Yes, all the cemeteries of Southern Piedmont where I made my first experiences when I was young. Nowadays, I still come back there with great pleasure to enjoy silence and solitude.
You Joined Tony Tears (who was a member of Abysmal Grief in the past) in 2014 and this year his new album, “Demons Crawl At Your Side”, was released. What are your future plans?
I like this question very much, because it gives me the opportunity to promote the next Tony Tears 12″: it will be released by Bloodrock Records and it will be called “30th Anniversary EP”. As the title says, it celebrates 30 years of activity (in the shade) of this italian dark sound genius. I’ve also played the bass parts and worked on the whole production.