(On this black Friday, we present Comrade Aleks’ interview with Regen Graves of Abysmal Grief.)
Probably someone could have missed the appearance of Abysmal Grief in one of NCS’s latest Seen and Heard themes, so here’s a chance to take a look closely into their crypt.
It’s naturally one of darkest and most ominous bands of Italy; for eleven years they have written hymns in the name of Death and have done it well. Strange Rites of Evil, the fourth full-length album of Abysmal Grief, is heavy as a coffin lid, it’s filled with chilling breeze from the crypt and pervaded with night fog. Need to resurrect the dead? Play it loud.
Meanwhile we had a talk with Regen Graves, one of Abysmal Grief’s undertakers.
Ciao Regen! Abysmal Grief returns to us with its fourth album Strange Rites Of Evil, and obviously it is a good opportunity for an interview. So well… What new have you prepared for your listeners?
Hi Aleks, in this moment our new album is out on CD format, while the LP will be out on Horror Rec. next December 24th. I’m quite busy in the usual promotion stuff, and we’re preparing some new scenography for the next concerts. We never stop…
The band has its mark — slow and heavy-as-tombstone riffs, harpsichord-styled keyboards, sinister vocals, and lyrics dealing with the world of the dead. It’s Abysmal Grief’s mark and a reason for the band’s attraction. But is it difficult to write new songs considering this conception? How did you search for new plots for Strange Rites Of Evil?
I can say that so far every melody or lyrics come out in a very natural way: I don’t spend time in researches for new “concepts”, and working on the arrangements is always very easy and instinctive for us. Maybe this time the lyrics are not so deeply focused on rituals as in the past, but I focused much more on the fear of Death by those people affected by the plague of catholic religion. But it’s not to be considered as a new plot: I already wrote about this subject in the past, in songs as “Celebrate What They Fear” or “Lords of The Funerals”…
It’s subjective, but it seems for me that clouds have gathered thicker with each Abysmal Grief album and your stuff becomes only darker with time — and Strange Rites Of Evil sounds the most sinister of your works. Do you agree with that? How do you see the band’s development?
I’m glad our works arouse this effect. It’s basically the image we have when we record them, so it’s good to see that every shade is “received” in the appropriate way by our listeners.
Honestly, I don’t know if “Strange Rites…” sounds more sinister. Surely it’s more angry and direct, both from a musical and philosophical point of view. But it doesn’t mean our future works will follow the same direction! Our prerogative is to NEVER develop, but create art with stubbornness and coherency, not caring at all if we’re considered boring or repetitive. So far it’s the best quality that people acknowledge to us…
Abysmal Grief – Crypt of Horror
Regen, did you discover any new equipment during the recording of new songs as a guitarist?
No, I still keep using my old equipment both for concerts and recordings: two Epiphone custom guitars and a Crate “Blue Vodoo” Amp, and a cheap analog Delay and Wah for the solos. Nothing else.
You, Labes, and Lord Alastair are the core of the band since its creation. How have you contrived to work with the same lineup for years?
The “secret” is to consider our roles in the band as a mixture of work and military service. There’s no space for friendship or waste of time when we’re in the studio or on the road, and there were never problems “bigger” or more important from outside that could have an influence on the inside. The fun came always after the result, and that’s how it worked in these 20 years.
Your previous album Feretri has artwork with a scene from the old Italian movie La Dama Rossa Uccide Sette Volte. I never asked you about it before, but do you have songs written under the straight influence of some movies?
Maybe in the past…when I used to write some lyrics based on zombies, vampires, or witches. It was ok, I still like those lyrics, they’re funny and have their atmosphere, but honestly some of them are undoubtedly a bit stupid and childish!
Abysmal Grief has a sense of style and your artworks are always laconic and expressive. The spiritualistic session on the first self-titled album, that scene with the coffin on the Feretri album, the cool photo on the split-album with Runes Order, and many more. How do you work over the visual elements of Abysmal Grief’s art?
I am obsessed by photos and pictures in general, and usually I chose the cover for a work in just a second, without thinking too much, just because in that moment I “felt” that could be the right one, and often a long time before the album is finished: when I choose it and the other guys approve it, the cover somehow guides us during the mixing of the work, like a icon. It can appear strange, but we’ve been doing in this way for a long time, and it works.
How was Abysmal Grief involved in recording the split-release with Runes Order? Your track “Hymn of the Afterlife” has a rather cinematographic sense; it lacks guitars and it has no Labes invocation too. Though I can’t say that it’s a typical composition for you, it’s still Abysmal Grief, a part of it.
Of course it is! (and there are guitars!) It’s just focused a bit deeper on the atmosphere instead of the “played” music, if you know what I mean. We played our parts in this song with a different approach: the atmosphere had to be the main element, so as the psychedelic attitude. The split with Runes Order (a band that I really worship) was the best occasion to deepen and radicalize our ambient influences. You’ll hear other songs similar from Abysmal Grief in the future…
“Hymn of the Afterlife” has lyrics written in Latin, what is it about?
It’s a warning to submit yourself to the coming of Death, and the awareness that this world is only for the dead people.
Abysmal Grief – Sinister Gleams
I’ve heard that Abysmal Grief has prepared songs for a split album with Epitaph. Can you share details of this release?
As usual not too many, actually… But yes, it’s true that we’ve just completed the mixing of our songs, and we’re working on the layout for the 12”. It’s supposed to be released in next April. I’m very proud to release a split with this band, as they took part in a more than relevant way in the creation of the true Italian Dark Sound. It will turn to be a masterpiece release, I’m sure.
Regen, you also took part in Tony Tears’ project. How did you choose to join him?
As you can imagine, me and Tony are friends since 1999, when we first met and he played in Abysmal Grief for a short time. Since that period, we’ve always been in touch and traded our releases, sharing opinions about music and mostly about philosophy, and we also released a split 7” in 2004. When he asked me if I was interested to produce his new album “Follow The Signs of The Times” in our studio, I accepted immediately with great pleasure, and soon he also asked me to take care of bass lines and drums. It was a very deep experience, in a musical and professional way, and we’re both very satisfied with how this work came out.
What was your part in Tony Tears’ album? Did you take part in composing the songs?
No, I only played bass and drums, and took care of the whole recording sessions, mixing and mastering.
Do you plan to take part in his next record?
Probably yes, he has already got some new material we should work to, but no new releases planned at the moment; also because his second musical project Soul of Enoch released their first album “Neo Locus” a couple of weeks ago, and he’s actually caring about it in this period. I recommend you to listen to this great album as well!
Regen, Abysmal Grief will celebrate its 20th anniversary in 2016. What are your plans for it? Will you call some guests and a cook a cake decorated with candles?
No such kind of celebration man, we’re not that celebrative souls… We have a surprise for our die-hard fans, but we will announce it not earlier than next spring.
Abysmal Grief is an old, respected band, but I haven’t heard bands strictly influenced by you. Have you met such bands?
Yes, I met some guys who openly said they are influenced by our music, but honestly I didn’t notice so many affinities when I listened to their bands. But it’s ok to hear someone telling you this, even if it makes me feel a bit old…