Abysmal Grief, Italy’s special funeral choral service released an outstanding album last year. I talked about the new album, horror movies, Italy, past, present & future with main composer Regen Graves. Enjoy!
“Feretri” is your latest full-length. Translated as ‘Coffin’ it’s the perfect title for an Abysmal Grief opus. Many say it’s your best creation yet, also it’s my favorite together with the debut album. Did something changed in the writing session of this album, or everything happened as ever before? I guess as a musician you are always trying to improve your writing and recording skills. How much of your music is planned and how many of it its intuition? It is easier to write music nowadays than 15 years ago?
I can easily answer you that everything in our process of composition is exactly the same as when I started 18 years ago. I base my style on improvisation, then me and Labes C.Necrothytus meet to compose the keyboard parts for the songs. We never paid attention to the matter of “improvement”, as we want to keep our music as much as possible faithful to our philosophical message, and it doesn’t require particular skills… Just a good attention to the research of the right atmosphere. “Feretri” was conceived, arranged and recorded in a very short time, as we always do since when we could finally create our own recording studio.
The cover is depicted from a Giallo movie “La Dama Rossa Uccide Sette Volte”. How it is connected to the concept of the album? I guess you are a fan of Giallo movies and vintage obscure horror. What’s the movie where Abysmal Grief’s music would fit the best?
The album has not a particular concept, I think. But it’s very good that everyone can find his/her specific link during the listening. I am a huge fan of all the old horror/thriller “B-movies” from the seventies, not only Italian of course, and sometimes I like to use some particular frames which impressed me. It already happened for many other releases of Abysmal Grief, and this time the image from the movie of Emilio Miraglia was fitting perfectly with the whole atmosphere of this work. I would like to write the soundtrack on a serious movie about Occultism or Spiritism, but nowadays I really cannot see such a great quality or talent in most Horror directors…
I feel the Abysmal Grief cult is getting more attention than 5 or 10 years ago, do you feel this growing interest? It’s not uncommon for underground bands after spending 10-20 years in the underground suddenly being signed at bigger labels, for example Mortuary Drape. Do you think it will be a day when you will be offered a ‘big’ contract from a bigger label?
We don’t care about “bigger” labels. In all these years I heard about so many good bands ruined by loyal problems with “big” labels, and I would be too much demanding and mistrustful to get in touch with someone who wants to make money with my art. Obviously for us it’s great to reap what we sow in the past, when nobody seemed interested to offer us a deal (especially in Italy) because we were not using inverted cross or corpse-paint, or our music was too slow or “repetitive”. Now they are the same guys who lick our asses asking to sign a “good” deal with them… It’s funny and quite miserable.
Since the band’s inception in 1998 practically you are going on the same trail, creating the same sinister music, only perfecting it with time. Were there any particular experiences or moments from your childhood that worked as catalysts (both consciously and unconsciously) to push you in this kind of artistic path?
Well man, I tried to answer this question many times, but I actually didn’t find an answer yet. I was born with this fascination for all these “strange” things, but I consider it absolutely normal, and I’m not the only one who feels the need to express some particular feeling. I was not shocked by any trauma when I was a child… My childhood was just the same as many other people, so I think my attitude is inexplicable with words. It just works well in this way.
There is a touch of superstitious and ritualistic elements in your art visually, lyrically and music-wise. Do you think the ancient Roman culture and Catholicism has a role in this?
Of course. We take a very deep inspiration from the strong superstitious culture developed under the sinister shadow of the Christian cross here in Italy. The subject of Death or Afterlife here was always connected to something frightful and punitive, always used to submit and control the minds of ignorant catholic people. I start from “their” fears to humiliate, scorn and mock the failure human beings.
When common people think of Italy, they rather think of the Ancient Rome, the Dolomits, football clubs, Amalfi coast, pasta & wine, Sicily and mafia, and so on, but few people think of graveyards, catacombs, funerals. How your cryptic image does fit into the common Italian lifestyle? Is there a ‘hidden Italy’ most people don’t know?
This is perfectly connected to what I was writing you above: during the centuries, every aspect of Italy was somehow forced to appear as sunny, happy and positive (paradoxically also mafia was considered something positive, in the South!...) but there is no place on earth where you can find happiness. And the more you try to keep something hidden, the more it grows into a sick shape and becomes dangerous. This is the reason why many artistic forms of expressions developed their message into a deeper knowledge of the Mistery and Occult, discovering and showing to illuminate minds that nothing is what it seems, especially when religion makes the rules.
“When the moon gets a silvery violet light / We use to meet in this old abandoned
house / Among cold ancient walls and baroque drapes / To establish link between Life and
Death”. On the front cover of the self-titled ‘Abysmal Grief’ LP there’s a picture of individuals performing a séance. Did you ever take part in such or any other rituals? What is your view on these?
Yes, we took part in many forms and attempts of connection with the World Beyond, but these experiences remain part of our private life. I think everyone should follow his/her personal path to knowledge, concentrating primarily on the own conscience and intents, and only in a second moment trying rituals. Making mistakes in these situations can be very dangerous and stupid.
Death and Funeral are ever-present subjects for Abysmal Grief. “I adore the Mother Death / I evoke the Great Misfortune.” It is our life only just a longing for Death? How do you view Death, how do you prepare for your own Death and did you ever thought of what kind of funeral would you like to have?
I said many times that this life is just a passage, and a little step along a spirit path whose nature is impossible to know or experience totally with our own material strength. I prepare for my Passage simply trying to enrich my spirit with a better knowledge of myself and the things around me, first of all the Nature and its charming and terrible rules. I don’t imagine anything about my funeral, I just refuse every religious rite or sermons. It will be enough.
There is a specific mysterious occult feeling in many Italian bands, there’s this distinctive darkness which only Italians can perform. Jacula, Antonius Rex, Fabio Frizzi, Goblin from the 70s, Death SS and Black Hole from the 80s, Abysmal Grief, Mortuary Drape from the 90s. Why do you think Italians can hook so well this ghoulish atmosphere?
Because we suffered the frightening catholic education since when we were little children, even if our families were not necessarily religious. This cancer is everywhere in our society: schools, television… (not only in Italy, of course) and you have only 2 choices: to be a slave and believe in the “good novel” waiting to wake up in the warm arms of your god, or open your eyes. The bands you mentioned were just created by guys who decided to keep their eyes wide open and see what is behind the “light”, using a musical way of expression which became a Philosophy and a Style.
Its Heavy and Doom, Sinister and Gloom, Morbid and … Some consider Abysmal Grief as doom metal or horror doom, others label you even as goth… I think you are quite far from goth, but even if everybody is talking about doom, horror, I feel there is a bit of lurking 80s batcave touch in your music, and even Type o Negative is close to my mind in tracks like Borgo Pass, or Ignis Fatuus. They were also most of the time doom and gloomy and used Catholic symbols in their art. Tell me if I am wrong…
Yes, many people and writers compared us to Type O Negative. I like very much 2 of their albums, and I consider the voice of Peter Steele as the voice for excellence of the whole Dark/Gothic movement together with Andrew Eldritch. But nothing more, actually. They were American and they had a completely different approach to the concept of “Gothic”, facing Death in a more romantic and erotic way, if you know what I mean. After almost 20 years, I can assure you that Abysmal Grief don’t play Doom Metal and don’t play Gothic Metal in the canonic way, and it’s a huge mistake if people keep on considering us something like this. We play the Italian Dark Sound, a trademark impossible to copy for every other band outside Italy.
When I try to “catch” your influences I often think of Antonius Rex, Death SS, Paul Chain, Saint Vitus, and especially Dave Chandler’s wobbling riffs. What are your true influences and are there any newcomer – post 1990s - bands/artists that you like?
You got it exactly about my influences! These are the names that inspired me when I was a teenager, and probably still they do nowadays. If we consider something more “recent” (or at least after the 1990) I can tell you XIII Stoletì, Devil Doll or Reverend Bizarre.
Your only video so far is “Crypt of Horror”. How was that possible (legally) to actually shoot in a cemetery? I think it would be exciting to see other musical videos of Abysmal Grief, it could be a great visual experience for your fans. Did you ever think of that?
For the video of “Crypt of Horror” we recruited a professional troupe who signed all the papers to ask the permission to film us there during the day. I wanted to enter in the graveyard during the night without permissions or other shits, but the guys were afraid to end up in jail and lose their job, so I was forced to accept their conditions… But the result is good anyway. With a bit of patience, you will be able to see a new raw video-clip I directed, which will be included as a bonus in the forthcoming collection “We Lead The Procession”, available from April 2014… This album will include 8 raw tracks (unreleased, live and rehearsal versions) recorded in different times and occasions from 1998 to 2009. It will be edited on LP, Cd and Tape by Terror From Hell and Horror Records.
You seem to be not just in good relation with Denial of God, but it seems that you are kind of ‘brother bands’. Some of the lyrical and visual topics are the same (funeral, creatures from the graves, death, etc.), and there is also a bit of musical similarity sometimes between these 2 bands. Do you think you also influenced each other?
Yeah, we are like brothers to the guys of D.O.G., and their guitarist Azter is also the mastermind of the mighty Horror Records, so we are in touch with them since 2002 if I remember well, and we consider ourselves leading under the same violet light. Actually I don’t think we ever influenced each other, but it’s out of doubt that we take inspiration from the same visions and eerie imaginaries. They’re just cult, never influenced by trends or business. A true example for all the Black Metal bands around.
In 2006 you released the 12” EP “Mors Eleison” on I Hate Records, though at that time Horror Records was already releasing some of your material. How did you get to release this under I Hate and not Horror Records or Black Widow? All your other vinyl records have engraved in the wax Latin phrases, but this is the only release where the vinyl disc doesn’t have any Latin mottoes. Why?
The vinyl engravers are a peculiarity of Horror Rec, this is the reason you don’t find it in the “Mors Eleison” 12” EP. We released it with I Hate Rec because at that time Horror Rec was busy with many releases, and we would risk having it with a very big delay, so we decided to search for another good and professional label to release it. The guys of Black Widow Rec refused to release it because they were already in a big and unjustified delay releasing our full length “Abysmal Grief”, and also because they want to release only albums…
In 2011 you released the 30 min 12” LP “Foetor Funereus Mortuorum”. Inside the LP sleeve there is a 12” size total white paper. I never find out what was the intention including it? Also the playing time of the tracks is exactly 13:00 minutes, respectively exactly 17:00, clocking in a perfect 30:00 minutes. Was this intended? Those numbers 13 and 17 mean something else besides their playing time?
You’re telling me something strange. Normally it’s supposed to be a black paper with lyrics and other stuff inside, so I think you have a unique “mistaken” copy from the pressing plant! Maybe it will get some values in the future, hehe… About the length of the songs, nothing is left to chance, my friend…
What lies ahead for Abysmal Grief, and what does 2014 look like for you? Can we expect some new material this year? In 2015 you will celebrate 20 years of underground activism with Abysmal Grief. Will you come up with something for this occasion?
As I announced above, while I’m answering this interview, we’re waiting to see released the collection album entitled “We Lead The Procession”. It will be in limited edition only for the true fans, and contains some unreleased songs together with live and rehearsal versions of old ones, recorded from 1998 to 2009 with different line ups. About our 20th Anniversary, I’m preparing something special of course, but I cannot announce you nothing more.
What about live rituals? In 2013 you seemed to play quite ‘a lot’ considering that in the early days you had only a few live appearances. Playing more live this something you would like to continue?
In this period the line up of the band is solid and full working, after the return of the former drummer Lord of Fog, so we can organize more shows. This spring we will play both inside and outside Italy, and we will take part in the Heavy Days in Doomtown Fest in Copenhagen as well. For us it’s not important to play many gigs, but only the “right ones”, where the promoters can assure us the possibility to express our music and scenery at its best.
I will give you 5 words and you just have to comment what is the first thing that comes to your mind:
1) Graveyard. The beginning and the end of all.
2) Doom Metal. The deepest form of Metal, and probably the only one able to keep far from trends for a long period.
3) Paul Chain. The Master. The greatest genius in Italian music, not only Metal.
4) Dave Chandler. The real creator of Doom Metal.
5) Transylvania. A legendary place I want to visit some day!
Finally tell me if it would be possible to play with anybody – living or deceased - , then what would be your dream-band and why?
I’m not so original, but in my “dreams” I really would like to play a couple of songs with Lemmy before he dies (“if” he will ever die!!).
The haunting is over Regen. The last words are yours! Amen.
I hope to come to play in Romania very soon, I like your country and its story. In Death. R.G.
By Rob, March 2014