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Surely, Abysmal Grief need no introduction, yet somehow we've never carried an interview with this foundational Italian Doom band. Fortunately, Comrade Aleks has rectified that with this conversation with co-founder Regen Graves, as the new album 'Funeral Cult of Personality' sees release.

Interview with Abysmal Grief.
"For me this band represents the most authentic, powerful and grim aspects of the Italian Doom Metal scene. Founded 25 years ago in Genoa, Abysmal Grief never disappointed with their most impressive experiences of afterlife one could imagine. Working with such topics as coffins, cemeteries, funeral ceremonies and necromantic rituals, they have an absolute competence in such things they know and dig. The guitars are heavy as a hundred moss-covered ancient tombstones, organ and clavichord parts are as morbid and chilling as wind whispering through the corridors of cursed basilica, vocals are sinister and grim as a voice from under the hood of a pale necromancer appearing behind you... These are metaphysical treasures with high artistic value, and none can ignore their power: 'Abysmal Grief' (2007), 'Misfortune' (2009), 'Feretri' (2013), 'Strange Rites of Evil' (2015), and 'Blasphema Secta' (2018) lured us into the shadow of Death. Well, now the time has come for 'Funeral Cult of Personality' - the new Abysmal Grief full-length, and we've discussed it in detail with one of the band's founders, Regen Graves."

Abysmal Grief: Lord Of Fog (drums), Regen Graves (guitars), Labes C. Necrothytus (vocals), Lord Alastair (bass).

Hi Regen! Accept my congratulations with the release of 'Funeral Cult of Personality'. It's good to know that there are some constant things in this world, and Abysmal Grief keep on providing us solid doom metal in this sepulchral form. What makes you proud of this, the band's sixth full-length album?

Hi Aleks, good to know that despite of the years we're still considered as something constant. That was my target when I started this band, so I can consider myself quite satisfied. This album was conceived and composed in a difficult period for the band (nothing related to the Covid or the curfews by the way… those have been an opportunity to enjoy finally the forced silence, the social distancing and the solitude): we came from a long year of concerts and tours in 2018, and our personal relations were not so idyllic, so we entered into a long period of rest in which I composed the whole album alone, not even sure it would ever been recorded! There is a big sense of Death inside of it, and a concrete one, because it regards ourselves as a band, musicians and men as well, and a lot of anger also. It's definitely dense.

Why did you doubt if the album would ever be recorded? Why so fatalistic?

It's not a matter of being fatalistic. At that time I was not sure we would go on as a band in the same way it had been before, so it's normal to evaluate every eventuality, also to split.

The band celebrates (what we fear!) its 25th birthday this year. Do you have an idea how to mark this date besides the release?

Our 25th birthday comes in a period of illness, Death, fear and restlessness, so this is quite a celebration for us, isn't it? But apart form this, I decided to focus only on this release, because it could also be the last one of our discography. But there will be special editions and different bonus tracks for each format as well, so our die-hard fans will have something to celebrate with us as well.

And here come two more questions in a row! What do you mean when you say that the album could be the last one? And bonuses! Everyone loves bonuses, so what may we expect from other 'Funeral Cult of Personality' editions?

It could be the last one simply because as the years go by, it is increasingly difficult to make long-term plans, and moving forward having to face the huge discrepancy between being an old and "cult" band (and therefore requiring to be treated in a "certain" way, organizationally and economically) and at the same time being almost practically unknown to the big labels, promoters and agencies: a band like us wants and needs every time something more, and they are certainly not all waiting for us out there! Regarding bonus tracks, there will be different bonus tracks on the LP and cassette versions each. I wanted to do something special this time, because the good material I composed was huge.

Did your vision of Abysmal Grief change through the years? The new material has almost all the features of your first works, though of course it sounds different and more matured, you're more competent in questions of doom and death...

Thank you. I agree with your statement about our stylistic coherency, and I can honestly say that, apart from some improved skills in the production process, we still sound the same and we look at our band with the same eyes as 25 years ago. No desire to change, and no ability to do it! This is probably the big luck: skilled and polyhedric musicians betray sooner or later.

Abysmal Grief - 'Idolatry Of The Bones' (Official, 2021):

Regen, with previous album 'Blasphema Secta' it seemed you took a step aside from Abysmal Grief's central line (burying and evoking the dead) - that album was really a blasphemous piece, as its title says. And now even 'Funeral Cult of Personality''s song titles point to your return to the embrace of Mother Death. Do you see this new material as that kind of return?

Yes man, I can define it as a return to the old "good" cemeterial concepts that characterised our previous productions. "Blasphema…" was conceptually a development of the topics of "Strange Rites of Evil", while the split 12" "Ministerium Diaboli" closed that circle.

Yes, yes… Cemeterial concepts! A reason why we love and accept Abysmal Grief in our hearts! You know, no flattery at all, it's cool how you find new ways to describe different aspects of this topic in your songs. I still love 'Sepulchre of Misfortune' from the 'Exsequia Occulta' EP, 'When the Ceremony Ends' (from the self-titled debut) is brilliant, the 'Feretri' album kills with those individual aesthetics (again) and so on, and so on… Did you ever feel you'd run out of ideas for Abysmal Grief?

Until now, never. Apart from my solo project, which I consider mostly something "therapeutic" for myself, then all my artistic efforts are aimed at Abysmal Grief, as well as any extra-musical interest, which is always aimed in that specific direction. So I assume that I will have some material to draw inspiration from for quite a while…

By the way, why did you turn back to those old good cemeterial ways? Were you jaded with blasphemy? Or have you just closed your eyes to the Church's shit? I guess I skipped this question when we were talking last time, but what motivated you to write an album like 'Blasphema Secta'? Was it an interest in the occult or a general distaste for Christianity?

It is a question to which I cannot give a truly precise and sincere answer, simply because certain topics that I have dealt with gradually during my artistic career have not been planned: I can see a clear thread, on a thematic level, through all these years in which I moved from a more "notional" (and, if we admit, childish) Esotericism to something more philosophical, reasoned, and personal, which inevitably culminated in a more direct, violent and angry approach to certain issues . There was neither a need for blasphemy nor a need to retrace one's steps, but simply a slow, unconscious and constant evolution on a conceptual level.

The label presented 'Funeral Cult of Personality' with the song 'Idolatry of the Bones': does that best represent the new Abysmal Grief?

Not necessarily, also because, as we said above, there cannot be necessarily "new" Abysmal Grief. I chose that song only because it was quite short and it didn't reveal too much of the album. As you know I hate promo-previews, digital singles and all that crap, so I just wanted to concede as little as possible to that modern way of promotion, that's all.

Do you have any horror movie related songs this time?

No, I don't think so, at least consciously.

Then could you pick up some of the new songs and tell the stories behind them?

There are no precise "stories" narrated in the songs. I think that the whole mood of the album revolves around a precise awareness of our skills in the philosophical and spiritual field, with a pinch of presumption and a sense of superiority towards those who lead a life of positivity and of lightness at all costs, trying to remove as much as possible the theme of their Death. This is also the origin of the title of the album: a brazen and irreverent awareness of our value as an esoteric band, and of our role within a certain genre of Metal.

Regen, I remember Abysmal Grief gigging in Saint Petersburg, and it was such a pity that you had no chance to see anything besides the club. How often do/did you have an opportunity to tour in a more relaxed way?

Never, dude! Absolutely never! Haha. Sometimes we have some day off during the tours, and I love those moments, but our booking agency tries to kill us every time with backbreaking routes, so the "touristic" aspect is very limited.

What was your most positive touring experience? Let's put it into one question: the most positive and negative experience playing live with Abysmal Grief?

Well, you touched on a very delicate subject: I can tell you honestly that I hate performing in front of people, so I would have always avoided all that, or at least limited it! But since the beginning we've always been asked to play concerts (because of the theatricality of them, the crosses, the worms and so on) so I had to get used to that particular aspect of the music. I can say I will never get used to the concerts. So the worst part is definitely the stress, also because of my centralizing character that forces me to check and control every detail. The positive one is the constant feedback from our fans wherever we go. Always unexpected.

Now we don't have even such dubious "pleasure"! Why didn't you turn Abysmal Grief into a studio project?

At the very beginning it was born like this, and probably this is the way it will develop again.

You have a new album from your solo project this year too - what is that to you? Is it a kind of Abysmal Grief ambient branch, or rather an independent project?

Something completely different in style, approach and topics. At a certain point I had felt the concrete risk to turn Abysmal Grief into something too atmospheric, so I took the decision to separate (as much as possible) these two instincts, and create a place where I can express my love for synthesizers and vintage electronica, and manage everything without other musicians involved.

The photo of new release artwork looks so familiar, like it was shot on ex-USSR territory. What is it?

Concerning the cover of my album, it's a street in Hungary in the eighties. Every solo album I release is somehow a concept about an element from a country of the ex Communist block: this time I was inspired by the wonderful films of the Hungarian director Bela Tárr. I'm obsessed with that period and I thought it was a good topic to keep me far sometimes from the usual esoteric stuff I deal with Abysmal Grief.

What attracts you to this period and setting?

From that period? The type of social life of course, the detachment from the western world, the lack of democracy, the dictatorship, the patriotism, the militarism, the fear that those "evil" countries instilled in the feeble spoiled minds who lived on the other side of the Iron Curtain… Everything was severe and nothing was funny then, exactly the opposite of today.

Regen, you also paricipate in the band Tony Tears, who released 'The Wail of the Elements' in 2020 and 'The Atlantean Afterlife (...Living Beyond)' in March 2021. How do you value your participation in this project? Despite all its features and merits Tony Tears remains in the deep underground.

And I think his music is so particular and unique that it should remain in the underground as much as possible. I know Tony wants (and honestly yes, he deserves) more visibility for his art, but I hope it won't ruin the magic esoteric aura of his works. As you can imagine I'm very honored to have been (and somehow still feel) part of his project, and I consider his last album the most mature and the finest of his career so far.

Truth to tell, I think that Tony Tears, as with other local bands representing the "Italian Dark Sound" deserve more exposure. It's amazing how deeply some of them nest in the underground, but that does also depend on them too. However, which album in Tony Tears discography would you recommend to someone who never heard the band before?

I agree with you. We are bands that have never really wanted to emerge from the underground, since we considered (and still consider it in part) a contradiction towards the purely "Esoteric" (ie "aimed at the few") intentions of our project.

Over the years, thanks to a certain success at a national and international level, it was inevitable to have to face a major exposure and to make "commercial" choices, but don't get me wrong, there is no significant economic gain from our music, so the temptation has never been, nor will it be so strong as to lead us to distort our essence.

Concerning Tony Tears: if you want to start listening to and approaching his music, do it in a chronological way, it's the best way.

Regen, you probably know the band Gargoyle. Sun & Moon released their album 'Hail to the Necrodoom' a few months ago. They say it's pure coincidence, but there's a song titled 'Lord of the Fog'! I've asked the guys if it's a tribute to Abysmal Grief's drummer but they say no! I just wanted you to know this. So the question… the question probably is "do you keep in contact nowadays with some Italian bands"? I'd like to see another split album with Abysmal Grief included.

Haha yes I know Gargoyle and their album, and I like it a lot. It sounds grim and evil, and deeply rooted in the Italian tradition, I think. I had the opportunity to listen to their first demo as well some years ago, and I can confirm that they're stylistically a very coherent and good band!

Concerning your question, yes, I'm in touch with members of some bands, but we have enough splits at the moment, so I see no more releases like this will come in the future.

Thank you for the interview, Regen, it's good to talk again, and I hope we'll have another chance to talk in a year or two. There is so much to learn about Genoese coffins and graveyards! Would you like to add some final words for our readers?

I thank you again for the always interesting interviews you conduct. It's always a pleasure for me. In Death. R.G.

Click HERE to discuss this interview on the doom-metal forum.

Visit the Abysmal Grief bandpage.

Interviewed on 2021-12-07 by Comrade Aleks Evdokimov.
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