Abysmal Grief – Strange Rites Of Evil (2015)

Italian Gothic doomers Abysmal Grief are back with a record that sounds like it came roaring right out of Dracula’s castle. Having been a longtime fan of the Castlevania series, I’ve often wondered exactly what the count did when he wasn’t sitting on his throne drinking blood-red wine. I figured that he’d have to have some sort of other hobbies, and it appears that I was right after having heard this album. You see, the frontman goes by the title of Labes C. Necrothytus, but that’s just a stand-in. He doesn’t want you to know that he’s actually the count himself, still alive after a couple of thousand years and still performing just as well on this album as he did on the band’s debut over a decade ago. This was after 1999’s Demon Castle War, which supposedly resulted in his final defeat for all-time. But what the Belmont clan didn’t know, is that both he an his castle resurfaced to make some of the best and most tasteful Gothic doom metal that I’ve ever heard in my life. The count was always a skilled piano player, which went naturally into the keyboards,of which are played so memorably that it makes perfect sense when you hear it – this is the real deal. Naturally, there are some other creepy denizens there with him, like Regen Graves (who is actually a zombie and has to be restitched back together after every performance) on guitars, Lord Of Fog (who is actually a wraith) on drums, and Lord Alastair (who is a reanimated skeleton) on the bass. The band has actually been together since 1996, but with numerous lineup changes after every summon by the count became too tattered to continue. Naturally, we’ll also hear blasphemous uses of Catholic hymns here, of which the count I am quite sure enjoys heavily. For there is nothing better than to mock the cross and to spit vile in the face of the worthless God who abandoned him to his fate.

The count’s vocals are for the most part, very memorable this time around. There’s just a sort of unearthly rasp that he uses, which makes me smile with glee every time I hear it. It’s because it sounds truly terrifying. This is the way that doom is supposed to sound, and it makes shivers crawl up my spine as the unpleasant keyboards ring in tales of terror as can be found in “Cemetery” (5:13) which also has a brilliant guitar solo (which is pretty damn awesome considering that it’s coming from a zombie) as well as the haunting title cut (7:13) and finale “Dressed In Black Cloaks” (13:13) which proves to be the most terrifying mixture of doom and gloom here on the record. The album keeps a very slow pace, but it’s a plod that is still more memorable than that of Hooded Menace’s sleeper of a disc this year. It’s not even worth mentioning, unless you’d like to fall asleep. With Abysmal Grief, I get a real sense of atmosphere. I feel as I’m trapped in the same castle that he is, and no doubt that any future Belmont to step inside the master’s lair will also be exposed to the band’s music as I’m sure it’s loud enough to be heard throughout the entire building. Even the prisoners are subjected to it, but to me, it’s certainly not torture. Demons dance and skeletons bang their hairless heads as witches complain that they can’t properly cast spells in lieu of all the racket. This results in all sorts of things being summoned, who also find the music quite enjoyable. The devil himself has even made more than a few visits to the castle in order to hear such a gruesome and dreadful noise, which he seems to consider one of his favorite in a genre that he himself concocted years ago with classical music. (Classical musicians have claimed for years that the devil visited them in the middle of the night, teaching them compositions to which they later implemented into their music, which in turn became heavy metal.) There’s no doubt in my mind that fans of classic doom, gothic metal and dark and evil things will find this quite enjoyable. I’ve merely scoured the surface of such a disc, which I’d strongly recommend you give a listen and you’ll be chomping at the bit to check out the previous records, which are just as good as this one. Though the band are given a slew of eighties on Metal Archives, I’m quite sure that none of their scribes know the Italians true secret, which I’ve just revealed to you. Strange Rites Of Evil is my doom disc of the year, and definitely one of the best albums I’ve ever heard from these fiends. I recommend it to everyone, unless you’re a member of the Belmont clan, of course…

(6 Tracks, 47:00)

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