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Doom metal and B-movie horror are like ice cream and cookies; two great flavours that are naturally fit for each other. So, it's not at all surprising to see bands like Hooded Menace or Acid Witch being praised for their solid blend of deathly aesthetics and glacial riffs. Of course, it's only natural that others will draw similar musical conclusions on their own, what with the principle of divergent evolution and such. Thus, we end up with Abysmal Grief, a group of tanos with a very obvious thing for giallo cinema and Black Sabbath. Despite the aforementioned thematic similarities with some of their contemporaries, these men have a sound all of their own. For all of its morbidity and grime, Feretri never fully trudges into the realms of death/doom. Yes, it evokes images of foggy, gothic cemeteries, where the dirt stirs with the ever-increasing movements of those rotting below, but it does so with a sort of Fields of the Nephilim-style class, plus a pinch of that good ol' Hammer Horror pomp and cheese.
Abysmal Grief's doom credentials are verified right off the bat with "Lords of the Funerals", which encroaches upon the listener like a massive, carnivorous blob. The nearly ten-minute long composition subsists on just a small handful of riffs, but what a handful they are! The first two thirds of the song ooze with menace in a fuzzed out, dreary dirge, but then the pace picks up around the seventh minute, leading to an excellent rocking climax, complete with an old school Iommian solo. Also impossible to miss is the magnificent use of keyboards, which are nearly omnipresent as Feretri crawls along. Their suitably grandiose, dramatic presence adds an extra je ne sais quoi to the album, thickening the already dense atmosphere into an impenetrable wall of doom. The previous FotN comparison was also not in vain, and it rings the truest in the vocal department. Labes C. Necrothytus sings like a man possessed, his voice an encounter of Carl McCoy's somber, gravelly baritone and harsher, putrid roars. His performance is very theatrical, and he clearly had a lot of fun recording his parts, which adds a pleasant waft of cheddar to what is otherwise a dead serious album.
The sound is gorgeously warm and organic, but still massive, and the guitars sizzle and crunch like corpse flesh on a grill. Drumming is put in the far back and rather quiet, but this is not a negative; more prominent percussion would likely take away from the crushing onslaught of the guitars. The bass, on the other hand, resounds like heavy steps in a catacomb, providing metric tons of low end to really hammer home the point that this is doom fuckin' metal. Electric Wizard wishes they could sound this skull-mushingly heavy. However, the songwriting itself isn't nearly as consistent in its quality as the production, with the opener being the best song by a fair margin. Songs such as "Her Scythe" or "Hidden in the Graveyard" aren't well constructed enough to justify their colossal lengths, ending with competent slabs of doom that, nevertheless, clearly overstay their welcome. The mid-pacers that are "Sinister Gleams" and "The Gaze of the Owl" offer some welcome variety to sink one's fangs into, but they still fail to fully measure up to "Lords of the Funerals". To put it shortly, Feretri consists of a fantastic song followed by a bunch of solid to decent ones, the latter's faults accidentally emphasized by the former's lack of them.
Abysmal Grief display a masterful grasp of aesthetics, but a more rudimentary one of songcrafting. They know that doom isn't just about slowing down to the speed of a continental shift, yet Feretri still suffers from songs that are either too longwinded or simply not loaded with the kind of quality riffs required to carry such monsters to term. Still though, the record remains a respectable slab of doomage, and fans of both dripping horror and riffs as big as castles will probably find some decent bites to chew on by exploring its dank, musty depths.
Given that the progenitors of the genre took their name from a Boris Karloff film you could say that horror is the indelible theme in all of Metal, or at the very least in Doom. Plenty of bands flirt with the topic and the imagery, usually sticking within a few select classic like The Devil Rides Out, but few bands take horror right to the core of their being as much as Abysmal Grief do. Whereas most bands looking to inject some of the horror and suspense of Italian 60's/70's cinema would use something a bit more obvious from Dario Argento's filmography Abysmal Grief instead opt for a more obscure Gialli for the cover art of this album entitled La Dama Rossa Uccide Sette Volte (or, The Lady In Red Kills Seven Times- a great song title if I ever heard one!) Nothing when it comes to the atmospherics on this album is handled lightly- the depth of it is incredible.
One of the reasons for this is the range of the sources both musical and literary that Abysmal Grief draw upon, so while they may ostensibly be a part of the great Italian “Purple Doom” tradition, in particular Paul Chain and Black Hole, but the amount of that they are indebted to classic British Goth Rock is greater than ever before. Opening track “Lords Of The Funeral” has the vintage drum sound, sinister guitar tone and spooky organ keys of their Italian forebearers but also the warbly theatricality in the vocals of Carl McCoy from Fields Of The Nephilim.
From there “Hidden In The Graveyard” introduces a much heavier and rumbling bass tone while the vocals verge now more towards Bauhaus' Peter Murphy, and the synths imitate bowed string instruments. The cheapness of it actually suits Abysmal Grief's style more than a real orchestra would, and the decaying gothic feel shines through in any case. The fact that synthesisers are used for these parts mirrors the different kind of vibes the band evoke- everything from 18th century fiction like Edgar Allen Poe, Bram Stoker and Ann Radcliff, to the cheapest pulp paperback horror imaginable. Abysmal Grief manage to be equal parts sultry and classy, cheap and kitsch.
The bass tone has to be commended again on “The Gaze Of The Owl”, a sound that you can feel in the belly almost as much as those organ keys can be felt in the bones. The vocals also tend towards deep growling much more on this track also which provides a vibe not unlike early Cradle Of Filth. After that the album is on track for a masterful climax, but unfortunately “Her Scythe” doesn't quite deliver, and this album stops just short of topping 2009's Misfortune.
From WAR ON ALL FRONTS A.D. 2013 zine- www.facebook.com/waronallfronts