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Abysmal Grief : Blasphema Secta

The latest, and perhaps the finest, slickest incarnation of Abysmal Grief's horror B-movie Gothic Doom to date.

OK, let's assume that you haven't been hiding under a rock for the past twenty-odd years. Which means you must already know Abysmal Grief, right? Pretty much the Italian Doom 'Dark Sound', encapsulated, replete with occult rituals, nods to both orthodox religion and horror movies, heavy Trad Doom riffing and spooky Gothic touches? As sacred and profane as some kind of nightmare Black Mass conducted in the heart of Milan's awe-inspiringly beautiful cathedral? Yes, that Abysmal Grief. Which must mean it's only really a question of how good their 2018 outing, fifth full-length 'Blasphema Secta', is, when compared to the benchmark of their own back catalogue...

It gets off to a pretty good start with the elaborate fold-out eight-panel card sleeve, to be fair. If that does nothing else, it immediately imparts the understanding that this is a lavish, no-expense-spared, and desirable production. Though, admittedly, you may find some issues with it being almost too elaborate for the quality of glue involved - I've spent a few days now messing about with stacks of books to compress it all to the point where the packaging actually hangs together. But that really is a minor complaint, and one easily fixed if you have access to a couple of heavy objects anywhere in your possessions.

Musically, though, you know you're on to a winner pretty much as soon as the disc slides into your CD player. That stock-in-trade mix of samples, keys, wandering bass and sacrilegious organ is something which can get under your skin from the very first moments of the intro. Balancing tension and anticipation with the practised ease of a veteran band, it opens the curtains perfectly for a virtuoso performance that is both expected and innovative. From the chunky, hoarsely snarling, bass-driven riffing of 'Behold The Corpse Revived', with its counterpoint Lovecraftian violin and church bells, all the way through to the stirring, stomping Metal guitars and Gothic Rock madness of 'Ruthless Profaners','Blasphema Secta' is a complete trip. With a twist in the tail, where that final track suddenly morphs into a disturbingly jaunty pseudo-medieval theme over crackling fires which wouldn't sound out of place in a Hammer Dracula movie, or Castlevania Dracula-hunting game.

Does it hit the highs of previous albums? Well, both yes and no - I wouldn't say there are too many surprises waiting, if you've been listening since the self-titled debut. But, damn, if Abysmal Grief haven't made that a more slick, more accessible, more...everything...format over the years. And since that's innately surprising, with all of its weird, tottering Carnival-of-Evil spot effects, keyboards and carousels, weaving throughout proceedings, it's actually a vaguely predictable unpredictability. If that makes sense. Anyway, it really does sound both effortless and, at the same time, compelling, with a very real encapsulation of that Italian sound at its heart. That's given plenty of life by the warm-sounding production, much improved since earliest days, that puts body and force into the main instruments and gives more of a tantalising hint to the subtler textures sliding around in the background.

It isn't, perhaps, outright originality which drives that on this outing, just the sheer professionalism and, yes, darkly spooky beauty, of the delivery which convinces. By the time you get to the guest female vocals on 'Witchlord' the momentum's built to pretty much an irresistible knockout sucker-punch that absolutely captures both 'Gothic' and 'Doom' in a single masterclass of 'how to do that right'.

So, no beating about the bush - I absolutely love this album, and all its quirky, off-piste moments (...I'm pretty sure that's an uncredited theremin completing the Devil Rides Out ritual of 'When Darkness Prevails', to pick out but one example). It may not have the outright impact of the first time encountering their Christian Death-meets-Paul Chain experience, but it may also be the most complete and polished example of it to date: B-movie Deathrock Doom at its evil finest. 'Blasphema Secta' not only rocks, but it punches its occult message home with a luscious inevitability and nary a wasted minute along the way. Simply put: essential. Genuinely so.

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Reviewer's rating: 9.5/10


Tracklist :
1. Intro (The Occult Lore)
2. Behold The Corpse Revived
3. Maleficence
4. Witchlord
5. When Darkness Prevails
6. Ruthless Profaners

Duration : Approx. 45 minutes

Visit the Abysmal Grief bandpage.

Reviewed on 2018-05-20 by Mike Liassides
Aesthetic Death
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