These days, more than ever, doom metal has become an interesting aspect of the heavy music culture. It has enjoyed quite a resurgence in the past decade and has since spidered into many sub-sub genres. Traditional doom. Stoner doom. Gothic doom. Funeral doom. It goes on and on. It goes without saying that bands like Ghost and Uncle Acid & the Deadbeats, both of whom have taken this time honored tradition into the mainstream by way of their pop sensibilities and mass promotion, have helped turn many a head towards this dark and downtrodden sound. In doing so they have also invigorated a lot of interest in the classic groups of the genre, (Saint Vitus, Pagan Altar, Trouble, Cathedral, just to name a few.) As is the case when any beloved tradition gains a little notoriety outside of its grassroots sanctum, there comes a time when the diehards long for a band who will separate true fans from casual listeners. A band like Abysmal Grief, who have been in existence since the late ‘90s, may not be viewed as the quintessential doom band, but they are definitely one that is perfectly suited for genre diehards. In short, it is highly unlikely these Italian doomsters will be called poseurs by anyone anytime soon.

The band’s latest release, “We Lead the Procession,” is a bit of a hodge podge of rare and previously unreleased recordings between 1999 to 2009. From the very get-go it pulls no punches. It opens with a pipe organ straight out of a Dario Argento film and segues into some deeply reverbed, low-register vocals that could lend themselves to either the goth camp or to black metal. Abysmal Grief wastes no time in letting the listener know they’re about to embark on a dark path throughout the band’s history. “We Lead the Procession” has a very ritualistic sound, due in part to the effective use of organ, (not unlike their Italian forefathers, Goblin and Osanna,) but there’s also a lot of classic, Candlemass-esque doom metal riffing complemented by the evil Gregorian chant backing vocals. You will have a difficult time not picturing a nighttime processional of shrouded figures holding candles and descending into a mountainside cave to offer a blood sacrifice to the gods of old.

Because the quality on “We Lead the Procession” shifts pretty drastically from song to song, (ranging from live recordings to old rehearsal tapes,) it may be a hard sell for those looking for an album with solid consistency, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t chock full of strong material. The standout song is probably the evil chugger-naut, “Raise the Dead,” (not to be confused with the Venom tune.) Other noteworthy tracks include the instrumental horror of “Procession” and the early Candlemass vibe of “Fear of Profanation,” (except the vocals are about five octaves lower than Messiah Marcolin’s.)  Overall, this is a great a slab of doom, for both newcomers who are interested in seeing just how dismal this genre can be, and for old school doom-heads who feel that their can’t beloved genre can’t get dark enough.

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