Dark, haunting, angry and aggressive

Immolation

Thank you for taking the time to participate in an interview with Metal On Loud. How are you today?

I’m doing well thank you!  

Please tell us a little about yourself and the band.

My name is Ross Dolan, and I play bass and sing for the New York based Death Metal band Immolation. For those who aren’t familiar with us, we formed in 1988 and have been releasing albums and touring since 1991. Our first release entitled Dawn of Possession came out that year on Roadrunner Records. Fast forward to the present and we are currently signed with Nuclear Blast records, and are finishing up the writing of our tenth full length release due out spring of 2016. Our current line-up is Robert Vigna (lead guitar), Bill Taylor (guitar) Steve Shalaty (drums) and myself.

You were among the first bands in the world to play Death Metal. How did you come up with this direction?

Well, we definitely weren’t the first band to play Death Metal, but we have been there since the very beginning of the Death Metal movement and are proud to say we are still going strong and staying true to what we started back in early 1988. We were one of the first bands in this area, for sure, especially if you consider that Robert Vigna was also lead guitarist in Rigor Mortis (NY) which predated Immolation by a few years, and Immolation was born out of the ashes of this band. Our beginnings predated the internet, so we came from a time when you actually had to work hard to keep in touch with bands and to discover new music. Writing letters and sending out demo cassettes to fanzines and fans alike all over the world was the only way to get your music out to fans, so between that and tape trading, that’s how the underground metal scene grew into the worldwide movement it is today. Our direction came out of years of being groomed with such metal greats as Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Metallica, Slayer, Kreator, Destruction, Mercyful Fate, Possessed, etc., so it was a natural evolution down a heavier, darker and more extreme path for us both musically and lyrically. It was always something we were extremely passionate about and something we wanted to pursue and have fun with, never thinking for one minute that this would be a 27-plus year commitment that has brought us nothing but great experiences, great friendships all over the world, and has allowed us to travel and see so many places around the globe.  

You started the band as Rigor Mortis, and changed the name to Immolation. Why the change?

Rigor Mortis (NY) was formed in 1986 by a good friend of ours, Andrew Sacowicz. Andrew had his own fanzine back in the mid to late 80’s called “The Chapel”.  He was very well connected in the underground and a huge supporter of the underground metal scene. In February 1988, Andrew decided to leave Rigor Mortis and I was asked to join in his place. I immediately agreed since I was a huge fan and friend of the guys, and a bass player as well. Shortly after we decided it was best to change the name of the band since Andrew was the founding member of Rigor Mortis and main song writer, and it didn’t seem right to carry on with that name without him being involved. Also, the new material Bob was writing was completely different musically than the Rigor Mortis material; it was more aggressive, more complex and way more dynamic, so the slight change in musical direction warranted the name change as well.  

You underwent a major change in the theme of your lyrics after Unholy Cult, which is my favorite album by Immolation. What prompted that change in direction?

Unholy Cult was our 5th full length release, and prior to that release our lyrical themes were very anti-religious. We basically said as much as we could in regards to our feelings on religion and its place in the world, so it was time to move into newer directions, lyrically speaking. 9/11 was the catalyst for that transition. After 9/11, we saw things very differently, viewing the world in an entirely different way. There were much darker sides to the world and to humanity than we could ever imagine. 9/11 touched us all, and the mark that was left helped inspire what you hear on Unholy Cult and the subsequent albums that followed. This was a turning point for the band, and from that point forward we started to really dive deeper into the darker side of the world, humanity and ourselves. This was a much needed change and it has fueled the band ever since.  

You are one of the most technical bands in the world and—another achievement I can say about your record is that—you could be considered the fathers of Technical Death Metal. What can you tell us about your style of playing? Where does it come from?

I’m not sure I would say we are that technical a band compared to lots of bands out there playing way more intricate and challenging music than we ever could. I’m truly in awe of some of these bands and the musicians that execute their songs perfectly, and we are honored to consider many of them good friends and peers. Our style is very unorthodox, and sometimes challenging, especially when you look at albums such as Here in After or Failures for Gods, which were probably, in my opinion, our most intricate releases musically, but I think it really comes down to Bob’s writing style. His use of multi-layered guitar parts and multiple changes in tempo throughout the songs give it that feeling of being way more technical than it really is.  Don’t get me wrong, our material isn’t that simple to play, but I think it’s a far cry from some of the newer bands that have taken that ball and ran with it.  

Let's discuss your latest release, Kingdom Of Conspiracy. What can we expect from it?

Kingdom of Conspiracy was our last release and I think it was an extremely strong release that can stand strong right alongside its 8 predecessors. It was a musically intense album that had all the elements of Immolation that our fans seem to love so much. It was dark, haunting, angry and aggressive with a sound and production that allowed all of that mood and feeling to shine. It was straight forward in many ways while still retaining some of that weirdness of the earlier releases. Lyrically, it was our first attempt at an album that was more like a concept album, with a common theme that looked at our world today and attacked many of the horrible things we see going wrong around us. It was our most socially conscious album, but it touched on real issues in a very dark way, and in a way that our fans would appreciate and get, which they did! This is one of my favorite albums to date, not because it was strong and intense, but because it had a very strong message that was delivered in a way that only Immolation can.

What are your plans for the future? Where are you going to head with the band?

Right now we are currently working on new material for our 10th full length album which we are hoping to get out to everyone sometime early next spring if all goes well. We are planning to get into the studio by late January/early February, so let’s hope we can stick to the plan and have this done and out on time. In April we start touring for this new release first in Europe, and then we will most definitely hit the US.

Can you please recommend some music for the readers?

Recently I’ve been listening to the new Heaving Earth (Czech Republic), new Hypoxia (NYC), Castrator (NYC), Gruesome, new Krisiun, new Marduk, new My Dying Bride, new Kings Destroy (NY), new Belphegor and the new Hate Eternal to name a few. I try to keep up on what’s new the best I can, but there is so much out there these days I find myself feeling out of the loop sometimes, hahaha.  

Any last words you might want to say for the fans?

Thanks so much for the many years of support and dedication to Immolation. We are working hard to make this next release something special for all our fans, so hang in there; it will be worth the wait!!!

Thank you so much for participating in the interview with Metal On Loud!

Thank you for the great interview! All the best!

Zohar Belkin