When you look at death metal, there are some bands that demand respect. Often hailed as one of the driving innovators of metal’s gory sub-genre, IMMOLATION have forged a career that spans three decades. Three years have passed since Kingdom of Conspiracy and the band have made a rare appearance on UK soil as part of a mini tour with black metallers MARDUK. Before a show in Manchester (read our review here) we spoke to bassist/vocalist Ross Dolan and guitarist Bob Vigna to talk about touring, the band’s legacy, progress on the band’s upcoming tenth studio record, the political system of the United States and the band’s constant source for inspiration.
So you guys played Incineration Festival yesterday, how was that performance?
Bob: Oh it was awesome! Great crowd, there was a cool vibe and a lot of people, it was a great show!
Ross: London is always really good but this was just so much better. It felt very reminiscent if we were to play a New York show. The crowd being crazy, giving us a warm response. It’s always cool for us.
That bill was made up of a lot of black metal and a lot of death metal. Did it go down well with the two opposing styles?
Bob: It went good!
Ross: It seems everybody went down well.
Bob: I mean on this tour there’s us, ORIGIN and MARDUK. We all played and we all went down very well. ORIGIN are very technical and they got a phenomenal response, we played and we got a great response. Everybody just seemed to love all the bands.
I guess that’s the thing really isn’t it? That everybody just enjoys themselves!
Ross: Yeah absolutely!
Bob: Yeah, like it wasn’t just a black metal crowd or just a death metal crowd, everybody got great reactions!
Ross: And this tour package is like that! You’ve got the guys from Greece [BIO-CANCER] who are old school thrash, ORIGIN has their technical and then us and MARDUK are very different. With our themes I think we are in the same ball park, we’ve just come at it at different angles.
The first album you guys were obviously the themes were focused on anti-religion…
Bob: Yeah, the first four were very heavy on the anti-religion stuff.
…then you guys moved to politics.
Ross: Yeah, our last album [Kingdom of Conspiracy] was probably our most un-political/political album ever because it was between the lines. But I think even from the first album to now it’s always been about the darker side to humanity.
Bob: It’s always been about the world and the dark side, we just got a new intellect about it over the years, we’ve always used religion as an avenue to express but now we just kind of do it a little more directly, but still in a dark way! When you look at a lot of our past songs you can look at in a number of different ways, like it is one thing on the service but when you look deeper it can take on different meanings. The newer stuff is a little more direct but still has the same sort of thing going on as well.
So it is the same source of inspiration?
Bob: Pretty much!
Ross: There’s tons of inspiration around, you just see how much shit we fuck up as people, there’s your inspiration! I mean, look at the world today, the world is completely collapsing around us. There’s plenty of inspiration man.
Well you guys are about to elect Trump…
Bob: Trump! We have a very interesting election cycle, it just stems from the fact that people are finally understanding our system isn’t really democratic and you see the candidates that have risen, Trump on one side and Sanders on the other. They aren’t establishment candidates, Sanders particularly, he isn’t taking any corporate donations, people are finally understanding that the system has been rigged for a long time, people have zero choice on the matter, they just present candidates that are all corporate owned and you vote for the lesser of two evils. It just goes through that cycle, one year it’s right, one year it’s left but they are both arms of the same body. I think Americans need to get passed the Kardashians and the reality TV to see the reality of what’s happening around us, there’s a lot of insidious shit going on, not just in our country, all over the fucking planet! There’s a lot of shit going on, I think it’s that attempt of globalisation that’s kind of failing, it’s a very interesting political cycle going on right now.
Very much in the UK we have a similar two party system, do you think that music can act as the catalyst for social change?
Ross: Absolutely! Music transcends all that bullshit, everything you see on TV is a device for force. Whether it is politics, nationalism, religion, race it’s all divisive. That’s intentional. When people unite you can make positive changes but when people are bickering over what candidate is representing their party, you have to see past that to get it. It’s all divisive! Religion, religion has been the biggest divisive force in the world for like centuries! So if we can get past that, see the true problem and correct it, no more bickering over nonsense.
So back to music now! It’s been three years since Kingdom of Conspiracy, we know that a new album is coming, what progress do you guys have with the new record?
Bob: Well we have 11 songs written musically, we’re going to be working on the lyrics shortly and we will be going into the studio on June 15th. Normally, we work on the lyrics in the studio so we are all looking forward to it. I think the new stuff is dark, probably a little darker than the last record and it’s definitely more intense so it’s going to be a little bit different from us but we’re still moving forward.
You’ve been touring quite heavily, have you been jamming on tour?
Bob: Well we haven’t been doing much as far as touring goes, we’ve been doing shows here and there. Ross and I did a side project with four shows last years so between work and everything else we didn’t really get to the writing, it didn’t come from touring let’s put it that way. We had some issues that came up, bottom line is when the inspiration comes. It look a little longer, we kind of got everything together, we’re more ahead of the game now.
So what sort of release date can we expect?
Bob: We’re looking at November right now, as long as everything comes together. The studio has to come together, the artwork has to come together. If we get that all done in time in our deadline then it will be November!
How much input do you guys have with the artwork?
Ross: We come up with the ideas, the concepts. The label for instance gave us a good hand, they got in touch with Par Olofsson, once we got on Nuclear Blast they suggested him for the artwork. Ever since Majesty and Decay he’s been doing it.
Bob: Creatively, it’s all ours. The ideas, the look, the feel, the concepts.
Ross: We describe it as much as we can to him, we’ll send him some of the music or some of the pre-production. We try to be as descriptive as possible.
Do you feel that is important to how the record is presented in the end?
Ross: Sure! We are coming up with those ideas, we basically take the music and the lyrics and then the last part is to figure out the visual for that. So we want the music, the lyrics and the visual to all tie together.
Does that tie in to how you play live as well?
Ross: Yeah, anytime we can we will use it. Majesty and Decay we used some of the artwork around us with the banners. It’s a little tougher as you need a good budget to do that, we intend to do some things like that when we headline tour for this record but it’s tough putting that together, we do all this on our own. As far as the artwork goes, we’ll get some ideas together and then we’ll definitely have all the input we need on that.
Bob: The label usually has no issues with what we are doing.
IMMOLATION have been around for over two decades now and in that time death metal has really evolved into a complex beast, there are a lot of sub-genres. How do you feel the scene is today? Do you feel that is fragmented?
Bob: It’s different because back in the day there was a handful of bands with demo tapes in the mail, everyone had their own sound and style and now there’s so many different bands and so much access to it which is the good point. The other point is that with so much stuff going on it’s hard to get an identity but there is nothing bad about that. The fact that the kids are into it and they are into the music and they are getting the music and some of the messages the bands are trying to relay is good. In all, it’s probably better because there is more access to it, it has a way to grow that it didn’t have before.
Really social media and services like Spotify have expanded how people can access and discover music. Are you guys a fan of social media?
Ross: I’m not on it personally. The band, it’s perfect!
Bob: The band has a Facebook. I think the last time I used Facebook was 2013, when we toured and now I’m using it when we are on this tour. It’s a cool way to promote stuff for the band and it lets kids see the shows. To me, that’s what it’s for, personally I don’t have one either.
And with all that going on people still cite IMMOLATION as a major influence, and it proves testament to the legacy you guys have had on extreme music. Personally, how do you feel your band has shaped extreme music?
Ross: I don’t know, we don’t really think of it like that. A lot of times people go “hey these guys were heavily inspired by IMMOLATION” and a lot of times I don’t even see it! But hey, more power to them! If we can have some kind of influence like that then that’s great but it’s never been our intention.
Bob: We just do our thing and for it’s cool if people like it that much they would be inspired or influenced.
So it’s very much a compliment then?
And really just to close off, you have this mini-tour of the UK. Can fans expect more appearances from the band later in the year?
Bob: I hope so! We’re definitely going to be over in Europe for six festivals in the summertime. As far as the UK goes, on the next tour we do, we’re planning on doing a headline tour with the new album comes out so at that point I imagine we’ll hit the UK and play some areas we aren’t doing on this tour as technically it’s MARDUK‘s tour, they are on the last leg of their touring cycle. There’s certain reasons why we aren’t playing some areas because they’ve done it already. Luckily the UK was on this one because we haven’t been here in a long time. Hopefully when the new album is out we’ll come back and play the UK again.
Well thank you both for taking the time to talk to Distorted Sound!
Ross & Bob: Thanks!
For more information on IMMOLATION like their official page on Facebook.