New York’s finest Death Metal merchants IMMOLATION have returned to the scene with another crushing new album, entitled "Close To A World Below". Reason enough for us to contact guitarist Robert "Bob" Vigna for some additional information…
I guess we should start this interview with some facts about IMMOLATION’s absence on the Wacken Festival this year… What had happened, that you didn’t make it and is there a chance that your fans will finally see you next year?
"Well unfortunately our drummer Alex had some problems with getting his visas/paperwork that he needed to leave the country, or actually to get back into the USA. So it was just a technical set back for us. We were real disappointed as it all happened quite suddenly, and we were obviously looking forward to Wacken, but that’s the way it goes sometimes, there was nothing we could do. This is all in the process of getting cleared up now, so be certain that we will be over in Europe next year to pound our music into your soul!"
Well, at least you finished a new full length in the meantime, entitled "Close To A World Below", which is already the second album that you recorded in Millbrook Sound Studio with producer Paul Orofino. So, I suppose you were quite satisfied with the result of "Failures For Gods", weren’t you?
"We were happy with "Failures For Gods", and that was Paul’s first shot at this kind of music. We got along real well with him and felt very comfortable in the studio. That is an important thing. We knew he could do even better this time around. So being that we all knew what to expect from each other this time out, the outcome was far superior to anything we’ve done in the past. "Close To A World Below" is a very powerful album. The production is heavy, full and big. We intend to make Millbrook our home for making metal!"
How did you actually get together with Paul? Has he done any work in the Metal scene prior to IMMOLATION?
"A mutual friend of ours led us to Paul when we were looking for potential studios for "Failures For Gods". Once we met him and saw his place we knew he was the man. Paul has been into music for quite a while. He is more of a heavy metal producer. He’s worked with a lot of metal and classic groups / artists like DEE SNIDER, BLUE ÖYSTER CULT, RIOT, KISS members, LIQUID TENSION, etc. He is really into music and has also had some of the biggest names in Jazz there too. Paul is a great guy as well, very down to earth and personable. He likes working with people and is sometimes very picky in who he’ll deal with. So we are fortunate to have teamed up with him."
It seems to me that your music becomes more and more complex with every album, so do you think that Death Metal should generally be played on a higher level nowadays so that it still remains interesting to the fans?
"Well, … yes. I mean we take pride in what we do and we aim to do one main thing, make good music as best we can. We are into it 100% so we want the songs to be interesting. It is basically what comes natural to us. I actually think this is the most straightforward album we’ve ever done, but the songs are very dynamic. There are lots of hooks, peaks, turns and climaxes, as well as many untypical things going on, … but all in a very catchy way. We always strive to bring this style of music one more step ahead, and we definitely accomplished that with "Close To A World Below"."
Do you think your old fans appreciate this evolution or do they probably prefer the straight forward brutality of your earlier releases?
"Well you have to grow or you die, and like I mentioned, this is our most straightforward and heaviest album to date. From the very beginning to the very end it is non-stop power and emotion, heaviness, darkness and the most unholy thing you’ve ever heard! So our fans will more than appreciate that! Haha! They will also appreciate that when they go to pick up a new IMMOLATION album they are in for something special and unique. We feel that our music lends itself to those who are into the most extreme death/black metal as well as those who are not even familiar with this style of music. We have developed into not only a very innovative and musically conscience band, ….but one that remains close to our roots in the truest of forms."
Talking of earlier releases – it seems that the Repulse compilation "Stepping On Angels Before Dawn" is really hard to get nowadays. So, have you ever talked about a re-issue of that particular album?
"I’m sure we’ll do something with that in the near future and add a few more lost early recordings! Haha!"
IMMOLATION still gets promoted by Metal Blade overhere with the slogan "Essential for MORBID ANGEL fans!" Don’t you think that this is a little bit too far away from reality by now?
"Morbid Angel is a great band and inspired us a great deal, as did many other bands, when we were starting out. However we sound nothing like them in comparison. If you listen to their new album, and listen to ours you will see a world of difference. They have their sound and style and we have ours. I think the guys at Metal Blade just seem to have trouble describing what we do, so they take that route. I know they used this same thing in the ads for Failures For Gods, but hopefully they are not stating this with the promotion of "Close To A World Below". …we’re way past all that…"
The album cover art for "Close To A World Below" has once again been made up by Andreas Marschall… But this time it was not only him, but also his brother who co-worked on it… How come?
"Andreas is an amazing artist. He has been able to create some of the most interesting and dark paintings we’ve ever seen. This time he had his brother Alex help him out as there was need for computer enhancements, etc. So together they have created one of the most twisted and disturbing paintings yet! Basically the concept called for the mixing of the two mediums. In order to get the look we described he used the necessary tools: … his brother, a computer and their two genius minds! Haha."
Did you come up with the basic ideas or have they created it completely on their own, based on a title, lyrics or whatever?
"We come up with all the concepts and ideas. We usually do try and send Andreas the lyrics and the music ahead of time so he can feel what we are doing. This time around we were pressed for time and wanted to get everything done on a tight schedule, so Andreas was actually working on the art while we were recording the album. We sent him an email describing the scene and how we wanted it to appear, and what it meant. He always loves the concepts we come up with, I think they are a challenge to him, and as usual he has defeated that challenge beyond all expectations with the "Close To A World Below" cover! He really seems to like the types of feeling and emotions and scenes we depict, … I think that it’s this enthusiasm and interest that makes Andreas able to bring it all to life so perfectly. We are real fortunate to have him working with us."
There’s so many details in it that it’s really hard to recognize them all properly due to the small size of a CD… Why haven’t you just used a part of it or made it a fold out cover?
"Well, because that is the way it is supposed to be. Haha! You can really see everything perfectly. Those who want to look at it in larger than life size are welcome to view it on the Metal Blade.de website."
But there’s also some other little bits and pieces that didn’t turn out completely convincing from my point of you: the band’s name and album title is really hard to recognize, the live pictures are of kinda weird quality and for the thanx list, you should’ve included a magnifying glass… So, was all that supposed to look like that or have there been mistakes made in the production of the booklet?
"Believe me, there is nothing more convincing than this album’s packaging!!! It really does not get much better than this! This album is a metal fans dream come true!!! Haha! The idea and concept is for someone to see the cover one way, and then the more you look at it, the more details come through until you make out clearly what you’re seeing. This might all happen very quickly, and best on the very first viewing, but it’s a great effect! Upon first glance it seems to be some overall design on the cover, then you realize it appears to be flames or fire. Then when you look closer you can make out the crucifix, …then you notice the figures in the flames, …then probably the last thing you’ll notice is the IMMOLATION text logo and the album title. Now the live pictures do have an effect on them, they are not meant to be crystal clear. If you’ll notice they have the same effect on them as the words "Didn’t you say…. Jesus was coming" that appear in the tray under the CD. These words are part of the intro. The "distorted" effect on them represents the distorted beliefs of religion and also makes a small visual for the intro itself which has a kind of a haunting distortion type feel to it. So the photos were also purposely made to have that appearance too, …. Mainly because it looked cool! Haha!! So, when you lift the CD out of the tray with the booklet still in the jewel case you’ll notice that you will have the Photos on your left and the intro words on your right. They both have a similar feel because they have the same effects on them, creating a small scene of the band with those words alone. My brother John and I did all of the additional digital image enhancements and inner panels for the CD. As a band we play a part in all aspects of what we do, so we wanted the packaging to be just as good as the album, … and it is, … they are both phenomenal!!! Haha! The thanks list is there for people who want to check it out, it’s really not meant to be a major extension of the album. It’s a big list so we did not want it to take away from the look and feel and over all concept of the packaging. So to answer your question, …Yes, that’s the way it’s supposed to be. Hahaha! Ok Frank, thanks for the interview, we appreciate it big time!!!! Thanks out to all who’ve been supportive over the years and we hope to see all of you on the road very soon! Visit us at www.ImmolationDirect.com or email us at Immolation@ImmolationDirect.com Be sure and pick up "Close To A World Below", it will definitely blow you away!"
Interview & all pics: Frank Stöver