There are many bands around, one can call “veterans of the Death Metal scene” and US legend IMMOLATION without any doubt is one of them. But in contrast to many traditional bands, they never got weaker or released albums that could not stand up to the sinister genre classic IMMOLATION offered us in 1991, namely “Dawn Of Possession”. Now their 5th official album is out and it is not only one of this year’s best, but one that people might remember even in ten years as a dark Death Metal masterpiece. “Unholy Cult”, the title of their 2002 effort, is simply fantastic and makes a small talk with Ross Dolan (vocals / bass) inevitably…
Hi Ross, it’s been relatively quiet around IMMOLATION and even www.immolationdirect.com was not updated since Fall 2001. But suddenly you guys come out with a new album, which is definitely your best and most ambitious so far. Did you dig in deep to concentrate totally on the creation of “Unholy Cult” or for other reasons? What happened in the last couple of months???
“Well, first of all, let’s start with our website. We haven’t been able to update it because we are having some problems getting into it, so basically it’s been down for some time and we have been encouraging people to check out www.everlastingfire.com, which is a fan site that is always updated and is sometimes more informative than our own. It’s funny because I was getting our own US tour dates from this site before we even got them from our agent. As far as the new album goes, we really began the writing process around mid-march and it basically took us two months of writing to get it all wrapped up in time for our studio start date which was mid May. So between the new album and now getting ready for the upcoming tours, the website got put on hold.”
When I listened to “Unholy Cult” the first time I was simply crushed by its dark and intense feeling, but how did fans, press etc. react on it? Any reactions from Metal Blade? They must feel quite sorry that they have parted ways with IMMOLATION, don’t you think?
“So far all the reactions have been extremely positive, and that’s coming from both the press and people we are friends with, whose opinion we trust. It’s been overwhelmingly positive and we are very excited about heading out on the road. Needless to say we feel this is our best release, our strongest in every way possible, so we are happy others agree as well. As for Metal Blade, I know Andreas at the German office has heard it and likes it, so that’s a good sign. Hopefully they will all like it, I know they liked the last album, so they should have no problems with this one. On a personal level, it’s a shame that we aren’t working with them anymore, because we really liked the people over there, but on a business level, I know we made the right decision.”
I do not know the details of the split with Metal Blade, so please tell me more about it!!! Did that incident had any influence on IMMOLATION, musically as well as personally? Wasn’t it a big set-back or disappointment?
“It wasn’t really a terrible thing for us or the label actually. We just weren’t happy with the way things were going in regards to how they were handling the band, and they basically gave us a choice to either stay or go, so we decided to leave the label and pursue other avenues, namely Listenable and Olympic / Century Media. It wasn’t a set-back, it certainly wasn’t a disappointment and it certainly didn’t affect us in anything other than a positive way as you can hear from the new record. We are at a better place now.”
What are the biggest changes and improvements on “Unholy Cult” in your opinion? How would you describe your new album?
“The new album is just beyond anything we have ever done. It is just the most intense and sinister album we ever written. The biggest change is more noticeably the production, which really makes this new record shine above all the rest. Everything cuts through like a knife and the guitars this time around just pierce through like never before. This together with the strongest 8 songs we’ve ever written just makes it unstoppable. It is dark and extreme with plenty of moods and feelings, with all the crazy dynamics you would expect from any IMMOLATION album.”
Since your debut CD you work together with Andreas Marshall, who did some fantastic work on “Unholy Cult” as well, what can you tell me about IMMOLATION’s relation to him and the newest cover art? Does your CD-artwork tell some kind of story? Especially the one on “Failures For Gods” make me think this way. What do you think about the “Close To A World Below” cover art, I think it was the weakest IMMOLATION cover so far!
“Andreas Marschall is truly an amazing artist. We trust him with each release to bring our ideas to life and make them into something that is both reflective of the album and of our feelings, and this he achieves time and time again. An IMMOLATION album cover wouldn’t be the same without his talents gracing the cover. Each particular piece is representative of that particular album and each one does tell its own story, relating in some way to the album itself. With this album, the lyrics all tie in together with the artwork, and there are specific references in a few songs directly relating to the cover art. As for "Close To A World Below", I felt this was a very bold cover and I think it totally complimented the feeling on the entire album. It was obviously a bit different, but dark and sinister nonetheless.”
I think you will never release an album again, that was not produced by Paul Orofino! But how is working with him, do you understand each other blindly?
“You are absolutely right!!! We have finally found the right man for the job. Paul is a great producer and most of all, a great person, almost like part of the family to us. He treats us like family and we are very comfortable and at ease when working with him, that that creates the perfect mood for recording. He knows at this point what we want and what we need to achieve our goals, and with each album, he keeps pushing the envelope for us and understanding us better and better. We can’t wait to work with him again for a fourth time!!!”
Also IMMOLATION’s line-up has been the same on the last three albums. Did this fact enable you to be stronger as a band and did it improve the song writing process?
“Well, actually, there is a change for this album. Bill Taylor is the new permanent member taking over for Tom on guitar. Tom’s role in the band was getting less and less over the last few years, so it eventually got to a point, where we needed a permanent member to fill his shoes. Bill Taylor did all the touring for "Close To A World Below" with us last year, and since ANGEL CORPSE split up, he really wasn’t involved in anything major, so we called him up and he came along. Now he is permanent, and his addition to the band not only makes us more of a solid unit on the live front, but his drive and enthusiasm brings a breath of fresh air into the band.”
My favourite IMMOLATION song at the moment is the awesome title track of “Unholy Cult”, but do you have any favourite IMMOLATION song or do you like all songs equally? Is there one you wish you would have never recorded? What song is your live favourite?
“I really love all of the new tracks. They are all great songs to play and they all really have a great flow to them. I think my favourite ones at the moment to play are tracks 1 through 4. These songs really hit the mark for me and they are great songs to play. But of course I look forward to performing all the new material live, just because it is new and fresh for us as well as the fans.”
What do you think about the Death Metal scene today? Especially Death / Grind like BRODEQUIN, DYING FETUS is quite trendy at the moment, what do you think about those bands and Death / Grind in general? Do you like this Hardcore-influenced style or do you wish the true old school spirit would return? I personally think most of these bands concentrate too much on brutality instead of caring about the right sinister and unholy feeling!!!
“Well, there is room for all styles within this scene as the past couple of years have proven. Me, I prefer more of the old school style that has very dark and sinister riffing and moods, but again, there is room for everyone. I enjoy a band for many different reasons, it’s a personal thing to each listener, but for me feeling and mood count more than brutality.”
What do you think about commercially successful bands, like CANNIBAL CORPSE for example. Do you think that Death Metal belongs in the underground or doesn’t it matter if you make money with this type of music?
“CANNIBAL CORPSE is a truly unique band. They have the commercial success that allows them to make a living off of the music, and they have the heart and passion for the music that keeps them connected to the underground and keeps them fans like everyone else. They are the greatest band to tour with and they have gone out of their way on many occasions to bring out bands like ourselves that needed the exposure and needed to play in front of bigger crowds. They did this only out of their love of the music and the scene we are all part of. So, my answer is, commercial success is fine as long as you remain true to yourselves and true to your fans!!!”
I think the chorus in ‘Unholy Cult’ and the overall very dark feeling on your albums shows that IMMOLATION have some Black Metal influences as well. The US has many amazing Black Metal acts right now, like Wind Of The Black Mountains, Thornspawn, Summon or the legendary ABSU. In my opinion those bands know what the essence of Black Metal is about – pure blasphemous hatred. Would you agree to that? What do you think about those bands and Black Metal in general?
“Black Metal is a very strong force in the underground, combining this blasphemous hatred and extreme intensity into their music, just another variation of what we do. We come from the old school, so in addition to being influenced by bands like Destruction, Kreator, Possessed, Slayer, etc., the only band at that time that would be considered Black Metal by today’s standards were BATHORY, which I truly enjoyed. But the bands you mentioned are all great, and I would add AVERSE SEFIRA and BLACK WITCHERY to the list as well. And I would also say, these bands probably all have the same influences for the most part that we do, so we are all coming from the same starting point, just doing something different with it. We would actually love to do some touring with ABSU in the near future, so maybe we can make it happen. Our new record is very dark and very sinister sounding in a lot of ways, and this is just because we wanted to create a mood fitting of our feelings and album title at the time.”
Your albums’ artwork and lyrics suggest a strong interest in religious topics, but are you interested in Satanism and the Occult as well? Are you influenced by LaVey or Crowley? Do you get inspired by Occult or Satanic works?
“Our lyrics are very much anti-religious, neither Satanic nor Occult influenced. We never really were inspired by this, but were more inspired by the negative and oppressive effects that religion had on people and the world in general. It is a much bigger picture and it has played such a huge role in just about every society that we felt inspired to write down our feelings about it, and how we see it from our view point. There is something much darker about millions and millions of people blindly following something they do not truly understand, and allowing this to rule and dictate to them how to live their lives, especially in this day and age.”
What do you think about religion in general? Do you think it is still strong and important in our society? How do you think can one weaken or even destroy the Church’s influence? Have you ever had any negative experience with Christians???
“I do not think too much about religion, but when I do, it truly disgusts me to see people allowing themselves to be ruled by something outside themselves instead of looking within themselves for strength. It still today plays a huge role in society, but, I think it always will, because most people need this crutch to lean on. But how much you rely on this crutch is what really makes the difference. I think most people are just casually involved in religion out of respect for their families, but for some it goes way beyond that. I think one can totally eradicate the church’s influence by believing in one’s self first and foremost before any God or Icon. As far as Christmas goes, I used to love it when I was a kid, but now it is just a big pain in the ass.”
How important are the lyrics in IMMOLATION? Do you have any special message you want to deliver? What do you think about bands that think that lyrics should just fit to the music?
“Lyrics are as important as the music with IMMOLATION. They go hand in hand and compliment each other. Our message is basically believe in yourself first and foremost and look within yourself for strength and purpose, not to religion. That has been a common thread in all of our albums since the beginning. This is what we believe and this is what we want to bring out in our music, and as for what other bands say and do, that is entirely their decision.”
Euronymous (MAYHEM) once said of bands like NAPALM DEATH, who lyrically dealt with social problems, that they play “Life Metal” not Death Metal. Do you agree with that? What do you think of social issues in Death Metal lyrics, artwork and music?
“To each his own. NAPALM DEATH played a very important role in shaping and inspiring this scene as did MAYHEM to a small degree, but, you are talking about two totally different bands with different messages, so of course they probably won’t see eye to eye. NAPALM DEATH does what they do very well and I am a fan of their music, they are just more socially conscious in their lyrical approach than we are for example, but certainly an influential and extreme band.”
What does Death Metal mean to you, how would you define it? How does one truly “live” Death Metal?
“Death Metal is our release and expression of all of our feelings, mostly negative and sometimes very hateful, through music. When done right, it can take you to another place and be an outlet for frustration and anger with everyday life. It is about creating dark, haunting music with lyrics that make you think of things in a different light. It’s about being your own person and being proud of that, and it’s about following your own voice rather than that of society. It is a lifestyle that we have enjoyed for over 15 years now, and it’s just about being true to yourself, being yourself and being your own person. Playing this music is strictly by choice, even today, and living this way is by choice as well. Why? Because we love it.”
What inspires you most in terms of songwriting and the creation of lyrics? Do you need any special atmosphere to write new songs? How do you inspire yourself?
“We are inspired by everything around us, the highs and lows of everyday life and our experiences, both positive and negative. People and events in our lives inspire us, and I guess our overall suppression of all the negativity and hatred we experience really lends itself for some great song writing.”
Can you tell us any ridiculous or disgusting anecdote you experienced on tour? What does a IMMOLATION show offer the fans? Is there any chance to see you in Europe once in a while?
“Each tour is a wealth of experiences and memories, between all the bands, all the new friends we make and all the great places we get to travel to and see. Seeing IMMOLATION live is an experience like no other. We are first and foremost a live band, this is what we do best and where we are the most comfortable. This is where we let out all the feeling and frustration and energy that we have inside, and if the crowd is receptive, there are no boundaries. We will be in Europe for the X-mas fests and in March next year for a headlining tour… so come out and experience it first hand.” (Definitely!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! – Stefan)
What bands would you like to play with live someday? Are there any legendary acts or bands that have already disbanded you would love to open for?
“We have played and toured with just about every band in this scene that we could possibly want to play with, so we have been very fortunate in that respect. As for legendary acts, maybe it would be nice to share the stage with POSSESSED and SLAYER, that would be good for starters.”
Are there any Metal legends you wish you could work with once??? Maybe Cronos (VENOM), Mille (KREATOR), Tom Araya (SLAYER) or even James Hetfield (METALLICA)?
“Everyone you mentioned is legendary and I am a fan of all of these guys, and they all inspired me as a 15 year old back in the early to mid 80’s. Maybe working with them would not be the best idea, I think I will stick to just enjoying their contribution to the Metal scene.”
What were the latest albums you bought? Any talented underground band you can recommend? What are your all-time faves?
“Last albums I got were the new CEPHALIC CARNAGE, new INCANTATION and new NILE. All great bands and great albums. Also got the new LACUNA COIL and new HALFORD as well, great stuff as well. All time faves… well that’s a hard one, but IRON MAIDEN and JUDAS PRIEST would definitely be in there, as would some non-Metal stuff like Tori Amos, Acoustic Alchemy and Led Zeppelin.”
If you could resurrect someone, who would you bring to life again?
“Probably my grandparents so I could enjoy them now as an adult and really appreciate them!!!”
What’s your biggest dream or wish for the future???
“To one day be able to make a living off of IMMOLATION!!!”
Any last words to the fucking maniacs out there? Anything you wish to add? What are the next steps in IMMOLATION’s blasphemous conquest?
“Thanks for the great interview and many hails to Voices From The Darkside!!!!!! See you all on tour. Join Us…Unholy Cult!!!”
Pics: Hacker (5), Brian L. (1), Andrew Frey (1)
Interview: Stefan Franke