Interviews > Immolation
Interview by Athena Schaffer

Although Immolation are no strangers to the Extreme Metal scene – indeed, they’ve been forerunners setting the pace for Extreme Death Metal for two decades now! – their new Majesty & Decay is their first release for Nuclear Blast Records. And their musical fire burns bright – like a bonfire growing, flames licking high on the pitch black sky.

Hailing from Yonkers, NY, Immolation is: vocalist/bassist Ross Dolan, drummer Steve Shalaty, and guitarists Robert Vigna and Bill Taylor. Majesty & Decay continues the Immolation tradition of violently tackling tough social/political/religious issues, a raging inferno that destroys and cleanses everything in its path.

Immolation will play their first small NYC club show in 7 years on Wednesday July 28 at the Studio at Webster Hall. This legendary band celebrates their 25th anniversary with their recently released 8th album Majesty and Decay, easily the high water mark of their incredible career with special guest Arsis.

Immolation recently announced their US headlining tour this Fall in support of their Nuclear Blast debut. Joining them will be the Polish death metal tank and label mates Vader, along with Abigail Williams, Lecherous Nocturne, and Pathology.

“We are very excited to announce this upcoming tour here in the States,” commented the band. “It will be our first official tour for the Majesty and Decay album and we are really looking forward to playing our full live set debuting material off the new record as well as a lot of our older material off our previous 7 albums. Joining us on the tour will be our good friends of 22 years, VADER! Vader is a tremendous band that we have a lot of respect for not only for their longevity and immense contribution to the extreme music scene, but simply put, they are a great band and we are also huge fans! Also joining us will be Abigail Williams, Lecherous Nocturne, and Pathology, so we hope it will be something that will appeal to all fans of extreme metal. We look forward to seeing you all in Sept/Oct."

Tour dates include:
9/29    Baltimore, MD - Sonar
9/30    Farmingdale , NY - Crazy Donkey
10/1    Providence, RI - Club Hell
10/2    Manchester , NH - Rocko’s
10/3    Montreal, ON – Foufounes Electriques
10/4    Toronto, ON - MOD Club
10/5    Cleveland, OH - Peabody’s
10/6    Detroit, MI - Blondie’s
10/7    Milwaukee, WI - The Rave
10/8    St Paul , MN - Station4
10/10   Seattle, WA - El Corazon
10/11   Vancouver, BC - Rickshaw Theater
10/12   Portland, OR - Hawthorne Theater
10/13   San Francisco, CA - DNA Lounge
10/14   West Hollywood, CA – The Whiskey
10/15   Santa Ana ,CA - The Galaxy
10/16   Ramona , CA - Ramona Mainstage
10/17   Mesa, AZ - U.B.’s
10/18   Tucson, AZ - The Rock
10/20   Austin, TX - Emo’s
10/21   Houston, TX - The Warsaw
10/22   Tulsa, OK - Marquee
10/23   Louisville, KY - Uncle Pleasants
10/24   Raleigh, NC - Volume 11
10/25   Springfield, VA - Jaxx
10/26   Rochester, NY - Montage Music Hall
10/27   Indianapolis, IN - Emerson Theatre
10/28   Chicago, IL - Reggie’s Rock Club

Reduced service charge tickets will go on sale today through
On sale at all major ticketing services after June 4, 2010.

Immolation, recently entered Millbrook Sound Studios in New York with longtime producer Paul Orofino. Mixing duties were handled this time by Zack Ohren (Decrepit Birth, Suffocation, All Shall Perish). Cover art was created by Pär Olofsson (The Faceless, Immortal, Abysmal Dawn). Immolation recently wrapped the “Those Whom The Gods Detest Tour” as direct support to Nile.

The Crowgrrl recently caught up with frontman Ross to delve deeper into this kick-ass album and other news from the Immolation front.

How did the move to Nuclear Blast come about?

We had finished our contractual obligations to both Listenable and Century Media, so it was at this time that we decided to see if there were any other labels out there who might be willing to work with us. We spoke with some friends at the Nuclear Blast office in California and knew they were interested in working with us, so after a few phone calls and emails, we received an offer from them and after giving it much thought, we ultimately decided that Nuclear Blast was really the wisest move for us at this point in our career. Nuclear Blast has really lived up to all of our expectations thus far and have really gone above and beyond in promoting us and helping us in many other ways. We are really happy we made the move and are excited to get out there and promote the new album full force this fall.

Who does most of the songwriting for the band?

Bob has been the main creative force behind Immolation since we formed the band in early 1988. He has written every song since the beginning, so all the music since the first demo has been all Bob. In the early days, and up until the Unholy Cult album, I handled the lyrics, and then from Unholy Cult to the present, Bob has had a much larger role in the lyrics as well, which helps tremendously in bringing fresh new ideas and different perspectives to the table. We all contribute to the arrangement process, and we all have an equal say in the later process of fine tuning the songs, and all of our opinions are considered before we even enter the studio, so it does become a group effort with each of us adding our two cents and giving our thoughts.

Did the songwriting process differ on Majesty & Decay any from your former albums?

Only in the sense that we had time for a proper pre-production where Bob created and arranged the songs on the computer with mock drum beats and solos, and with this template we were able to understand the songs much better and add to them and really fine tune things until we thought they were near perfect. This really allowed us more time to actually craft the songs and work out any of the kinks before we even got into the studio. It also helped Steve out tremendously in helping him understand the feel of the parts and giving him a foundation to build on without wasting numerous weekends of us driving out to his house in Ohio to work out drum beats. It is a process which really allowed us to bring out our best musically and give our fans something that was well thought out and planned down to every last note, and we are very happy with the results.

Do the lyrics come first? Does the music come first? What is the songwriting process like for you?

The music always comes first because I need to get a feel for the music before I can be inspired to write any lyrics. I had a lot of loose concepts and ideas that I felt were very strong going into the process this time, and I even had some working titles that I wanted to develop, so this definitely gave me a head start, and it also helped Bob get inspired after I shared some of these ideas with him. Once all the music was done and we were actually in the studio, I spent all my time in the studio while we were tracking drums and guitars writing the lyrics and getting my ideas down on paper. Then at the end of the night, Bob and I would sit down, and I would share my ideas with him and we would brainstorm together and he would add some of his ideas, so it was a very positive process that actually worked really well and produced the best results. As far as the music was concerned, Bob had started writing riffs earlier in the year, and just started recording them into his computer with drum beats, so by the time we were ready to start piecing things together, he had over 80 completed parts that were ready to be sorted through and weeded out.

There’s almost a Middle Eastern flavor to the guitar solo in “Power & Shame”. Could you tell us a little more about that song?

This song was one of our favorites, and was a strong contender for the opening track on the record, but in the end we just felt “The Purge” worked a bit better. “Power and Shame” lyrically was inspired by the churches lack of action and its apathy in using its influence during World War 2 to make a strong stance against Nazi rule and oppression. It was a strong concept that took a fresh look at a subject we have explored for over 20 years, and it worked perfectly with the music Bob had written. Bob has a great style of playing that has lots of mood and feeling as well as lots of bite and edge, so when creating solos, you get melody, but a dark creepy kind of melody that works with the heavy and dark arrangements. He does have a lot of Middle Eastern flair in his solos, and I really don’t think this is intentional, but nonetheless, it works really well. The whole solo section of this song from the middle breakdown is just huge, and the heavy climactic epic part that follows the lead really brings it all home. One of my favorites and a great song to play live as well.

”A Glorious Epoch” has a grim beauty to the musicianship despite the choking under the yoke of political dominance in the lyrics. Want to talk more about that one?

Again, another favorite of ours. This song was one that we immediately knew would shine a bit more than the others because of its crushing heaviness and the fact that it is very catchy in a dark way. It is an extremely dark song both musically and lyrically, one of our darkest, and it is just ripe with hopelessness. The title just oozes with sarcasm, and lyrically the song is referring to mankind’s great ability to fuck things up due to our arrogance and greed, and it certainly has some veiled political references, but it is really about humanity’s short time here on earth and how in that short time we have managed to create so much pain and suffering across the board due to our own personal gains. It singles out no one, but rather blames everyone.

”In Human Form” is raw, primal! Can we get more in depth about that fantastic song?

We like this song because it is a bit different, a bit slower and heavier, but it eventually builds into an intensity that climaxes with a great slow breakdown with some great lead work and nice drum work to finish it off. It is very raw and primal musically and lyrically, because lyrically it is about just that, that fine line between being an evolved and cultured life form and tipping over the edge and embracing that primal rage and anger we all have within us. It is about coming to that threshold and losing control and crossing that line and becoming that primal beast we all are beneath our human form. That is the idea behind it and the reason for the title. We are not that far removed from the animals we evolved from, and that animal side is something we all have within us, and unfortunately for some, something that can’t be kept at bay.

”A Thunderous Consequence” is another stand-out – especially the lyrical message. Does that have a personal tie perhaps?

It is basically a song about the horrible consequences of war, and similar to “Harnessing Ruin” it does not advocate war, it points out the horrible realities of war. There are many songs with concepts based on war in the Immolation catalog, and this is one of the ones we are most proud of. It is a very straight forward song and it really has a strong message, and so many people get it and really appreciate the message. I am a big reader, and I am fascinated with history as well, so this all ties in, and it is something I felt worked really well with the theme and feel of the new album.

What’s your personal favorite song on the new album?

This is something that changes from day to day with me. Some days I love “The Purge”, some days the title track, other days “A Glorious Epoch”, it just depends. I can’t name one favorite, because each one has something unique and special to offer. That’s what makes this album so special to me, its diversity and the strength of each of the songs to stand alone or together!

Any video plans for any songs?

We do have plans, but we haven’t decided on a song yet. We have talked about doing a video for “The Purge”, and we do have some cool ideas, but we will see. This could all change tomorrow, but regardless, we do plan on making a video for one of the songs before the Fall run.

Any stories behind Par Olofsson’s excellent cover art?

The label gave us Par’s contact and we decided his style would work best with what we were looking to convey with the art. We had a concept all worked out, so we sent him all our ideas complete with some pre-production sound samples, a bad sketch we made illustrating our idea and a few other things to give him an idea of what we wanted. He nailed it right from the start, and the best part of the whole process was the fact that we were able to see the art come to life in stages and really tweak it until we were happy with the result. Par was great to work with and we feel he did an amazing job!

Tour plans?

We do our first headlining run here in the states since 2002 in October, so we are very excited to play a full set for everyone. We will have Vader, Abigail Williams, Lecherous Nocturne and Pathology out with us, so it should be a great tour. We then plan to hit Europe up soon after this for a full tour as well, so keep checking the MySpace site for dates and details.

What is your live show like?

Our live show is where we really shine. We give the live show 110% of our energy and love to get out there to perform our songs to the fans. It is something no one wants to miss and I assure you, you won’t be disappointed.

Does the current set list contain mostly songs from Majesty & Decay, or your other albums?

We always try to represent all of our back catalog in our live show when time allows. We will probably have about 5 new songs mixed with about 10 songs from our earlier releases, so we plan to offer the fans a good variety of songs off all the releases to accommodate both old fans as well as new. There should be no time constraints, so we can really give everyone a solid set of our strongest material.

What kinds of merch are you bringing with you this time?

The usual, some new stuff as well as some of the older classics. We try to bring out a few old designs out on each run to give some of the newer fans a chance to own some of the classic older designs so they don’t have to pay ridiculous prices to obtain them on ebay.

What do you do on your “down-time” on the road? Do you bring movies or video games? If so, which ones?

I mostly read. I bring books with me, and now that I have a Kindle, I can just download books and read them. Besides this, I always bring my IPod so I have my music and I am set. We do bring some movies, but we always change it up. “The Family Guy” is always a favorite on tour!

Any long-form DVD plans?

Not at the moment. We have already done two DVDs in the last 8 years, so we have no plans as of yet.

How Hands-On are you with your Website and Myspace pages?

We have a good friend and huge supporter running our MySpace site along with help from the label, so we just stay connected to answer emails and friend requests. It is hard to stay on top of everything since we all have full time jobs, but we do make the effort and try to always stay in the loop.

Is there anything that I didn’t ask that you want to tell our readers?

We look forward to seeing you all on tour at the end of the year. Check out Majesty and Decay, you will not be disappointed! Thanks for the great interview

- Ross