Cult of Luna
Voivod: Part 2
Voivod: Part 1
Dillinger Escape Plan
The Year In Metal
Dead to Fall
Tapping The Vein
High On Fire
Metal Meltdown IV
Metal/Hardcore Fest 2002
Century Media Records
My Dying Bride
The Year In Metal
Metal Blade Records
Maudlin of the Well
Thrash of the Titans
Dust To Dust
Six Feet Under
Metal/Hardcore Fest 2001
Metal Meltdown III
Pain of Salvation
Children Of Bodom
Cradle Of Filth
Lamb Of God
Garden of Shadows
March Metal Meltdown
Metal/Hardcore Fest 2000
Flotsam and Jetsam
Immolation are true death metal warriors, metal fans like you and me. When they are not on tour doing the Immolation thing, these guys are out at the shows, drinking beers and thrashing right along with the rest of us. To be metal you have to love metal, and Immolation qualifies. On the occasion of the release of their new album on Metal Blade Records, 'Close to a World Below' I caught up with bassist / vocalist Ross Dolan for a little metallic respite from the baseball fever then evelloping New York, between games 1 and 2 of the 2000 Subway Series . . .
Metal Update: You guys are from New York.
MU: Do you care about the Subway Series?
I'm just happy that two New York teams are in the Series. I'm more of a Met fan, to be honest with you.
MU: Can you be a true New Yorker and not take sides on this one?
Yeah. Either way, we're winners. (laughs)
MU: Most Met fans are not Yankee fans, and vice-versa.
The reason why I'm a Mets fan is that when I was a kid, my mom had Mets season tickets through her company. So I used to go see the Mets, in the seventies, all of the time. And I remember when Joe Torre was the third baseman for the Mets. So I was always a Mets fan. Don't get me wrong, the Yankees are a kick-ass team. It'll be a good series.
MU: Did you know that Mike Piazza is a metalhead?
MU: I think he was at Halford here in New York the other night. I've also heard that he gets the team to play Iron Maiden's "The Prisoner" over the PA when he is coming up to bat.
MU: Does Immolation carry the torch for New York death metal?
No, I wouldn't say that at all. We do what we do. There's a lot of great bands. In the New York scene and all over the country. We just do what we do. That's all we can do! (laughs)
MU: Do you feel like a New York band?
Well, we're from New York so that makes us a New York band. We're part of the New York scene, a lot of people say we have that New York style, that New York sound . . .
MU: What does that mean?
I don't know what that means! I think we have our own sound. When you listen to us, I think you know right away who you're listening to. If anything, we've definitely established our own identity over the last twelve years.
MU: What are you listening to these days?
Recently, I've been listening a lot to the new Cephalic Carnage. Guys from Colorado, good friends of ours, crazy CD. They're really good guys. Live they're unstoppable. We did a bunch of shows on our own, last U.S. tour. They did like half the dates with us. We've played with them before. They've been around for a long time. Man, they just fuckin' smoke every night. They're cool guys to boot.
MU: Who else are you listening to?
I like the new Nile, the new Nile is fucking great. I listen to all types of stuff. I guess this band from Australia called Psychrist. They're pretty cool.
MU: What do you think of Dying Fetus?
Dying Fetus is good. They just released something new, I'm going to go check them out this weekend at Voodoo Lounge in Queens. But yeah, we've played with them.
MU: A lot of the bands we're talking about are on Relapse. Do you feel like Immolation is out there on an island a little bit as a death metal act signed to Metal Blade?
No. Labels are labels. As long as the label promotes the band and gets the CD into stores, that's what really counts. Relapse does a lot for their bands, but Metal Blade has definitely stepped up a lot for this album, 'cause it is our third release with them, you know? So they're starting to really put a lot into the ads, and really do the right thing. Which is nice. I guess each band has to kinda go through that proving type of thing. We're here, we're serious, that type of thing.
MU: Well what did Immolation have to go through?
What did we have to go through? (laughs) Twelve years of everything. (laughs)
MU: Sum it up for those who are just getting into the band with this new record . . .
Basically, our first CD came out on Roadrunner Records.
MU: And look at who is on Roadrunner now.
Deicide's really the only death metal band they have left.
MU: Are there still people there that you were dealing with during the 'Dawn of Possession' timeperiod?
Sure. We know Monte, the A&R guy who signed us is a real cool guy. He's still there.
MU: They've shifted their focus a bit.
Well, they're taking their label in a little bit different direction. You can't fault them for that. I mean, that's what they want to do. Labels want to make money, basically. I guess they didn't think that Immolation was a lucrative investment.
MU: Why is Deicide a lucrative investment?
I don't know. They must be selling albums. (laughs) I don't know. Honestly, when you start getting into the business end of things though, it kind of gets less exciting to me. We're not about that kind of nonsense. I mean, we do this for the music, obviously. We're not really making a living off of this. Hopefully, one day we will. But I mean, we do this 'cause when we started doing this, it was fun, it was exciting. And at thirty-one years old, it still is. When the kids come out to the show, they care about the music. They don't want to hear about the nonsense behind the scenes. It's shit that we have to deal with, but . . .
MU: Well what drives Immolation? What keeps you getting back together each time to do another record?
Well we love doing it. The goal would be to live off the band. That may not have been feasible a few years ago. At this point, it may be, but we're not stupid. We all work fulltime jobs and we have since the beginning. We make a decent living and have jobs which are flexible enough to allow us to go on tour two, three months each year. So we're fortunate that we are in a position to move the band forward and still not live in a shack! (laughs)
MU: How big can Immolation get? Death metal seems to be on the rise, becoming hipper . . .
It has always been hip to me! (laughs)
MU: Ever heard Slipknot?
Yeah. I like Slipknot a lot.
MU: Some people would call that more of a nu-metal sound.
But Slipknot has a lot of elements of this kind of music.
MU: They sold a million copies of their last album.
MU: They sold a million copies, they went platinum.
That's beautiful. 'Cause that's only going to open kids eyes to more extreme stuff. I don't knock anything. We happen to know the guys in Slipknot. They're really cool guys, and they're big fans of extreme music. Immolation. Incantation. Morbid Angel. They're into extreme music as well. You can hear a lot of that in their music. Not throughout the whole CD, but there are a lot of hints of it, and there's a lot of darkness in there, which I like as well.
MU: So seeing them have success, does that give you hope?
Of course it does! Seeing Morbid Angel on tour supporting Pantera gives me hope.
MU: Kittie, a band of teenage girls with a gold record, was supposed to be on that bill as well. They too are out there giving interviews talking about how they're into Slayer, Morbid Angel and Nile.
A lot of kids today are not exposed to this type of music. The only exposure they're going to get is to bands like Pantera and Kittie. And to them, that may be the most extreme music out there. They don't realize that there's a whole sub-culture out there of extreme bands. Bands like ourselves and Morbid Angel. So the fact that Morbid Angel is getting to show their stuff to a new audience is key for this type of music.
MU: How do you think the Pantera audience will take to them?
I can't see it takin' bad. Morbid Angel has always been a classic live band with great sound. I think it will go fantastic.
MU: Would Immolation want to do something like that?
Why not? That's not gonna change Immolation. It just gives us more people to play our music to. That does not in any way mean that Morbid Angel's next album is gonna be a little lighter or a little this or a little that, or that if we got the opportunity that it would change us either.
MU: What's the biggest band you've supported?
Cannibal Corpse, Six Feet Under. It was an honor to support them, but nothing on the level of what we were just talking about.
MU: What are you going to do this time, tour-wise.
There's a few things getting set for February.
MU: You're not going out on the next leg of the Iron Maiden tour anytime soon, are 'ya?
(laughs) No. I would like to go out on that tour just to see them every night. I haven't seen them in like ten years. The last time was the 'Somewhere in Time' tour.
MU: Do you think that their reunion is cool?
Well they never really broke up. They just pretty much got Bruce back in the band and kept that other guitarist, but yeah, they've been pretty consistent over the years. I wasn't really into the newer stuff, once Dickinson left the band and they got that new guy, Blaze, I heard some of the stuff . . . I haven't really heard the new album completely. I've heard a couple of tracks. It's allright. It obviously doesn't compare to 'Number of the Beast', 'Killers' or 'Piece of Mind'. But they'll always be a classic band to me. I just picked up some of the remastered stuff on CD. I had all of the stuff on vinyl . . .
MU: It's great talking to you. It's obvious you're into this because you are a metal fan. No business motivations, no bullshit . . .
Of course, man! (laughs) Of course.
MU: No false hopes.
Yeah, like I said, we're realistic. We're not expecting to be playing the Garden tomorrow. (laughs)
MU: How would you describe the musical progression you took with 'Close to a World Below'?
This is a step forward for us in a lot of ways. Production-wise, I think this is the best production we've had.
MU: Who produced the record?
The same guy who produced the last one, Paul Orofino. I think the fact that we were familiar with him and he was familiar with us, it was much more comfortable this time around. We knew what we were shooting for and it really helped. I'll be the first one to say that our production has been less than perfect in the past. This is what we've been shooting for all along.
MU: Is there an Immolation trademark sound?
I think people will know it's us when they hear the little guitar squeals. It's not something original, we didn't come up with it by any means. We just do it a little more frequently than other bands. It has become kind of our thing. Every band does it, but I guess it just got kinda linked to our name.
MU: In what other ways is this new album a step forward for you, besides the production?
A lot of ways. The songs are more to the point. The album doesn't let up, from beginning to end. It's non-stop. There's also a lot of cool little things that we added that we don't really see with the past few albums and they're really subtle. You might not even notice them the first couple listens. There's a lot of cool little guitar things that Bob does which are overlayed in different songs. For example, if you listen to the title track. He does some little guitar harmonic over the verses the first couple of times and it's really subtle/ You might not even notice it, but if you listen to it on headphones, you kind of hear that harmonic, continuing through the song. It's real subtle, but I think it adds a little flavor, a little dimension to the music. We're always looking to add little things here and there, little nuances, that flavor up the songs without completely changing the mood or the feeling. Our songs are pretty much about feeling. And I think that from beginning to end, you get the feel of the album. You get that feeling.
MU: Are you happy with your vocals this time around?
I'm happy with the vocals. They are what they are.
MU: There is a bit more depth, more layering.
I know Paul added a lot of little quirky things. He added flavor, a little more dimension. He's the producer, so you let him do little things as long as it isn't so outrageous that it doesn't fit the band.
MU: What does 'Close to a World Below' mean? Hell?
Not necessarily. Close to an end, maybe. Hell is a concept we don't particularly believe in. Heaven and hell are what you make of them. We're here once, I believe. You create your heaven and hell here. That's what I believe. Basically I think that, from reading our lyrics, you'll get a good idea of where we're coming from. The whole subject of religion and our positions on that. Again, as a band we all feel strongly about what we write about. We put a lot of time and thought into the lyrics. I think people can tell that by reading them.
MU: What's on the album cover of 'Dawn of Possession'? Isn't that hell?
To me, that represents the struggle between good and evil. Literally. Demons and angels. Good versus evil. Demons rising up from below on the left hand side, angels coming down from the top right. Meeting in the middle.
MU: What's the distinction between good v. evil, rather than heaven v. hell?
Good versus evil is a struggle within all of us. We're presented a lot of different choices each day. Choices make a big difference in your life. Subtle choices, too. I also mean the little things. Subjects like whether you are going to be honest with people. Whether you're gonna tell a little white lie to this person. Or how that's gonna effect this person or that person. How some of that stuff is gonna come into play. That's what I mean about the subtle things. It doesn't have to be the big things like whether you're going to pick up a gun and go murder your neighbor. Obviously.
MU: How about whether or not to go out and open for Pantera?
MU: Have you heard the new Morbid Angel?
Yeah. Actually, I was going to take a ride down to the city tonight with Bob to pick it up. I've had the advance for about a month now, but I want to get the actual CD . . .
MU: Now that is one of the coolest things I've heard in a while. Why do you want to buy it if you have the promo?
'Cause I want the actual CD! (laughs) The artwork, I want to look at it . . .
MU: And you help the band.
Of course! Like you said, we're friends, we're freaks. When a new CD comes out, that's our big night out. We go down to Virgin in Times Square and get the new CD!
MU: What do you think of the whole Napster thing?
I'm not totally clear on it, 'cause I'm not that big of a computer guy. Are people downloading the whole CD?
MU: Well, you can, but you have to do it one track at a time.
If the fans aren't going out there to buy the CD, if they're just going to download it off the computer, we might as well quit.
MU: Some people say they use it just to sample new material, to find out about new bands . . .
Yeah, I guess there's two sides to the coin. If someone downloads something, and they really like it, I mean, I'm speaking for myself. Let's say I've downloaded half of the new Morbid Angel album and I like it as much as I do. I'm going to go out and buy the album.
MU: Would you rather a kid tape the album off a friend or download the MP3s than not get to enjoy it at all?
Well, you're always going to have that. You're always going to get kids who're gonna borrow it from their friends. Let's face it, some fifteen year old kids who may be into it simply don't have the money.
MU: And you'd rather have them listening and having fun with it than not at all.
Yeah. 'Cause they'll eventually come out and see the band live. Or decide they have to get the CD for themselves. Support the band somehow. So it is a tricky argument, it has it's pros and cons.
MU: I'm listening right now to track five on your new record, "Unpardonable Sin." There's some really sloooooow shit going on here.
Yeah, "Unpardonable Sin". (laughs)
MU: So it's not really always about firing off a million blast beats per second.
It's about the feeling.
MU: Speaking of feeling . . . vocals. I always ask the power metal singers this question, but never the death metallers. Who is your vocal inspiration? Who are your influences?
Good question. I used to like old Paradise Lost. The 'Frozen Illusion' demo . . . the vocals on that defined the perfect death metal vocals for me. And also I used to like Chris Gamble's. He's in a band called Bloodstorm now. He used to sing in a band called Goreaphobia. Actually our first drummer was in that band. But those vocals were amazing. On that third demo . . . deep, clear . . .
MU: What about Chris Barnes?
I liked his vocals on the later Cannibal albums. Especially 'The Bleeding' album. Especially, I like his vocals now with Six Feet Under, But everybody has their own style.
MU: What about black metal?
I'm not a huge fan of black metal. There are some albums I do like. I like the 'Anthems' album from Emperor a lot. That album had a lot of feeling to it. A lot of emotion in those songs. Maybe it wasn't the best produced album. Some of those clearer parts were a little hard to hear, but that's what made it cool to me. I like Marduk, because they're just over the top. Non-stop. And they are like that live. Non-stop. The drummer is just like . . . wow. We played with them in Europe. Real cool guys. I'm really picky.
MU: Do you like Cradle of Filth?
Nah. For me personally, they don't really do it for me. They have lots of fans, so I guess that is good for them.
MU: Any closing words for the Metal Update readers?
I'd like to thank everybody who has been there for us over the last twelve years. That's probably the main reason why we're still doing it. 'Cause when we go out to play, and there is people there to play to . . . it kinda helps! (laughs)
Review of Immolation 'Close To A World Below'
METAL BLADE RECORDS
Interview: Eric German [
Editor: Brant Wintersteen [
Photography: Cynthia Pelzner [
Webmaster: WAR [
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