Immolation Mindview Sept 1998
Immolation. Not the top band you think of when you think of American Death Metal. But you should. Undeniably one of the most underrated brutal and evil bands that got picked up when the labels scrambled to sign any and all death metal in the early nineties, Immolation have triumphantly survived the glut. With the release of Failures for Gods in January 1999, Immolation are sure to take their rightfully earned place amongst America's Death Metal elite. I caught up with Bob Vigna, Tom Wilkinson, and Ross Dolan a couple of hours before they took the stage together with Alex Hernandez at Philadelphia's Trocadero theater, to discuss all things dark and extreme.
You were supposed to play the Milwaukee metalfest last weekend but canceled because you were in the studio mixing your new album. Was this because you had a vibe going or was it a timing thing?
Bob: We booked playing the fest long before we booked the studio time. As it turned out, when it came time to book the studio, the only time available was the month of July. The producer we wanted to use would also not be available after July. So it had to be July. We originally wanted to work the studio time around the Metalfest and it just didn't happen. By the time Metalfest rolled around we were mixing the album, and we couldn't just drop it and go out there. We would have had to put mixing off until September. We had to finish the album, the time was paid for. It's unfortunate because we really wanted to play Metalfest. It was a toss up between finishing the album or playing Metalfest. Obviously the album is much more important.
Do you have a title?
Failures for Gods.
How many songs? Any titles? When will it be released?
Ross: 8 songs, titles include Once Ordained, No Jesus No Beast, God Made Filth, Unsaved, Failures for Gods, Your Angel Died, The Devil I know.
Bob: Everything's finished, we're just waiting for it to be mastered. It should be released in January.
Ross: We have to get in touch with Andreas Marshall about artwork, and the layout needs to be done. But this should give the label a good six months to start getting the word out.
So what can Immolation fans expect from Failures for Gods?
Ross: The best album that Immolation has ever put out.
Tom: The first REAL produced Immolation album.
Ross: Our best production yet. You can hear everything, the drums, everything cuts through. It's still our sound, but drum wise, it's probably our best played album.
Bob: It's the tightest, the heaviest, the darkest sounding Immolation album.
Ross: It's THE Immolation album we've been waiting ten years to write. This is the one.
So how did the writing process for this album go?
Ross: Rushed! We would have liked to have spent more time on it. We had half the songs written, and then we booked the studio time. So then we had a month and a half to finish everything up.
But before you didn't let yourselves be rushed. Did you rush yourself or...
Tom: It's always our fault.
Bob: Put it this way. Every album we've done, there have been two or three songs that get done in the last three weeks before we go into the studio. Always. So it was kind of like that again, only a little bit more so.
Ross: We're the kind of band that needs a deadline.
Tom: We work well under pressure.
Bob: Some of the best stuff comes out that way.
Ross: If we don't have a deadline...
It takes forever?
Ross: Yeah, exactly.
Bob: We don't just sit around acting gay and then say OK we need to write the album, we're busy doing a billion other things.
Tom: We got a lot of other things going on.
Ross: It's not like this is our main source of income. It's no income. We all work like crazy hours.
With titles like No Jesus No Beast and Your Angel Died, I'm suspecting the lyrical themes once again to be anti-Christian.
Bob: Similar to the Here In After album, but different.
So what was it about your Christian up-bringing that causes you to write these kinds of lyrics?
BOB: That's it right there.
Tom: It's just the way that everyone is so overwhelmed by religion, controlled by it. Everything in life, people are controlled. I think that's what upsets us the most, the way people look at things. They're forced to look at things a certain way, but really they're not that way a all.
What is your personal opinion on the affects of Christianity on Mankind?
Tom: I think that for a weak person it's bad, but for a strong person, if it makes them happy, and makes their life better, than fine. But a lot of people who don't focus on their own lives choose religion as a guide and they really shouldn't. They should look at themselves before looking somewhere else.
Do you think that people just follow without questioning? That they're just too stupid to realize that there are other choices?
Bob: Definitely! It's been programmed into them since they were kids, it's just accepted, never challenged.
Tom: It's brainwashing!
Bob: Even if they don't really believe it, they just go through the motions because it's been done in their family.
Ross: And if it's never challenged, or questioned, it's always going to be like that.
Tom: Something can not be a fact unless you know it to be one, and there's no way that we can know that the ideas in religion are a fact, especially when those ideas seem so far-fetched.
Ross: And as far as people being stupid...it's more like lazy. They don't want to challenge themselves or those ideas. It's easier to just accept it.
Tom: They don't know that they can do better than with what they've been handed.
Bob: If people would think for themselves they'd be better persons for it.
Tom: We're not trying to force people to believe what we believe, we're just voicing our opinions.
Is this your symbolic way of church burning?
Tom: Maybe. We're not saying, well, we are saying it actually!
Bob: What we're not saying is: you listen to this, this is the way, this is the right way to be.
Ross: We're not preaching, it's just our point of view. Whether people accept it or don't is not our concern.
Tom: We know with our lyrics, when kids come up to us and say they feel the same way, we know we're on the right path.
So maybe in a way you're hoping people will question the herd mentality?
Ross: Yeah definitely.
Tom: They should question it.
Bob: They do question it actually, especially after they find out other people feel the same way. When they find out they're not the only ones who feel that way, it helps.
What is it about Death Metal music that has made you stick by it for so long, never compromising or giving up?
Ross: We enjoy it.
Tom: We never got into it for any other reason than the music. That's why we've been here so long. It not easy to stand by something you can't make a living at. We do it because we want to, not because it's the thing to do.
Bob: This kind of music will always be here. Even though it's popularity level might go up and down, it will never die.
What sets you apart from other American Death Metal bands?
Ross: Our music has a lot more feeling and emotion. It's very dark. It's not mechanical. We believe 100% in what we do and what we write. It's our passion in life to do this, it really is.
What's your definition of true death metal?
Bob: Pick up our new album, that's our definition of true death metal!
Ross: We're true to what we do, we're true to Immolation.
Bob: If we were to come out with an album that was a totally different style than what we've been playing for 10 years than I can say that's not being true to what we started, and to our fans. A lot of bands do that. They see there's not a huge market to make a living off it so they deviate their style to try to appeal to a larger audience. From what I see it usually fails. We're not looking to do that. We've just improved upon it. People respect that.
You definitely have not deviated from your sound or
Bob: If we wanted to, we would have done it from day one.
Tom: It doesn't make sense to do that with our kind of music.
I've always thought that Immolation was one of the most underrated American death metal bands, but one of the best and strongest sounding.
Tom: We are!
I think compared to other popular American DM bands you guys have more of a feel of what death metal is supposed to sound like. A lot of those other bands are just thrash bands with growlly vocals.
Tom: That's absolutely true.
Ross: We try not to sound like that.
Bob: We take our influences from certain bands, and I'm sure those bands have a lot of the same influences. What we take out of it and what they take out of it is different.
You've done three tours of Europe. How would you compare the metal scene there and in America.
Bob: Back in the Dawn of Possession days, I would say it was much stronger and more die hard in Europe. But now I don't know, the American scene seems to be just as big.
Tom: I think the die hards here in the States are just as die hard as the ones in Europe.
Ross: We noticed a difference over the years, but now the US crowds are just as strong. A lot of the shows here are reminiscent of shows over there.
Supposedly Europe's metal scene is so much better...
Tom: They promote metal music better over there. They don't promote it so well over here.
Ross: The States is more alternative music, rap music.
Bob: But if you think about it, the fact that this type of music gets no promotion whatsoever, and look how big it still is.
Tom: Think about it, a rap band gets a lot of promotion and sells a million albums worldwide, and say we sell 50,000 albums with no promotion, that's a big deal. People are looking for it.
I feel that people that are into this type of music are a special breed, because they have to work so much harder to enjoy it, dig in the record browsers to find it, travel a hundred miles to see a show because they're so few and far between Ross: It's exciting, that's why.
What do you think about the exploding popularity of black metal here in america recently?
Bob: It doesn't seem like it's exploding...it might have already occurred.
Tom: I see it like the death metal explosion a few years ago. When Morbid Angel, Obituary and Cannibal Corpse got big and then every kid formed a death metal band. That's what happening with black metal. Eventually bands died out because they weren't true to the music and there was no reason for them to stick around.
Ross: Again it will be the same with black metal. I think it's a lot of curiosity on the part of most kids. Now every magazine you read has black metal bands in it.
It seems that in just the last year black metal bands are making it into the magazines that the death metal bands have been in for quite a few years.
Bob: It's also because there haven't been many good death metal albums released so kids are looking for something to fill the gap.
Tom: You have to remember, when death metal got big it influenced some people in the wrong way, and the industry released a lot of bad death metal records. And that's what killed the death metal scene. The labels putting out shitty death metal bands. When we got signed to Roadrunner, we couldn't believe it, we thought it was so special. But then right after that all these other new bands that weren't any good got signed and then it didn't seem so special any more. And the label people couldn't distinguish good death metal from bad death metal.
Bob: And that didn't help the scene at all.
It seems like the scene is coming back again, most of the bad bands are gone, I just hope the industry doesn't do it again. But now they're doing it with black metal. Do you think death metal and black metal are connected?
Bob: Yes. We all pretty much have the same influences.
Ross: Obviously they're different sounding styles of music, but I think we're all going towards the same goal maybe. Black metal when it's done well tries to be dark, just like we do.
Bob: They just got more extreme with it as far as image goes. I think they wanted to separate themselves from all those bands that came out that didn't have a clue what real death metal was about. They wanted to bring the darkness and evil out so much more. For the most part I think we're all influenced by the same stuff, it just comes out differently.
Tom: When we started playing death metal was just a new name for black metal, meaning the older bands that we were influenced by like Venom, Bathory, Celtic Frost, they were black metal, and we needed to be separated from them so it became death metal. So it was a new category. It's like you had Maiden, Metallica, Destruction, it all runs down the same line. It just keeps getting more extreme, and they have to put a label on it.
Do you hope to tour when the album comes out?
Bob: Yeah, we hope to set up a good package.
Tom: We'd like to headline and do it the right way, good sound engineer. We know how to put on a good show, we need the tour support. There's only so many times you can open up for Cannibal Corpse. We really appreciate all they've done for us, they're great friends. But if we go out and open up for someone it's not going to do us any good. We want to go everywhere we can, Japan, Europe, keep playing the music cause that's what it's all about.
Ross: It's a good album and it needs to be promoted. We need to tour.
What kind of package would you like to put together for a tour?
Ross: Some good killer European bands who've never been here. Marduk, Impaled Nazarene. A good, strong, dark package. Something kids would be excited to see. Dark and extreme.
Bob: Yeah, Dark and Extreme!