In the world of underground DIY extreme metal, very few bands can claim underground cult status like Immolation. Since the release of their seminal album Dawn of Possession in 1991, these New York death metal veterans have been pummeling ear drums and inciting slam pits with a brutal, evil, guttural wave of death metal music that has stood the test of time. The lyrics match the music: aggressive, heavy and dark; Immolation’s songs have always reflected the evil, sinister sound and motifs; and yet somehow offer a vile commentary on current events, as horrific as they may be.
With ten full length albums under its belt, Immolation has celebrated the release of their eleventh album, Acts of God via Nuclear Blast Records.
Bassist and vocalist Ross Dolan told Knotfest that this album is definitely more dark and hopeless than previous efforts - no small feat given the dismal tone of the band's catalog. He said that although this is not a record based on the pandemic specifically, current events had to influence Acts of God. “Sometime around 2018, we started writing for a new album, so by 2019 and when the pandemic hit we already had at least 4 songs,” Dolan said. “So during that time, we jumped right into the record. The remaining 8 songs were written and recorded during those crazy times. So I am sure what was happening in the world worked its way into our lyricist Robert’s mind for inspiration.”
Dolan said the band knew the direction of the music was noticeably much more grim. “This record is definitely more evil sounding,” he said. “When the music was finished we knew the tone was more savage and just raw and hopeless.”
Dolan goes onto explain that Immolation’s music could align with the old adage of art imitating life. Many of the band’s albums reflect a bleak, hellish vision for the Earth; with Satanic demons fighting angels from Heaven ruling over humanity in an apocalyptic nightmare.
“We see these dystopian themes and stories all throughout our modern history, in films, and literature. Of course the obvious example is Georege Orwell’s book, 1984. Orwell published this in the 1940s, and today, it is as if he had a looking glass into the future, with things that have happened and are happening now.”
Dolan emphasized the band's Orwellian lean sharing that Immolation’s 2013 album, Kingdom of Conspiracy is based loosely on Orwell’s classic dystopian novel, 1984. “Around that time, we had all kinds of real conspiracies going down, with the Edward Snowden news,” he said. “But with that going on Personally i don’t buy into most of the conspiracy theories. I know there are real conspiracies, I just don't buy into them all and I don't think there is one overarching conspiracy that there is a group of satanic demons controlling everything. I do think there are a lot of bad people out there who do a lot of bad shit to people. There are lots of dictators and despots out there. But there’s also lots of good people out there trying to counter that, it's called human history, it's about good versus evil.”
It's that timeless confrontation that serves as source material for Immolation, at least to a certain extent. “In many ways music is a way for us to deal with this crazy bad shit in the world, and let some of that frustration out,” Dolan said. “It’s sad and it’s disheartening to read the news sometimes, but the music serves as a way to vent that and get that out of our system and enjoy our songs with the fans.”
Referencing fans in a live setting, Dolan said that after more than three decades, he and the band are thankful to have such a long and standing career in death metal, never having compromised their sound or lyrics over the years.
“I have always believed in this music from day one,” Dolan said. “I was always confident this music would carry on into the future. But, I certainly didn't expect us to be around 34 years down the road. I never thought we would be putting out our 11th record, back then. But, I am happy it grew. I’m glad that we were there from the beginning and we stuck with it and I'm happy it's still thriving.”
Relishing in their role as active, elder statesmen in the genre, Dolan spoke to the resurgence of the sound and how there is a noticeable increase in younger fans gravitating towards the extreme end of the musical spectrum. "It’s a good thing younger kids are getting into this type of music,” he said. “I am just super excited there are lots of hungry, younger bands creating some really heavy, dark sick death metal music that reminds me of the late 80s/early 90s. For me, it is truly amazing to see the influx of younger fans into this music because they create the next wave of bands. Bands like these are still raging, but we're only gonna be here so long so we need that fresh talent and those younger fans.”
Immolation’s legacy is that of a band that have flourished among the underground, building the kind of fanbase rooted in respect. They are your favorite band's favorite band, earning the allegiance of many major artists, including that of Slipknot guitarist Mick Thompson. “We met all the guys from Slipknot and they are good friends of ours, they’re all very down to earth guys. A few of them like Mick, and Joey (RIP) and Paul (RIP) were huge fans of extreme metal,” Dolan said. “Mick even has the angels and demons from our first album on his arm. Those guys are very passionate about the music, no ego rockstar attitude, we have a lot of respect for them.”
In terms of the band’s legacy, Dolan admits he feels weird even mentioning it but confides integrity has been the common denominator. “It’s a strange thing for me to talk about, really,” he said. “With Immolation we’ve done what we’ve done; we’ve struggled a lot of that time but at the end of the day we were always focused, honest and tried to maintain what this band was from the beginning. The fact that we have a career and a growing fanbase to me is all that matters.”
Eager to get reacquainted with the band's most passionate fans, Immolation will finally hit the road and tour, after more than a two year-stretch of not playing any shows due to the pandemic. It's an extended pause that has prompted the band to take stock of their impact while finding a sincere appreciation for the thrill of a live Immolation show.
“We can’t express to you in words how ready and excited we are to finally get back on the road and play music for all of our fans,” Dolan said. “In a Sense it is kind of spiritual to play music live for an audience; people don’t realize how much of our time and energy goes into creating this music. Playing the music we make is truly something special, and the connection is like nothing else on this planet I’ve ever experienced.”
Immolation are currently trekking across the country on month-long tour that concludes on March 19th, for a legendary home town victory lap in New York City.
“We are so excited about the last NYC show with Demolition Hammer and Mortician.” Dolan said. “Plus we’ve got our friends in Black Anvil and Funeral Leach from Brooklyn playing as well. This will be such a special New York Death Metal show. It’s at a classic venue called Irving Plaza. It’s been around since we were coming up and it's our first time to headline there. This will be a show not to miss for fans in New York.”
Acts of God, the 11th album from Immolation is now available via Nuclear Blast Records. Order the album - HERE