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Interviews Immolation

Interview with guitarist Robert Vigna and vocalist/bassist Ross Dolan

Interview conducted by Luxi Lahtinen

Date online: January 30, 2022


Steve Shalaty photo by Monika Wawrzyniak Photography

New York's true death metal dinosaurs Immolation hardly need an introduction. Anyone who has been following the death metal scene since the late eighties has surely tasted Immolation's brutal, dark and heavy death metal at some point. The band's debut, Dawn of Possession, released in 1991, really took off and they have been steadily growing their fanbase with nine more studio albums and several tours around the world.

The band's 11th studio album, Acts of God, will be released on Nuclear Blast Records worldwide on February 18, 2022, their fourth studio album for this legendary metal label. Immolation makes no compromises. The new album will surely sound 100% Immolation, with dark and progressive harmonies meeting the band's backbone of utterly heavy and brutal death metal, the one and only Immolation style.

We here at the infamous skull island of The Metal Crypt are always keen on following these experienced New Yorkers' comings and goings on a regular basis. Whenever there's something happening in their camp, we want to know more about it. There is already quite a lot of fuss around their new album so we thought it would be an appropriate time to contact them to ask if the world has turned a tad darker than the sound of their forthcoming album, Acts of God...

How's life? I suppose you are as tired of this Covid-19 pandemic as I am. Man, we need the ball rolling for gigs and festivals again, right?

Bob: Yes, we agree, we definitely want this Covid-19 thing to be over. It's been a long time of dealing with this over the past couple of years, but luckily, from the way it looks, things are starting to get better, and we look forward to getting out on the road as soon as possible. I think people are looking forward to going to gigs as well and, at least here in the states, things seem to be getting better with that.

Ross: Yes, I agree. It's been a very trying couple of years for everyone. As Bob said, we look forward to more positive things. The fact that we have tour plans in the United States throughout most of next year is super encouraging to us. Unfortunately, we know the situation in Europe is a little worse, so we may be holding off on our European performances until 2023. That being said, yes, we are very much looking forward to getting back to some semblance of normalcy. [*laughs*] Then get back out on the road, performing, playing music, meeting the fans, and just enjoying life once again.

STEELFEST EXPERIENCE IN 2019

The last time I saw you guys happened at Steelfest in Hyvinkää, Finland in May 2019, where you played a very good set, basically the "best-of" from you guys, with some old and some new songs. How did you feel about this Steelfest experience? Would you do it again if the organizer sent an invitation?

Bob: Yes, Steelfest was an awesome festival. It was great to see you there, and we had a great time. We thought it was a very cool fest with a lot of really good underground bands and it was a really cool place where it was held. We saw a lot of friends there, a lot of bands. We got to meet you, so that was cool, and yes, we would definitely do it again. We had a great response from the crowd, and it was a great show, so we totally would do that one again.

Ross: Yes, I agree with Bob, we had an absolute blast at that festival. It was just a really cool vibe. We got a chance to meet and talk to a lot of fans, and it was just a cool vibe there. It was definitely a super underground vibe. There were a lot of great bands at that festival, and we had fun performing there. I thought it was a great event. We would most definitely love to return [*chuckle*], we had such a great time. We'll see, hopefully, they will invite us back in the future.

Did you manage to see some band performances at the festival, and were there any you really liked?

Bob: Yes, like we said, we saw some friends. We saw the Belphegor guys both backstage and onstage. We thought they put on a really good show. That was a busy fest for us. We caught bits and pieces, but I think I probably saw most of them. Hopefully, next time we'll be able to see more bands, but yes, we definitely saw a lot of bands offstage, which was great. That's always the best part of festivals, being able to hang out with everyone and just have a good time.

Ross: As Bob said, it was busy for us in the sense that we had a bunch of interviews planned as soon as we got there, so we didn't have time to walk around as much in the beginning but then we did venture out. We did a quick signing where we met a lot of fans, so, unfortunately, we missed a lot of the stuff that was happening on stage until we saw the Belphegor guys. We knew they were going on close to our stage time, so we did have a chance to check out most of their set, which sounded killer. We were out front for that, and we saw some from the stage, so that was really cool.

When we were back at the hotel hanging out, we met a lot of people from bands, so that was cool. Meeting up with people you haven't seen for a while and touching base and saying, "hi!" is probably one of the best parts of doing festivals. During festival season you get to meet not only a lot of fans in one place, but you also get to meet a lot of bands you may not have seen for a number of years. If you happen to be on the same fest, it's a great time to catch up and reminisce and to say hi to old friends and make those contacts again. Yes, we had a lot of fun there. We didn't get to see a lot of bands, but we still had an awesome time.

ELEVENTH STUDIO ALBUM: ACTS OF GOD

OK, we are actually here to talk about Immolation's forthcoming album, Acts of God, which will be released by Nuclear Blast on February 18, 2022. Naturally, every new album is a different project, so my question is how did the making of this album differ from the making of your previous album, Atonement, released in 2017? Were there any significant differences in how you approached your songwriting process this time around?

Bob: Yes, I think one of the major differences with this record was having Alex in the studio with us. He wasn't able to do anything on Atonement due to the fact that he didn't join the band till after it was recorded. It was cool to have Alex in there doing some rhythms and some solos, which definitely added some cool stuff to the record. It was great to have him part of that.

The songs were written very much the same way we've done the last few records. We create stuff on the computer, make demos on the computer, send those files to the guys and then we go over stuff together until we're happy with it. Or they get to hear it so we can all rehearse on our own until we get together as a band. The process was pretty much the same. This time around, I think the material came out that much darker, heavier, and somewhat more aggressive.

Overall, it's like a continuation of Atonement, just a darker, more extreme version, I guess you could say. We're very happy with it. Again, the studio process was the same. We were lucky enough to be able to record with Paul Orofino at Millbrook Sound Studios again. We had Zach Ohren from Castle Ultimate Productions mixing and mastering. It was a great combination as it always is. I think the fans are really going to dig it.

Ross: Yes, absolutely. As Bob said, no big shakeups or surprises, the same formula which seems to have worked for the last number of records. Using Paul Orofino once again, to be in that comfort zone, to be in a positive place while tracking is always important for us. Paul always seems to get great sounds and great performances out of us. Naturally, we returned to Millbrook Sound Studios. It was an absolute pleasure working with Zach Ohren once again.

I think the combination of the two guys, as we've said in past interviews, is a winning combination for us. Paul's old school sensibilities and Zach's new school approach work very well for where this band has gone since Majesty and Decay when we first started working with those two guys. I think the result with this record is astounding. It's probably one of our best-produced records. It's a huge, sonically devastating record that has clarity in the sense that you can hear all the instruments, everything shines without outshining one another.

I believe that there is still a sense of grit and dirt and just a good vibe with the production. It's not overproduced, but it's produced just enough so that you get that sonic perfection that we were hoping for. Yes, I think this was one of his best efforts with us, speaking for Zach, he really nailed it, really knocked it out of the park with this one. We're absolutely ecstatic about the way the sound and production on this one came out.

As Bob mentioned, it was nice to have Alex in the studio with us this time around, since he couldn't be part of the Atonement cycle. We knew he was very excited and looking forward to being part of this. We're glad in retrospect that it all worked out. We were able to record at Paul's Studio, Alex was able to join us and be part of this one in full force. We're very happy with the end result, as you can imagine. Yes, that's about it.

The album will contain 15 songs, so one could say you had a fruitful and productive period when you were composing songs for this opus. Did any of the songs come out relatively easily?

Bob: Yes, 15 tracks. We have 13 full songs and two short instrumental pieces, but yes, 15 tracks altogether. It was a productive period. We obviously had the Covid-time that everyone had and got a lot done. We were able to write the music. I actually started writing this record back in 2018, and then we did a ton of touring in 2019, so I didn't really pick up again until 2020 which is what we had planned. With the pandemic, we got a little more time than we anticipated, which was good because there were other things to deal with during the pandemic. That being said, all the writing was completed at the beginning of June of 2021 and then we went into the studio in August of 21.

We had time to really let the songs soak in, let Steve really work on his parts with the drums. He's got the hardest part, so he was able to craft things that worked for him and really get used to the songs more than ever before on any record we've done, I would imagine. So yes, it worked out pretty well. The songs, sometimes they come easy, sometimes it's not easy, but you just keep going and when you get stuck, you just give it some time and then pick it up again. This album was written over the course of a couple of years so all of it is strong and that's really the main thing.

Ross: This album cycle as far as the writing process was not typical in the sense that it evolved over a couple of years. Bob doesn't usually start the writing process that far ahead. Even though we have all the best intentions, it doesn't always happen because of commitments, touring, and life. That being said, we had planned to follow the completion of the Atonement touring cycle at the end of 2019.

We had planned for 2020 to be a down year where Bob just hunkered down and finished the writing and we were hoping to get in the studio sometime that year, realistically, at the end of the year knowing us. Even when the pandemic first started, we understood that this was going to take longer than we were anticipating, so we made use of that time. We were handed a really bad situation and we tried to make the most out of it. I think Bob made the most of that time, like you said, in completing the songs. I think having that extra time really benefited all of us because we all got to really understand and know the songs better than we normally would. We had a lot of time to absorb them, rehearse them on our own, and once it was time to start building upon those frameworks, the demos that Bob sent, it was an easier process, I think. We had been listening to the songs for some time at that point.

I think it was super beneficial, especially for Steve to have that extra time. I think this process really allowed Steve the proper amount of time to really sit down with these songs and craft those drum parts and the fills and all the little embellishments that he does so well and to make them unique and not be rushed. I think Steve's playing on this record truly shines. Everybody shines on this record, don't get me wrong, but I think Steve's playing on this record just truly shines the way it always should have. With all the other records, sometimes he doesn't have the luxury of all that time. This time he had plenty and it shows. We were all very comfortable going into the studio and I think that really shows in the final product.

Did you write more than 15 songs for this new album that you may use for an EP in the future?

Bob: No, we did not write more than 15 songs or tracks. Basically, we write enough for the record where we feel it is complete. Once I'm writing, I just find what works for the record and keep writing until it feels like a full, complete piece, almost like writing one big song. We do have some ideas and parts going into the next record that I normally don't have because I did create a lot of stuff that, although good, there was enough of that kind of stuff on the record already, so I wanted to go for different types of things.

So, we do have some stuff going into the next record for sure, as far as ideas and parts and stuff like that to work from so that's a good thing. Overall, we just have the songs that you hear and the next one will be what happens from that point forward.

So, the lack of gigs due to the (annoying to say the least) pandemic gave you quite a lot of extra time to concentrate on songwriting this time around. Basically, thanks to Covid-19, you wrote more songs for this new album than you would have typically written if you had toured the world on a more regular basis as you have done with past albums, correct?

Bob: Yes, it gave us more time for writing, but I think the writing needed to happen. All the songs that are on the record would've happened one way or another because that's what it felt like it needed. I kept writing, even though I knew we were getting down to the wire. There was definitely one track I wanted to get on the record, and it just felt like it needed a track like that, which was "Apostle." It's a good thing. We write to make something complete. We had the extra time, but I think we tried to use that extra time for going over the songs that we had. I think either way, all these songs would've ended up on the record.

The first song and video unleashed were "Apostle." This song sounds very eerie, haunting, and dark, let's say in the familiar Immolation way, of corpse! Do you think "Apostle" as a song sets the tone for the whole album or will there be more unorthodox and strange material that isn't so typical for the band? Any real surprises to be expected from this record that might even confuse some longtime fans?

Bob: Oh, yes, "Apostle" is a good representation of what's on the record. Of course, the record will have other things going on. That being said, all the songs have their own identity and their own feel, but "Apostle" definitely gives you a good idea of what to expect from the record as far as that haunting, dark vibe, that intensity, that feeling. That's exactly what you're going to hear on the rest of the record for sure. There's no crazy unexpected stuff in the sense of what you would not expect from Immolation. It's just going to be dark, heavy, and aggressive. That's absolutely correct. This is a good song that represents the whole record. There are other different things on there, but it's all going to be just as dark and heavy. Ross?

Ross: Agreed. I think "Apostle", like Bob said, was the first single we chose because it was such a good representation of what fans could expect from the rest of the record. However, I think the unique thing about this album is each song, to me, is a standalone. Each song is unique in its own way. I think each song carries all those elements of this band that our fans look for when they listen to an Immolation song. I think that's a huge achievement with that many songs. We have 13 songs and two instrumental pieces that Bob wrote that work really well to set the tone and the vibe, both at the beginning and at the end of the record.

I think these songs all shine on their own. I think each song is very explosive, very dark, haunting and creepy, packed with feeling. The lead work on these songs is just exceptional. It's one of the rare occasions, I think, where all four members of the band are extremely happy and positive about the record. That's rare in this camp. There's always a couple of things we're on the fence about or not completely happy with, but this album has exceeded our expectations for the first time in a very long time. I guess it's a good place to be this far along in our career. We're happy with the finished product.

When you start the songwriting process for a new album, do you try to find a different approach to keep things interesting and exciting while still maintaining that distinctive Immolation sound?

Bob: Yes, we always want to retain the soul of the band, where we came from. However, we also try to create interesting music and that's the whole point of making new songs. The good thing is that we're always super inspired and we really look forward to creating new music. Every time we write something new, we want to create something that sounds what we consider to be cool and dark.

We're always going to try to do something different, but the bottom line is when you're expecting Immolation, it's going to be Immolation, just a newer version, where we are at that time.

Ross: Yes. I think the most important part of the equation is that we all share the same vision, so we're all working towards the same goal. I think we all work really well together, whether it be working on the songs or discussing and working on the lyrics together to the studio work, and the planning and preparations for tours. Everybody is self-motivated, but we all have the same vision in mind. We all have the same goals and aspirations for this band. Yes, it's very important that we keep true to the essence of the band. Like Bob said earlier, that's always important.

We don't want to take any extreme left turns that are going to leave our fans scratching their heads because that's not something we would care for as fans. Keeping that in mind, I think when Bob approaches each new record, I think he does so independently of the last and all the prior records and I think he's trying to create something new and fresh but keep it within that pocket of who we are and what this band means to us and our fans. It's an important balance. I think we all work really hard to keep it where it is and to deliver strong material. Reinventing ourselves with each release, but yet letting our fans know, yes, we are still here, and this is a better, more improved, more dynamic, more crushing, more punishing version of the last version.

Each record represents where we are at that point in time as musicians, as songwriters, as people. Each album is reflective of that. All our records are different from each other, but they all have that same line of continuity throughout. That's the sound we've worked over 30 years to establish and to identify as our own. That's always been important to us.

THE ALBUM CRUSHES ON ALL FRONTS

Do you have any personal favorite songs on this new record?

Bob: I could probably name all the songs on the record, but yes, some of my favorites like... now I can't get the name of the song in my mind. It's the sixth song that we wrote for the record, but it's... Oh my goodness! I can't get the name of it out of my head right now.

Ross: "Immoral Stain." That one.

Bob: "Immoral Stain," yes. That's a really cool track. It's a little different, but it's heavy and it's driving, but it's got a lot of cool parts. I like "Let the Darkness in." That's another heavy song, but just rips it up toward the end in a way that you wouldn't expect. There's a lot of good stuff. I love the first track, "An Act of God." That track has just about everything you could think of that Immolation does.

Each song is unique and cool. There are a lot of great songs on this record. It's hard for me to choose an actual favorite because I do like them all, but those are some of the standouts as well as "Apostle" obviously. We've been listening to that one quite often now because it is the first release. There's a lot of good ones on this album.

Ross: Yes, I agree. It's very hard to pick and choose when you've worked so hard and so intimately with all the songs, especially for you, Bob, because you wrote the songs, you created the songs. It's hard to pick which one will be famous, but honestly, we are at a very cool place right now because what fans don't understand is we listen to these songs critically.

They've been in our earbuds, in our speakers for the last two years or so and we listen very critically up until the point when we're in the studio, more when we're in the studio and when we're in the mixing process with Zach. We've done nothing but listen to these songs critically and analytically for the last two and a half years.

It's nice to finally get past that and be at a point where we can sit back and say, "Wow, that's a really cool song. I can listen to that song and enjoy it now because I'm not listening for drum tones and if the bass is audible or if the leads could come up more or whatever." It's nice to sit back and listen to them as a fan would. To me this is my favorite part of the process when everything is done because another thing fans don't realize is we don't really hear these songs completed until we leave that recording studio with Paul.

At that point everything is done. Some of the leads may still need to be tracked, but Bob usually does that at home on the computer. That's the time we start getting those first mixes back from Zach, the preliminary ones. It's the first time we're hearing these songs as they should sound. It's an exciting process for us because you live with these songs for so long and then all of a sudden, man, they turn into these really cool sonic nuggets. It's very cool.

Now that I'm able to listen and enjoy it, "Apostle" has always been one of my favorites. That was the last song Bob wrote and delivered to us. When that song appeared in my email, I was blown away by it. I loved the song immediately. It became one of my instant favorites. I loved the opening track, "An Act of God." I think it is a devastating song that takes you in so many cool, wicked places. I love it. It's just such an intense song.

"The Age of No Light" is another killer song because of its intensity and its power. It's just so dynamic. It's such a great song. Then there's some of the slower, heavier songs. "Shed the Light" is another one because it has a very unique beginning section, the way that drums are played and the way the rhythms are. It's a really creepy song. It builds and builds. It ends with this crazy, mental-sounding section at the end that caps it off really nice.

I can go on and on. I'll save the readers all of that, but those are just a few that I really latched onto right away and are awesome songs. I can say the same for all the songs. Needless to say, I'm enjoying what we've created for the first time in two years, being able to have fun with it and listen to it and just enjoy what we've created. It's a good place to be.

OF AUDIOVISUAL TERROR

You have debuted some videos prior to the album's release date. Have you talked about which songs might be next?

Bob: Yes, we will be doing more videos right up until the album release and we do have some ideas, which you'll find out about shortly. I have a feeling we're probably going to be doing more video work as the year goes on as well, so expect more videos for this record. It's something we love to do, create imagery for the songs. That's something we're going to be working on all year, I would imagine. There will definitely be more videos. Like I said, a couple in the next few weeks and then more to follow the rest of the year. Keep your eyes open for those.

How important is audio-visual stuff as a part of promoting the band? Do you think it's essential to make sure people know the band is alive and well?

Bob: Yes. In this day and age, I think for band promotion, it's very important. It seems to be what a lot of people want to see. They like to see the music videos for the songs, and in a lot of cases, that's what gets them interested in the band. It is a great promotional tool, together with YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, etc., all that stuff. It's part of the deal these days and it's something we enjoy doing. It's a lot of work, but we get it done and it's fun to try and create different imagery for the songs.

We know what the songs are about, and we wrote them so it's fun to create ideas and stuff. It's essential and it presents the band and the ideas of the band. I guess it's just a fun thing to have along with the music, for sure. Again, I think it's just a commonplace thing these days and it is important in getting the band's music out there.

Ross: Yes, I agree. I think the visual element is super important. We take all aspects of what we do extremely seriously, as you know, from our album covers and the artwork to the layouts and designs. The visual element is an important element supporting the music to some degree. I think it's the same regarding music videos. If a music video is well done and it captures the tone and meaning of a song, I think it's great. I love seeing cool music videos by bands that I enjoy.

Honestly, we are in a really cool spot because Bob does all the videos for us now. He's been working in that line of work for years now with his other jobs, so he has a lot of experience under his belt. It's really a perfect storm, so to say, between having the person who's creating the music also creating the visuals as well. We all have input, of course, but Bob is the one creating the visual element with the videos, and I think it's perfect to have him translating them into a video medium for sure. We're very fortunate in that regard. Bob may feel otherwise because he has a lot of work on his plate, so he may not be too fond of it, but I think it works really well because, again, since we're all on the same page and we all share that vision, it just makes sense to have it done in-house.

We're very fortunate in that regard. I guess in the next couple of weeks we'll have a couple more video releases to showcase a couple more songs off the new record before it is out. We're trying a couple of different things, different approaches, so it's not the same old, same old. Hopefully the fans enjoy. It's I think a nice artistic touch to the music so hopefully, everybody will enjoy when they're done.

ALEX'S ROLE

Has Alex Bouks been able to bring new ideas to the band as a songwriter since he joined in 2016? What are some of his best assets as a songwriter?

Bob: Oh yes. The pandemic situation didn't make things easy as far as getting Alex fully involved in the songwriting, but he did send me some stuff. I think one or two riffs made it in and I do have a bunch of Alex's stuff for the next record. Alex would send me some ideas and I'd see if they worked and then put them to the side, just like I do with my own ideas. There's a lot of stuff that I have that didn't make it onto this record either that I think will work on the next record due to the fact that we had enough of that type of thing on this record.

Alex wants to get more involved and I'm sure he will be in the future. He's also got other projects he's working on. He had a busy year in 2020 with his other project, Shadows, and a couple of other things he's been working on. I'm sure he'll be getting more into that for the next record and as we move forward but we're just very glad that he at least got to play on this record, especially his solos, which is very important to us. You can hear that Alex's tone and feel are on there now. His solo work and mine work well together, they accent each other very well, and I think we have a similar style both in writing riffs and solos as well as our approach to music. It's really cool, and I look forward to exploring more of that as we go forward with the newer material that we're going to start working on.

MANKIND IN TURMOIL

Is there a line going through this album thematically so that one could call Acts of God a concept album?

Bob: Yes, just like a lot of our records, we're looking at things in general that happen around us in the world with mankind and humanity and reflecting on what we see, this album has a lot of dark content, there's religious stuff, there are personal things, a little bit of everything. Lyrically, we home in on certain ideas and we write the lyrics and Ross and I love working on that.

One of our favorite parts of making a record is to work on the lyrics together and throw ideas back and forth. We work well together. The ultimate thing is to let the fans come up with their own theme for the songs, but there's always a good idea of what we're trying to relay, which is really just, again, a reflection of what we see around us in the world.

Ross: I wouldn't necessarily call this a concept record. Although we did revisit a lot of where we were, a lot of the ideas and themes that we touched on with some of the earlier records, that's only because a lot of the things we were speaking about back then you see happening today. It's an endless cycle. There's a lot of inspiration to draw from in the religious department. Specifically, on this record, we write more about the institutions themselves and the inherent corruption and the darkness within a lot of these religious institutions.

That being said, we've touched on religion, and we've touched on a lot of things that we've seen happening around us in our world. Although the album was written lyrically during the pandemic, it's not a pandemic-themed album. We wanted to stay away from that. There were plenty of other things to touch on that struck a nerve with us and resonated with us during the last several years, even before the pandemic. During that downtime, these things were really magnified because we had to focus on what was happening around us. Since we couldn't be part of it, we were very much focused on it.

A lot of the things that resonated with me, I would make note of, and Bob would make note of what resonated with him and we would sit down and discuss our ideas and put everything together. When the music was done, we had a better understanding of where the music was taking us. I think at that point in the process, it's probably the most fun part, like Bob said, for me, as well. When we could sit down and put together these ideas that have been floating around in our heads. It is a cool process.

We touched on a lot of different things, like Bob said, from being very critical of our world and our species, and everything that comes with what's happening around us. It's similar in a lot of ways to what we've touched on in the past, but I think we do it from a fresh perspective this time. I think the lyrics are very dark and I think they work really well with the music. I'm very proud of what we've accomplished with this album lyrically.

Hands down some of our best lyrics, some of our strongest, most powerful songs lyrically, which really have something to say and say it in a very direct way. At the same time, it's done in a very ambiguous manner because I guess we're tired of laying it all out there for everybody and we want people to take out of it what they will. There's a lot to take out of these lyrics. Hopefully, people get it. I'm sure they will, our fans are very bright, our fans are sharp, and they know what we're talking about, so I hope they enjoy.

ABOUT MISGUIDED AND CONFUSED MASSES OF ALL SORTS

Does the album title Acts of God refer to hypocritical people who have a tendency to find salvation in religion, calling themselves true messengers of God believing they won't go to hell due to their strong beliefs or something along those lines...?

Bob: Yes, Acts of God can be viewed in a number of different ways, just like a lot of stuff. That was the key to that title. Acts of God, honestly, refers to a lot of things, good and bad. It usually has a bad connotation. Acts of God to us, to me or whatever, is a concept that speaks to everything going on around us. It encompasses everything that we're talking about. One of which you nailed in the question, but yes, it refers to a number of different things. That's why the first song is titled "An Act of God," because it is one thing among many that we're referring to. Ross...

Ross: Yes, what you articulated in the question was spot on. It applies to a couple of songs on the record. We homed in on the huge hypocrisy of the extremely religious-minded and everything that comes with that. Acts of God refers to a lot of things. Like Bob said, it refers to a lot of things people don't want to accept responsibility for and passing the buck and blaming other people or higher powers for our own human mishandling of our lives and our world. There's a lot that plays into it. It means to the listener whatever they choose. Yes, of course!

We have very specific meanings behind each one of these songs. The ideas that were the catalyst for these songs are very specific in nature, but they could be interpreted in a number of ways, for sure. That goes for the title as well. I'll leave it there, because I don't want to get too much into the specifics of each song. To be general, yes, there are many interpretations, but there are specifics when writing it, of course.

OF MAN-CREATED BELIEFS

Who's your God? Or would you rather say that you are your own God, so to speak, not believing in a higher power that sets rules for your personal comings and goings?

Bob: I'm sure Ross will agree we pretty much just believe in ourselves, our families, our friends, and the people around us. We don't really look to any higher powers. We just do what we have to do, and we believe that you're your own person leading your own life and responsible for yourself. That's basically what it comes down to. We don't really look at any higher powers. We look inside and around to our families and friends for inspiration and strength.

Ross: Yes, I would agree. I guess I'm an atheist in the sense that I don't believe in a god or gods. I've never bought into that idea. I don't believe in it. In my humble opinion, these are all man-created ideas, man-created beliefs. We created these superstitions. God and the Devil were both created by us. In a time where people weren't educated, and people were illiterate, and we didn't have science, and modern technologies to explain the world around us, sure, these things, these kinds of superstitions, and beliefs were, I guess, helpful in maintaining some sort of order. We no longer live in those times.

To believe in fantasy and superstition and stuff that's frankly not real, and to set your course in life based on that, and to believe that it is guiding you, I think is foolish. I think it undermines the human spirit. I don't buy into it, and that's my personal belief. That being said, people who are spiritual, who do believe... I'm sorry, I shouldn't say spiritual. I don't want to confuse the two, people who are religious and believe in God, that's fine. My problem comes when those beliefs are forced into my world, and I have to deal with repercussions of religious beliefs dictating to me things that I have in my life.

Whether it be things you can and can't do based on someone else's religious beliefs, I don't think that should be a thing. Religion should be a private matter. I don't think the church, for instance, should have the power and influence it does in politics or in other aspects of our lives. I think it should be a personal thing. I think it should be an individual idea or belief, and it should end there. [*chuckles*] Really, you want to speak about community and stuff like that, that's fine. I don't think you need to do it under the banner of religion or God or anything like that. That's just my opinion. I would definitely say I'm an atheist in that sense. [*chuckles*]

PREDICTING THE FUTURE

You are scheduled to start a US tour on February 18, 2022, supporting the release of Acts of God, but the new virus variant Omicron seems to be making things a bit tricky. How do things look for this tour at the moment? Do you believe it will happen, or do you still want to remain skeptical regarding touring?

Bob: Yes, it's not the easiest situation to be in. Of course, luckily, I think here in the States, things seem to be a little bit better now. We're optimistic that the tour is going to take place. We're going forward as planned. There have been a lot of tours and shows happening here and hopefully that will continue to be the case. We're just going forward. I think we're going to be okay.

The tour will happen and we're looking forward to it because we have a good lineup and strong bands on the bill, and I think it's going to be a really good one. We're excited to get out there and play for the fans. Again, for the US, I think we'll be okay for most of the year. Europe will be a little trickier for us but we're hoping that a couple of festival gigs we have planned will take place and things will start to get better before getting worse. Hopefully that will be the case. We're optimistic.

Ross: Yes. I agree with everything Bob said. Of course, it's been challenging and not the best conditions to start planning out a year. At some point you have to start thinking forward and moving forward. We can't stay in stasis forever. I think we're getting to a point now in the world where I think we could start anticipating openings again and hopefully return to some normalcy.

I'm optimistic that this tour will still happen. As I mentioned earlier, we've held back on some of the European planning because we know it's a little more challenging over there, but that's okay. If we have to push it back a year, that's fine. I'd rather do it at a time when everybody can come out and feel safe and have fun and enjoy the shows. That's where we are, you know what I'm saying? I just want to get everything else behind us and just look forward to enjoying life again and enjoying live music again. Yes, we're optimistic and we're hoping for the best, of course.

It's hard to predict the future, but how do you see 2023 shaping up for the band, looking through the eyes of Michel de Nostredame (pretend to be him in this question, OK)?

Bob: Yes, 2023 we think will be good. We are already working on some ideas for the US, and hopefully, soon we'll have a bunch of stuff going on in Europe because 2023 we feel is going to be a better time to really plan forward. 2022, especially in Europe, tours by other bands that were supposed to happen in the spring got pushed back to the fall. There's a lot going on in Europe where things are getting pushed back so by the end of the year, it'll probably be pretty busy. We think 2023 will be our year for Europe anyway, as well as more stuff in the US. Yes, we predict that things will be happening for sure.

Ross: Agreed. I predict a strong, productive year for metal in 2023 and I hope this year (2022) will be a springboard for that. I see things getting better this year so hopefully by 2023, we'll be back to where we should be, so let's hope.

That's all I had in mind for this chat, so thanks a lot for your time, and all the best to you guys for 2023. Let's hope it will be better than the last couple of years. We need bands conquering stages around the world again, so F**K the virus and let the metal flow 100% freely again. Any better and more reasonable closing words to wrap up this conversation properly?

Bob: Thank you very much for the interview. As always, a pleasure, and we definitely look forward to hopefully seeing you soon and getting over to Europe and playing shows. We hope everyone is well out there. Stay safe, stay healthy, and hopefully, we're all slowly getting back to normal soon and getting back to shows and playing music and enjoying live music again. We look forward to releasing the new record, so people can check that out. That's going to be great for us to get that out there soon. We look forward to seeing everyone soon.

Ross: Thank you so much, brother for the years of support, for another great interview! Thanks as always for your patience with us. It's always a pleasure to speak with you. We look forward, obviously, to getting back out there again this year and getting back over to Europe in a big way in 2023. We want to thank all our fans around the world for their tremendous optimism and support throughout the last two very bleak years. It was so important to us to have that support during that time. We can't thank everybody enough for that. Thank you, guys. We can't wait to return, and we will see you on the road.

Other information about Immolation on this site
Review: Close To A World Below
Review: Failures For Gods
Review: Bringing Down The World
Review: Shadows In The Light
Review: Majesty and Decay
Review: Dawn of Possession
Review: Here In After
Review: Atonement
Review: Acts of God
Interview with guitarist Robert "Bob" Vigna on March 19, 2012 (Interviewed by Luxi Lahtinen)
Interview with guitarist Robert "Bob" Vigna on December 13, 2015 (Interviewed by Luxi Lahtinen)
Interview with guitarist Robert Vigna and vocalist and bassist Ross Dolan on June 11, 2017 (Interviewed by Luxi Lahtinen)
Interview with guitarist Robert "Bob" Vigna on June 7, 2019 (Interviewed by Luxi Lahtinen)


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