Ross Dolan (Immolation) Interviewed

People want to know the arrangement between Scion and Immolation. I’m sure you can attest to ‘underground’ metalheads being slightly skeptical of a car company’s involvement with a cult death metal act.Ross Dolan: I can see where some people may find it unusual that a company such as Scion would invest money into an underground death metal band such as ourselves, and quite frankly we weren’t quite sure what the bottom line was either. It started last summer when we were approached by Scion to play a one-off show in New York City as part of one of their sponsored shows. It was in fact our booking agent here in the states that first put us in touch with the Scion people and encouraged us to consider working with them. We knew they were organizing small festival shows with extreme metal acts and making them free for the fans to attend, which was something we thought was extremely cool for both the fans and bands alike. They offer bands tour support and also sponsor free shows, which is something very unusual these days, and something extremely positive because it benefits both the fans and the musicians.

We saw that what they were doing was very positive and we were extremely excited that they chose us to work with. Most people don’t really understand that what we do doesn’t pay the bills, but I think most of our fans do understand that we all still have full time jobs when not touring in order to survive. Perception is one thing and reality is another, and the reality is that after 24 years of being a musician, it is still not easy, but we still continue because we truly enjoy what we do and are still passionate about it. So when a company like Scion steps in and wants to help us get our music out there and really ask nothing in return, it’s really a no-brainer. They later invited us to be part of their Scion Rock Fest in Pomona, CA earlier this year, which featured four stages and a stellar line up of many great bands in the extreme metal genre, once again free to the over 3,000 fans that attended, as well as financing our video for “A Glorious Epoch” that was released this past summer.

The people at Scion really took a liking to us and offered us a chance to record 5 brand new songs to be offered as a free release to all our fans, as well as giving us the money to record another video for one of these new songs along with tour support to get out there and promote the release. We were blown away by the offer, and felt it was almost too good to be true. So here we are, two months later with the Providence EP, a new video for the track “Illumination” and a short three week tour with our friends in Jungle Rot and Gigan to promote the EP. Scion gave us a few thousand CD copies of the EP to hand out free at our shows, which the fans are absolutely blown away by, in addition to the free download which allows any of our fans worldwide to get a copy. And if that wasn’t enough, we told them that the European fans were writing us in order to obtain CD and vinyl copies of the EP, and Scion offered to mail them copies for free while they still had copies, so that to me is above and beyond, and any fan who sees any negative in this situation is just not seeing too clearly. At the end of the day, what they are doing is extremely positive and unprecedented in today’s music scene, and we are extremely proud to be working with a company that is putting so much into the arts at no cost to the artists or the fans.

So, is this partnership with Scion a one-off, an aside to your Nuclear Blast deal?
Ross Dolan: Absolutely, and in fact, Nuclear Blast worked together with Scion on most of these projects because they also understand the importance of what Scion is doing for the underground music scene. Both companies worked together on all levels and both have a great working relationship with each other. Nuclear Blast has been nothing but supportive and helpful throughout the whole process, and is extremely happy with the results.

What do you think Scion saw in Immolation? Legacy or something greater?
Ross Dolan: A lot of the people working over at Scion’s marketing group are hardcore metal fans, and some of them were really into the band and loved what we were doing. I just think once they got to know us as people they really pushed to make things happen for us, which we can’t thank them enough for doing. All the people we have dealt with at Scion have been super cool and really into what we do musically, and I think they respect the fact that we have been doing this for 24 years now and have somewhat of a diehard and loyal following from our fans. They realized we understood the importance of being part of something like this and what it meant not only to us but to the fans, and it was something we took very seriously. We approached this release with the focus and commitment of any of our other albums, and wanted to create something that would really be special and unique for the fans. It wasn’t something we took lightly and didn’t want to release something half-assed, and I think this is evident in the final product. Everything from the music, the lyrics, artwork and video concept were well thought and all made sense before we gave anything the green light.

Was Providence written and recorded exclusively for Scion or were the five songs on offer holdovers from Majesty and Decay?
Ross Dolan: There are never any ‘holdovers’ with this band. We start from scratch with each new release, and the EP was no exception. When we had the green light, Bob began the writing process, which began around early July, I believe. By mid-August we were already in the studio recording the songs, and then two weeks later we were filming the video, then a few weeks after that we were getting ready for the tour, so it really happened so fast. We didn’t really even have time to drive out to Ohio to rehearse with Steve, we just sent him the demo tracks, he sent us back some rehearsal stuff of what he was doing and we met in the studio, it was that fast. We all practiced on our own and made it happen in the time we had. It was really a blur, but the end result was something we are really happy with. So, yes, these songs were written exclusively for the Scion release.

Would you describe Providence as related to Majesty and Decay’s flow or distinctly separate from it? I get the feeling you’re dialing in on few key aspects—more focused riff arrangements and songwriting—without losing your chaotic signature.
Ross Dolan: I would say it definitely has more of Majesty and Decay’s flow, as opposed to some of the earlier releases; however, it still has some of the old-school Immolation elements as well. I think Bob was trying to capture some of the intensity of the last album while adding some of the heavier darker elements that you find on songs such as “Swallow the Fear” and the title track. We had fun with this release and basically picked up from where we left off while adding some darker and heavier elements, which I think all came across well thanks to great production Zack Ohren was once again able to achieve.

What do they bring, specifically? I’m referring to the lyrics in the opening track on Providence.
Ross Dolan: I got the title from a letter a German soldier wrote home to his family while on the eastern front during WW2. In the letter the soldier tells of how the Germans were received by the Russians after Germany invaded and how they were feared, mistrusted and hated, because the Russians knew what it meant when the German soldiers arrived. They knew what they brought, they knew they brought death, misery and darkness, so this is basically what the song is about.

“Illumination” is strange. I think this track will throw Immo-fans for a loop. Care to talk about what’s happening in “Illumination”?
Ross Dolan: This song is a very dark and creepy song musically and lyrically. Lyrically, it deals with these megalomaniac type personalities we see throughout history that have the ability to twist people’s minds with their insane ideas and beliefs. They always seem to come at a time when the people are looking for a savior, or leader type to lead them out of a dark time, but instead they are led into a web of deceit and betrayal and ultimate ruin. Bob created these Cello parts to follow the main guitar rhythm parts at the beginning, and they break the song up and become a common thread throughout the song that gives it a very dark and bizarre sound. The song slowly builds to its climax, but all throughout these creepy Cello parts pop in and out giving it a strange nightmarish effect. I loved it the minute he played it for me because although it was something different for us, it definitely worked in the context of the song and kept true to the Immolation sound. The music couldn’t have fit the lyrical concept any better, and it is definitely one of my personal favorites because it is a very powerful and dark song, which is why we chose this to be the video track.

“Swallow the Fear” is probably one of my favorite Immolation tracks. Ever. It’s got this almost ‘ancient’ vibe to it, especially from the 2:30 mark forward.
Ross Dolan: This is a very cool song because of the way it builds and slowly evolves. It has a very oppressive and ominous feel to it and it really incorporates so many different elements of the Immolation sound. The guitar layering is some of Bob’s finest work in my opinion, and Steve’s drumming has so much feeling and creativity that it really carries the song from start to finish. Definitely a cool song to get lost in, which is why I love music so much, because it allows me to lose myself in the landscape the song creates. And lyrically it is one of my favorites because it touches on the climate of fear we live in today, and was specifically inspired by the abomination called the TSA which was created in this climate of fear to ‘protect’ us, when all it does is slowly erode some more of our personal rights all in the name of ‘keeping us safe’. A very dark time for our country, and something I feel very strongly about and felt this was the perfect song lyrically to get this off my chest!

The cover art’s different. What is it? A fleet of ships shaped like crosses on a bombing run?
Ross Dolan: The song “Providence” is about the bombing raids of WW2 (yes, a very history inspired release) and the devastating civilian losses on all sides, so the cover reflects this. We wanted the shapes to be ambiguous, to sort of take on the form of birds of prey, or demons or dark shadows, just something ominous to capture what the people on the ground might have imagined when they heard the approaching thunder of the planes overhead. We once again used Par Olofsson to bring this idea to life, and once again he nailed it and gave us exactly what we were looking for.

The EP will be given away for free. As someone who’s been around the record business for a time, do you cheer or jeer the concept of 1) creating music 2) recording music and 3) giving away your music?
Ross Dolan: The EP is available for free download and we are giving out CD versions for free at the shows on this tour. We love creating and recording music, that’s why we are here, and it is every musicians goal, no matter who they are, to get their music out to as many people as you can, which is why musicians tour. In a situation like this, where we are given the financial means to record music at no cost to us which in turn allows us to bring it to all our fans for free as well is a beautiful thing indeed. Of course we hope this will encourage people who may not necessarily be aware of Immolation to check out our music and hopefully enjoy what we have to offer. Music means many things to many people, it inspires, it drives, it provides an escape and it helps people get through certain periods of life, as it did for me and many other teens trying to find who they are while becoming adults in an ever changing world. To be able to touch people on that level is beyond words, and to offer it free, priceless!

** Immolation’s Majesty and Decay is out now on Nuclear Blast Records. Order it HERE.

** To stream/download Immolation’s Providence EP, click HERE.