In the 20-plus years that I’ve been covering heavy metal, I have never heard anyone utter the following sentence: “Those Immolation guys sure are fuckin’ dicks.” It’s certainly not because I refuse to surround myself with people who possess impoverished vocabularies. More likely, it’s because founding members Ross Dolan and Bob Vigna could each challenge Gorguts’ Luc Lemay for the crown of “Nicest Guy in Death Metal.”
I realized this back in 2002 when I first interviewed Dolan for the original version of Choosing Death. Even though I grilled him for well over an hour on the nerdiest details of Immolation’s February 1988 formation, the band’s first-ever show—May 1988 at Blondies supporting a John McEntee-stocked Revenant and Erik Rutan-infused Ripping Corpse—and whatever he could remember about Morbid Angel’s first east coast tour that he helped book, the man was genuinely interested in helping me get the story correct. If you spent more than 10 minutes talking with me about the lineup intricacies of the pre-Immolation act Rigor Mortis and the particulars of their 7-inch deal with Seraphic Decay Records, you might not be so gracious.
Of course, in 2002 Immolation were already royalty to death metal fans, but by then, scene veterans who had stayed true to the genre’s dark and brutal path were in short supply. And the majority of them who remained committed were selling fewer records and performing to considerably smaller crowds than they had a decade prior. Fourteen years and four fantastic albums into their career, Dolan and Vigna could have easily packed it in, unwittingly positioning themselves for a fat reunion paycheck when the death metal nostalgia bug bit hard at the end of the aughts.
Instead, they began doing what nearly every other other old-school death metal band failed to accomplish—they started releasing the best music of their career. Beginning with the towering Unholy Cult, they recorded a string of modern classics further deepening their underground legacy, while slowly weaving like one of Vigna’s serpentine riffs into extreme metal’s vanguard. Decibel is only too happy to help bring their shadows into the light.
In 2013 we were fortunate enough to have the band on the bill of the second Decibel Tour, last year we were honored to release a track they recorded especially for our Flexi Series and we are eager to watch them level Philly in April at the inaugural Decibel Metal & Beer Fest. Before that, we present to you their long-overdue first Decibel cover story.
Sometimes good things happen to good people. But being uniquely talented and remarkably driven for three decades never hurts.
Deluxe Decibel subscribers will receive our February issue containing the Panopticon flexi over the next few weeks, but if you still wanna score one, we have an EXTREMELY LIMITED number available with the issue in our webstore here.