I took a little break from all the tumult and the afternoon sun at Graspop Metal Meeting this year, and went backstage to meet up with my personal heroes and death metal dads from New York’s legendary Immolation. It’s been a while since their last record ‘Atonement’ came out, but I’m still spinning it. At Graspop, I got to see them play for the first time after a quick lunch at the overpriced pizza stand. The show was very good and their performance impressive (check out the review here). I had a real blast as did everyone else, I’m sure. Obviously I couldn’t wait to have a chat with them.
GRIMM: Clearly! Now, unless I’m mistaken, ‘Atonement’ is your tenth record. Was it envisioned as a celebratory album?
Vigna: Well, it was cool to get to a tenth record in the sense that we were going through our back catalogue, and were wondering how many songs we’d written up to that point. And as we were writing ‘Atonement‘, we counted ninety-nine songs. We all looked at each other and said “OK, we have to have one hundred songs’. And that’s when we wrote ‘Epiphany‘. We had this one riff we knew we wanted to use but hadn’t quite figured it out yet. It took us forever but we got it in the end, and it basically became the main riff in the song. So there you have it. Ten albums, one hundred songs.
While we were recording ‘Atonement‘, we’d also been asked to re-record ‘Immolation‘ for Decibel Magazine’s Flexi series. So we decided we should put it on the record as well, you know, as an extra track. The interesting part is that that song was the first one we’d ever written. So our one-hundredth song and our re-recorded first song ever, which we’d recorded the same day (!), were listed back-to-back on the album.
It goes even further. Harris Johns, who produced our first record ‘Dawn Of Possession‘ back in ’91, was the one who would produce our re-recording of ‘Immolation‘. I guess in a sense ‘Atonement‘ was, in more ways than one, kind of our own little celebration.
GRIMM: It seems like fate has had an interesting hand in that record. Has the wheel turned full circle?
Dolan: Yes, it’s all downhill from here. *laughs*
GRIMM: *laughs* We really hope not! Can we expect new material soon?
Vigna: We’re working on it right now. We’ve already finished a few new songs, and we want to get some more writing done during the next few months while touring or while we’re home. Whenever we’ve got some time, really. Even while we’re filming our videos.
We did the ‘When the Jackals Come‘ video last year and recently put out ‘The Distorting Light‘ one, and we’re likely to release one more by the end of the year. A lot of time goes into putting them together, since we’re doing it all ourselves. That being said, we try to work one new material whenever we can, and we’ll try to get that out early 2020.
GRIMM: And we’ll be looking forward to it. Now my readers know I’m a big fan of Pär Olofsson, who created the artwork for ‘Atonement’ and, previously, ‘Kingdom of Conspiracy’ as well as ‘Majesty and Decay’. I believe him to be a visionary, and one the best artwork designers in recent years. Whose idea was it to hire him?
Vigna: Oh, it was the label who put us through. We were looking for something different so we reached out and they recommended him. He did the last three records and the ‘Providence‘ EP. He’s a very cool guy who’s super-easy to work with. And he delivers. We usually come up with a concept which we sketch out – horribly *laughs* – to give him an idea of what we’re looking at. We sometimes send him a pre-production or two so he’s got a sense of the music. And that’s it. He’ll then throw designs at us and we’ll work with him back and forth, telling him what we like or don’t like. But he always kills it.
For example, the first time we worked with Pär on ‘Majesty and Decay‘, we had a certain idea which he thought it would work better with the stone design. Once he showed it to us we agreed. Sometimes our ideas may be a little too much, so he simplifies them and makes them work. He’ll send us a rough basis of a design he’s got in mind. And digitally, he’ll keep on adding more and more layers of material, further building on that initial design. Every so often he’ll send it to us and if we don’t like a layer in particular, he’ll remove it and keep working on what he’s got. We like it that way.