Music / Immolation
Immolation is an American Death Metal
band. Characterized by their instantly recognizable blend of creepy dissonant chords and pinch harmonics, mind-bogglingly complex drum patterns, and the trademark roar of Ross Dolan, they have worked their way into being one of the biggest names in death metal.
Formed in Yonkers, New York in 1986 under the name of Rigor Mortis by Andrew Sakowicz (vocals, bass), and Dave Wilkinson (drums), the early installment of the band released a few demos before changing their name to Immolation in 1988. The initial lineup of this new iteration was Ross Dolan (vocals, bass), Robert "Bob" Vigna and Tom Wilkinson (guitars), and Neal Boback (drums); after a pair of demos, Boback left the following year and was replaced by Craig Smilowski, creating the lineup that would go on to release Dawn of Possession
in 1991 to rave reviews and a great deal of attention. For various reasons (primarily their unceremonious ejection from Roadrunner), however, five years came and went with no real progress beyond a demo compilation until a deal was inked with Metal Blade Records that resulted in the release of Here in After
in 1996, though Smilowski was ejected sometime around then as well due to his habit of crashing on Vigna's couch for weeks at a time without paying rent
, and Alex Hernandez was soon hired as his replacement. Failures for Gods
followed in 1999, along with Close to a World Below
in 2000. Wilkinson left the following year and was quickly replaced by Bill Taylor of Angelcorpse
and Acheron fame, and with that, the Unholy Cult
lineup was born. Hernandez, in turn, left the following year and was replaced by Steve Shalaty, with a live DVD soon following and Harnessing Ruin
coming out in 2005. Things have stayed quite solid since then, with a steady array of quality albums and tours having taken place, and it seems clear that things will stay that way for the foreseeable future. Indeed, literally the only major change was in 2016, when Taylor left and was replaced by Alex Bouks.
- Demo (1988)
- Immolation (1989) - demo
- Dawn of Possession (1991)
- Promo (1994) - demo
- Stepping on Angels... Before Dawn (1995) - comp containing every Rigor Mortis and Immolation demo
- Here in After (1996)
- Failures for Gods (1999)
- Close to a World Below (2000)
- Unholy Cult (2002)
- Bringing Down the World (2004) - live DVD
- Harnessing Ruin (2005)
- Hope and Horror (2007) - EP
- Shadows in the Light (2007)
- Majesty and Decay (2010)
- Providence (2011) - digital-only EP sponsored by Scion A/V
- Kingdom of Conspiracy (2013)
- Atonement (2017)
This band contains examples of the following tropes:
- All Drummers Are Animals: Craig Smilowski and Alex Hernandez were both known for their aggressive and powerful playing styles. Subverted with Steve Shalaty, who is a far more relaxed and subtle player (more than likely owing to his jazz background).
- Ascended Extra: Alex Bouks was a longtime friend of the band who was already known for his work in Goreaphobia and Incantation well before he replaced Bill Taylor.
- Badass Driver: Ross Dolan works as a truck driver for his day job and once managed to bail Nile out when their own bus driver ran off mid-tour, as his CDL class also allowed him to drive buses.
- Badass Beard: Bob Vigna sports one that, when combined with the Bald of Awesome, makes him look like either Ming the Merciless or Anton LaVey.
- Bald of Awesome: Bob Vigna
- Big Applesauce: Not from NYC, but they've played enough shows there to more or less be accepted as part of the city's metal scene. Also, there's Dolan's frequently-joked-about Noo Yawk accent.
- Determinator: Their seriousness and dedication was what convinced Alex Hernandez to join; the day that they were supposed to audition him was the day that a massive blizzard slammed that area, and Hernandez was totally prepared to call it off only to have them show up right at his door while the snow was piling up outside.
- Early Installment Weirdness: Dawn was a pretty straightforward death metal album that contained hints of what they would later become, but was decidedly closer in sound to most of the Florida acts at that time.
- Epic Rocking: "Close to a World Below" (8:19), "Unholy Cult" (8:02), "The Struggle of Hope and Horror" (7:21), "My Own Enemy" (6:52), "Failures for Gods" (6:25), "Son of Iniquity" (6:12), and "Bring Them Down" (6:06).
- I Am the Band: Bob Vigna is the sole songwriter and also writes the drum parts, though he does allow Steve to make edits and add his own flair.
- Indecipherable Lyrics: Averted, which is almost unheard of for the genre. Ross Dolan's diction is almost always impeccably clear, even when he's screaming his lungs out.
- Instrumentals: "The Struggle of Hope and Horror".
- Large Ham: Bob Vigna is a rare nonverbal example thanks to his onstage "attack the guitar" antics.
- Lead Bassist: Ross Dolan, types B and C.
- Long-Runner Lineup: The Dolan/Vigna/Taylor/Shalaty lineup was a Type 2, having stayed the same for thirteen years until Taylor left in 2016.
- Loudness War: Every release since they first hooked up with producer Paul Orofino in 1999 has been bad for this, even by death metal standards. Special shout out to Kingdom of Conspiracy, where Orofino apparently decided he just had to out-do Erik Rutan - practically every track is pegged at DR3, and the listeners who aren't praising this new "triumph" in wall of sound techniques are blasting the production for rendering the bass inaudible, turning the drums to plastic and overcooking the guitars to the point of drowning out the rest of the band.
- Metal Scream: Dolan's roar is a type 1-2 hybrid. Think of a crossover between Phil Anselmo's and Mikael Akerfeldt's harsh vocals.
- Mohs Scale of Rock and Metal Hardness: A solid 10 their entire career, though Dawn occasionally dipped into a soft 10.
- New Sound Album: Several.
- Here in After played down the Floridian influences of the debut and bumped up the weird dissonant harmonies and complex polyrhythms to create their Signature Style.
- Providence took influence from some of the more modern bands and increased the amount of fast blasting portions.
- "Not Making This Up" Disclaimer: The chain of events that resulted in Steve Shalaty gaining a spiral fracture was so ridiculous that the band felt a need to state in an interview that yes, that was how it actually happened. Steve is a very active person, so you'd think that he fucked himself up while exercising. Nope. Instead, he accidentally stepped on a wasp nest, panicked, jumped away, happened to land the worst way possible, and badly fractured his ankle, necessitating months of physical therapy and setting Atonement back by at least half a year.
- Pintsized Powerhouse: Bob Vigna and Ross Dolan.
- Rapunzel Hair: Ross Dolan is known for his waist-length hair.
- Religion Rant Song: Their general lyrical focus, though in a more mature manner than is typically seen in the genre. They also began to focus on world issues as well starting at around the release of Harnessing Ruin, realizing that the world, not just religion, was messed up.
- Signature Style: Odd-timed dissonant harmonic riffs, wailing solos that rely on a twisted interpretation of the blues scale, extraordinarily complex polyrhythmic drum patterns that frequently follow the guitars (an oddity anywhere, let alone in metal), and Dolan's mid-ranged roar.
- Singing Voice Dissonance: Ross Dolan's extremely distinctive mid-ranged roar stands in stark contrast to his rather high and nasally speaking voice.
- Special Guest: Incantation's John McEntee filled in on rhythm guitar for a tour in between Thomas Wilkinson's departure and Bill Taylor's hiring. According to this anecdote from Karl Sanders, McEntee spent most of the tour in wrist braces because the band's guitar style caused him immense amounts of pain.
- Technical Death Metal: Debatably so; their arrangements are certainly incredibly complex and demanding, but they carry less of an "aiming to be technical" vibe and more of a "this is how I write" vibe.
- Technician vs. Performer: This occurs between Shalaty (technician) and Vigna (performer); while Vigna is an extremely technical player, he's also self-taught and has no knowledge of musical theory, while Shalaty has taken numerous lessons from a wide variety of individuals over the years and is quite knowledgeable in theory. Vigna also writes the basic drum patterns and then gives Shalaty some room to make edits; given the difference in backgrounds, this has apparently been an occasional source of frustration for Shalaty when the trained side of him gets annoyed at Vigna for doing something the "wrong" way before he remembers that Vigna has a plan and knows what he's doing.
- The Thing That Would Not Leave: Smilowski's tendency to pull this with Vigna was part of what got him ejected, with his frequent failure to show up to rehearsal (in spite of the fact that he was apparently unemployed and had nothing to do other than sit around Vigna's house and play drums) being the other reason. In spite of this, however, Dolan stressed that they didn't really have anything against him as a person and that he just happened to be a really shitty bandmate.
- Title Track: Every album of theirs, with the sole arguable exception being their Hope and Horror EP, which has "The Struggle of Hope and Horror".