I, for one, have been waiting for the Immolith for quite some time and now, ‘Storm Dragon’ is upon us! In my opinion, it has been well worth the wait. Take us along the road that has led up to the release of this killer album…
The production value on this release is solid. Your sound has remained vicious even with a clear production. I understand Chris Grigg of Woe produced this album, correct? Tell us a little about your recording sessions.
At the time Chris Grigg was set up in his studio in Philadelphia. (He’s since moved up to NY) so it was a perfect fit for our band since most of us are around Central Jersey. I knew of Chris and Woe from his first album, A Spell of Death for Mankind. So I spoke to Chris a few times, and I could tell he perfectly understood the old school black metal vibe that I was about. So we scheduled a few weekends with him starting in June. It was the typical modern recording session with me laying down all the scratch guitars to a click, followed by the drums to those guitars and building the songs from there. I wrote all the songs and always record demo versions of them. So when I’m writing I’m always using a click and ez-drum software. But this was first time I’ve ever recorded an album with a band this way. In the past, on the “Hymns to the Countess” ep or my other bands like Coffin, I’ve always just played live with a drummer without a click. So this is probably the first album I’ve done that’s actually in time, and not the old school live recording sessions.
I would like to also discuss the writing of the material on ‘Storm Dragon’. With the time in between this album and ‘Hymns to the Countess’, was there several re-writes and changes in song arrangements, lyrics, etc.?
Being a guitarist at heart, that instrument is always the first to catch my ear, but I must say, the vocals are completely killer and the rhythm section is spot on. How did you craft such a fucking strong album?!?! No instruments really stick out, everything comes together well as a whole…
Thanks, that means a lot to me! I think again a lot of that credit goes to Chris Grigg who recorded, mixed, and mastered the album. He asked me what type of production I was looking for, and I said “In the Nightside Eclipse.” I think that Emperor album is the perfect balance of clean production while not being sterile. It also still retains the cold grim old school black metal atmosphere that made Emperor, well, Emperor. I think you describe it perfectly when you said about our album that “nothing sticks out.” To me nothing sticks out on “In the Nightside Eclipse” either. Yet everything, every instrument, every riff, can be heard on In the Nightside. All of its sounds balanced together in swirling controlled chaos. And hopefully that’s what people will hear on our album as well.
We talked once before about Dungeons and Dragons, if I recall. You have a song titled ‘The Ghost Tower of Inverness’. Now, this full length bears the name ‘Storm Dragon’. How heavily does RPG-themes influence your material, specifically this release?
Oddly enough, Storm Dragon isn’t an RPG themed song… That one is more your occult based song about invoking an extra-dimensional entity to destroy the world as we know it. But yes, a lot of my lyrical inspiration comes from RPG’s and fantasy novels and such. The Ghost Tower of Inverness is based directly on an old AD&D module of the same title, A Pact of Blood is based on the character Strahd Von Zarovich, a Vampire Lord from the Ravenloft modules and novels from AD&D. And finally “Rites of the Blood Moon” is based on Malar, a god of evil lycanthropes, also from Dungeons and Dragons. So between the band name, and many of my songs you can say it features heavily into what we are about.
I googled the word ‘immolith’ to find it’s meaning…in your words, what does it mean to you and how does it apply to your musical effort?
I wish I had some deeper philosophical reason to elaborate on this for you, but unfortunately, I just thought it was a kick ass demon and the perfect name for a black metal band that hadn’t been used yet!
A few tracks on this album have been previously released in different versions? Are these the definitive versions as you first envisioned them? How has the material changed since the original recordings, in personal meaning and the actual recordings?
The new versions to me seem more focused with a precise aggression that I never felt was captured on the EP that I recorded myself. I’m sure a lot of that has to do with Chris Grigg’s production and recording. I was never really happy with the original EP’s recording. I did that in my studio, where volume is a concern, using an electronic drum kit and my solid state guitar head direct into my DAW. So Chris Grigg’s studio provided me a chance to go back and do those old songs justice with an acoustic drum kit and our tube guitar heads cranked and sounding good.
I remember seeing a cover for ‘Storm Dragon’ that differs from the current image. What was the concept behind the album’s visual concept?
It is a new cover. This was agreed upon with the label. As you know the ideas and songs for most of the album have been in motion since 2009. So back in early 2010, I contacted Gragoth the artist at Luciferium War Graphics and asked him to create an album cover for me. That’s likely the cover you’re referring to as the art you had previously seen. It was a great cover, but after working on the material for a year, then getting the new line up in place, and then shopping the album to labels for another six months, a change was needed. Mike Riddick is the main guy at Metalhit, and he’s a graphic artist. So when we agreed to release the album through Metalhit it seemed natural to allow him to create a cover that he felt fit the band, the album, and our material for his label.
‘Storm Dragon’ is being released through Metal Hit.com, a site that offers digital and physical releases. How did that relationship come about? Was it through Mark Riddick, whose art adorns your shirt?
Mark is part of it for sure, our relationship going back to when he first nominated our band’s logo as one of the best in his article back in 2010 Terrorizer Secret History of Black Metal issue. But the label Metalhit is his twin brother’s (Mike Riddick) endeavor. I know Mike from contributing here and there to Metal Maniacs, which he also owns. Immolith had another contract offer from another label that we were negotiating with for a few months. But when that label failed to budge on some of their contract’s provisions for us, we just walked away. I was resigned at that point to just put it out myself again, or even just put it online for free. But Mike knew our struggle to get the thing out there, and stepped up with his offer to press it to a limited edition digipack CD and of course digitally for us. So we’re thrilled and appreciative to have a label like Metalhit behind us now.
Since MetalHit.com is known for being a leader in digital releases, I have to get your two cents on the digital revolution…is the underground just now a wide but shallow sea of worthless wanna-be’s or is accessibility the best thing to have ever happened to small labels and artists?
I have to say I’m afraid we are awash in a sea of way too many people with access to recording equipment and instruments. Maybe it’s true that the cream will rise to the top, but who knows? To me it just makes it that much more of a rat race for independent labels and underground bands. I think today it is even more difficult for any band to have people pay attention and listen because there is so much accessibility. I just know when I was a kid, it was much more of an investment in time, money, and talent before a band could get into a studio and actually record even a demo. That certainly isn’t the case anymore. And while I hear the argument about “now so many more people can hear your music!” I think that is the act of young bands clinging to a false hope. With such a glut of music and bands constantly online, let’s be honest, how many of any band’s “facebook friends” are really listening to their music for more then a few seconds before they click off to someone else’s page? If that’s the goal, then so be it. But not for me. I’d really rather have 100 people actually get our album and enjoy it, then 100,000 people hear a few seconds of it online.
Are you doing just the CD version or are you working with any other international labels for tape or vinyl versions?
Right now as I understand from Mike Riddick at Metalhit, the album will be limited to 250 digipack CDs. They will be available directly from the label, as well as select distros and stores in US, Canada, and the UK. Digitally, Mike will make it available through metalhit.com of course, as well well as all the usual digital outlets, itunes, amazon, etc. etc. Other then that we are free to do whatever else we like with the music. So if another label in Europe, or anywhere for that matter, came through with an offer to press the album on vinyl, cassette, or even as an alternate CD release, that’s certainly something we would entertain. One of my goals with this band is to have a vinyl release. So hopefully with this album, or the next, I can make that happen.
We do. The band was founded in 2008 by me and Chris Warhead on drums. I added a bassist Ahazu shortly after Chris and I started jamming to help with rehearsal costs. At the outset, I thought Immolith would remain a studio project, but with the buzz that was created with the release of a very early rehearsal demo cassette and our first “Hymns to the Countess” EP, I realized a live line up would be in order. So we added a second guitarist Prolixus by 2009 I guess, and began playing live shows. We did pretty well on the local level over the last two years, scoring opening gigs with bands like Trident, Enthroned, Destroyer 666, 1349, Triptykon, as well as direct support slots with US bands like HOD, Black Anvil, and Abigail Williams . By late in 2010, Chris was beginning to jam with his original band Abazagorath again, and coupled with some internal issues within the band I thought it was time to overhaul the line up. We added our current drummer, Void, and also a new bassist, Tizon, in 2011. It was this line up that recorded the album.
Immolith has some intense live footage that harnesses some of your live energy. Tell us in your own words what an Immolith show is like…from what I recall, blood sacrifices are commonplace…
You know I’m a guy who grew up with thrash metal and death metal in the late 80’s and was totally with the whole idea of bands who had the “anti-image” image. At that time it was a whole rebellion against the glam metal and so on that was popular at the time, so all the thrash bands played in their street clothes. And I was a part of that and right on board with that at the time. But for me, I’ve been there and done that. Honestly I’m tired of going to shows that are just guys in their street clothes playing metal. I’ve seen that a million times. This is black metal, and one of the things that attracted me to black metal was it’s sense of ritual and theater that some of the other metal genres lack. So when we play out, it’s important to me to make it a little more interesting to the audience. So we try and bring lighting, weapons, blood, spikes, chains, fog, and yes occasionally a sacrificial victim to the live altar with us.
What can we expect in the future from Immolith? Shows, releases, shirts, sacrifices?
Currently the only show we have scheduled is for March 2, at St. Vitus Bar in Brooklyn, NY.
That is our official “album release” show being scheduled after the Feb. 14, 2012 official CD release date. I don’t know if there will be a sacrifice at that show. Some people still seem interested in it, so time will tell. Hopefully we will follow it up with more shows this Spring and Summer. I’d love to get the band on some shows outside of our Tri-State region this Summer, but that is likely just wishful thinking on my part. I’m planning on doing a second run of shirts with the Mark Riddick demon to be printed again in time for the album release. But I’ll probably change it up this time, maybe long sleeves this time. And I will likely include something different then our Immolith shield which had been on the back of the last shirt. I’ve been in touch with Chris Moyen, an artist I have great interest in working with at some point. I was considering commissioning him for a new shirt, but I think I’d like to hold out on a Moyen piece for a vinyl cover should we ever actually get to that point.