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As a Saint Petersburg resident, Comrade Aleks knows all about its miserable Doom potential - no surprise, then, that he'd take a keen interest in a new release from Death/Doom outfit Neuropolis from that very city...

Interview with Neuropolis.
"Saint Petersburg is one of most fitting cities of Russia to write and play Death/Doom as it should be. Grim atmosphere, shitty weather for the most part of the year, and maybe you've heard the old bitter proverb "Petersburg stands upon the bones"? It's damn well true: Czar Piotr I wanted to have the city right there on the Finnish gulf shore, amongst the damn swamps, so tons of people died during its building. And even though the first Russian Doom Death band Great Sorrow was born here, no bigger Doom names have appeared here since then. So when I accidentally learnt about Neuropolis and their EP 'Iskushenie' (Temptation) back in autumn 2019, I immediately got in touch with the band with a question about their plans for a full-length album. They replied that it was planned for autumn 2020, and we agreed to talk about it when it was done. I did recall Neuropolis from time to time, and on a dark November evening when I was walking along the Moyka river I started to think that they hadn't written to me about the new album and it was probably better to check the band's Facebook myself. No kidding - when I checked my Facebook profile the very same evening, I found their message about 'Golem', a new concept EP. As result, we have this interview with the Neuropolis collective - and some of its members separately, as well."

Neuropolis: Vergil Alighieri (Guitars), Mira Antonova (Keyboards, Vocals), Sergey Berezhanskiy (Bass), Vladmir Alekseev (Vocals), Aleksei Antonov (Drums), Dmitrii Kim (Guitars).

Hi Neuropolis! How are you? What's going on in the band camp?

Hello, my friend! We're quite any way, some better, some worse.

Northern autumn is ending in our native city, half a year of cold and rains ahead. Hope lead sky won't crush us, till the moment this trick has failed.

Right now, we rest. It's difficult to name this thing 'rest' exactly, because our lately released album demands a lot of attention, it's like a small baby. A newly released album causes as much fuss as a child. Now we have to do everything depending on us to make as many people as possible hear our new music. It (Golem) will grow and then it is only for time to decide which place it will take in the history of doom/death metal music.

We wouldn't say that we have started recording new album or that we'll start it very soon. There's none of this. We have drafts for Neuropolis as well as for side-projects in other genres. Some of us want to try themselves in different. It's not bad, we just need to exhale the dying air of our last release and relax a bit, live for ourselves, each musician. But not for long.

Mira Antonova: Don't worry. I'll look after these motherfuckers, so they don't run away. I've got a whip.

The band has been more or less active since 2015, but still Neuropolis is a new name, so how did you start it? What was your vision from the start?

In the beginning was the Word, and we already don't know who uttered that Word. It is a long way and every band has to pass it. From the first funny rehearsals to the first serious performances and subsequent serious studio records. We don't want to describe in detail the history of the band origin, it's worth a book. During this period, we've lived through bad as much as good. We can mark some key stages. At first Neuropolis gathered as a band by another name, first vocalist gathered drummer and guitarist into a band that never had any relation to the present one save for, maybe, the line-up. During this time the line-up changed several times, but drummer, guitarist and vocalist remained. So, slowly, the prototype of Neuropolis began to form. Later, because of certain discrepancy of our vision, we had to search for a new vocalist. New vocalist brought new sound and extraordinary lyrics. New sound demanded more conceptual devotion, new lyrics demanded full involvement in the creation process. Thus we found Vergil Alighieri, he became the catalyst of our hopes. Or maybe he was searching for us and found at last.

Vladimir Alekseev: I've joined the band by chance. The band was left without vocalist, but my friend (Sergey Berezhanskiy, Sotona, Neuropolis bassist) offered me to visit a rehearsal as a guest and try to scream in the microphone. I've screamed, expressed my gratitude for a nice evening and was going to go away into night forever, but it happened so that I've stayed…

Aleksei Antonov: It happened somehow that there were no random people left in the band. We became not just co-musicians to each other - we became friends who played music, we spent time together and became open to each other. I think this is one of the most important things which made NEUROPOLIS the way it is now.

Neuropolis - 'Temptation' (EP version, 2019):

How would you sum up your musical influences? Did you aim to add something new to the Doom/Death genre?

Very difficult question. We would like to answer at once, that we wanted to resurrect the genre and bring some new vision into it. Not without that. Make peace all over the world and take care of animals, you know those speeches from beauty contests. But these are stupid answers, to be honest. There's nothing identical in the world, plenty of combinations exist, all kinds of variants. And what's been created newly - will always remain new. Equally, there's nothing old or new in the world, there is forgotten or undiscovered. But all these things do not exclude each other. Our content remains the quintessence of clash of ideas of some people. It is doom/death not because we wanted it to be or thought that intentionally. It just became so that the sum of our ideas couldn't sound otherwise than such doom/death metal.

We'll make a note that each band member had been influenced by some other band, let's try to name the main (this may seem weird):
1 Vladimir Alekseev - Saint Vitus
2 Dmitrii Kim - Saturnus
3 Vergil Alighieri - October Tide
4 Aleksei Antonov - Meshuggah
5 Mira Antonova - Septicflesh
6 Sergey Berezhanskiy - Katatonia

Aleksei Antonov: When we had realized that our music would sound like doom, we had no bands in our mind which we would want to copy. Of course, we liked that genre and each of us had favorite bands in it, but for NEUROPOLIS, first of all, we wanted to sound independently, out of the borders of well-trodden paths and obvious external influences. In some time, such an approach gave the band its own sound which was OK by all of us.

How would you sum up the individual sides of Neuropolis?

Our strengths are primarily in the truthfulness of stories. We sing about what we have experienced (and if we have experienced it, then everyone has). Add some powerful lyrics to it, along with not quite familiar to the genre, yet very conceptual arrangements. This gives the maximum effect. For some people, comprehension of our stuff is such an insurmountable barrier that it causes a backlash - fear, rejection. It's normal, it's good. It is also nice that many people, even old people who were not previously familiar with the genre, suddenly begin to perceive it as an art form, get to know that it is not just electric guitars and heart-rending screams. We will never go out of our way to please the crowd, we will continue to do exactly what we do, this is our territory, as Styx is Charon's. Some people ask: why are there so few clean vocals in the album, why didn't they add a synthesizer, why didn't they add female vocals to all the songs? No. It is the dead man singing to you, and the dead men play. You'll hear the synthesizers in Paradise, if you get there, of course. And these are dead man's songs.

There is a compilation 'Letopis' 2018' in your discography, what does this release include besides the first two singles?

This compilation happened spontaneously. When we started working with Vladimir Alekseev we had no understanding what could come out of all this. But we had to do something, at least just to do something. We gave two concerts in Saint-Petersburg clubs and decided to watch from the side what we had to that moment. This compilation is an archive history, it's such thing that could be lost in time, but finally could be found on some collectioner's hard drive and become valuable as it is. In Letopis' we've included two singles - "Surf" (Priboj), recorded by the first vocalist of the band and experimental track "Crimson Sunset" , recorded and mixed not the way we wanted, in terms of quality. NEUROPOLIS had music and Vladimir had some poetry he decided to realize to this music. Thus, "Crimson Sunset" appeared. It also includes track "Intro, Instrumental". It was written by Vergil Alighieri. He wanted to complete it, but we took it off his hands and used as intro for band appearances in the concerts. It seems to us that it looked not bad. #Doom_na_Neve (Live at Manhattan 02.11.18) is the most interesting and valuable track here, in our opinion. This is the first performance of the song, which was later included into our first EP. The compilation also has the live version. NEUROPOLIS recorded it a week or two before the performance in club Manhattan, everything was raw by that moment.

Arrangement wasn't complete, we had doubts considering different fragments of lyrics, which way to sing which part, but we somehow risked to perform it and show it to the audience. But now we have a unique opportunity to compare this raw recording with the studio song.

How often did you play live before the Covid quarantine was started? Did you play outside Saint Petersburg?

Mainly, because of not being well-known and lack of experience by that moment we played in smaller clubs. All band members, except Vladimir, had had live show experience. Drummer Aleksei Antonov performed live with plenty of bands playing different styles. Bassist Sergey Berezhanskiy had toured half the world as a percussionist in accordion orchestra. Vergil Alighieri tried himself as a drummer and guitarist before he moved to live in Saint-Petersburg. He was born and had lived on Sakhalin island before, near Japan. Before the band changed vocalist, we performed in different clubs such as "Ulitka" and "Money Honey". In the current line-up, we gave three live shows. Outside Saint-Petersburg we didn't perform and, we must say, that pandemic has messed up our plans greatly, because we had plenty of proposals. But during winter 2021, if the plans aren't ruined by the pandemic, you'll see something great outside Saint-Petersburg.

EP 'Iskushenie' (Temptation) demonstrates a few features of Neuropolis: you use lyrics written in Russian, the album's cover and texts are connected with the grim spirit of Saint Petersburg and after all you tend to melodic Doom/Death metal. What was your original intention behind this release? Did you aim for an authentic image?

We tried to stick to the literature tradition of the city. In Temptation you can vividly hear Dostoevskiy's and Mandelstam's Petersburg, the track is filled with poetic visions of Joseph Brodsky as well… There is one interesting fact considering the cover of Temptation. When the artist made one of the drafts for agreement, she asked: "But there's no such place in St.-Petersburg, is there?!"

We answered: "Imagine that in real St.-Petersburg there is no such place, but in secret, personal Infra-Petersburg this place exists. Yes, In Temptation we aimed to the vision of the city, track 'Doom of Neva' completely expresses the mood of the common city dweller walking home along channels and thinking about his past (but really thinking whether to jump into the river or not). Any person living here sooner or later challenges this city, he stands facing the wind and cries: "Hey! You won't blow me away!" There is an old joke that sooner or later any person here hears strange sound, leaves his home, follows the calling of the channels and gets lost forever underwater.

In the Golem release we didn't use the city image plainly. It is much more deep and dark album, it appeals to deeper things. Particular location is just dust to this content. We could just say that living in St.-Petersburg influenced all these things in a certain way.

Aleksei Antonov: Yes, really, Golem is almost not connected with St.-Petersburg. Its essence is the one of experiences which could overtake a person in any society in any place of the world. Golem is more about common human things. It's interesting that at the same time it stays more complex for perception than Temptation was.

Saint Petersburg grants a perfect setting for Doom/Death music, but there aren't any long running Doom bands here. I would name only Great Sorrow as genre pioneers, and probably Gothic-oriented Inner Missing. Why do you think this genre isn't popular here?

There are more great bands from St.Petersburg you didn't mention - Dominia and Abyssphere. Yes, maybe they play at the junction of genres sometimes, but they're great masters. It is not important why the genre is not popular here, we're going to stick to our line till the end. Probably, there's no band which could express this pain to its fullest. We'll bravely take on this mission. If we perish, so be it, stay doom! There is more of pain to come, as well as of St.-Petersburg theme, for true fans. The genre is not popular here maybe because of lack of channels to spread information on this genre. Funny thing, but even having been approved lately in the metal-community and having gotten fans gratitude, we still face stupid non-acceptance of different information publications. Russian metal music problem is mass media, social network publics, blogs on Youtube e.t.c. Excuse us the strong expression but we shit our own pants ourselves. With such poor mutual support nothing except imposed commercial content will be released here, especially in such cool genres.

Aleksei Antonov: Sadly, it's all true. Probably, maybe the problem is not ourselves and our stuff because in 80% of cases we face misunderstanding even before we provide the material. It scares to think how many times it happened to other bands and wasn't mentioned widely. Well-known bands have a hook, from which they could start the dialogue - it's their name, their brand. And what does an underground band have? Only its stuff…

Which places in Saint Petersburg do you find most inspiring?

The first thing that popped into mind is the necropolis of the Alexander Nevsky Lavra. It is an old cemetery. Parisian Pere Lachaise in miniature, but with a Petersburg flavor. A lot of famous people are buried here: Fyodor Dostoevsky, Pyotr Tchaikovsky, Mikhail Glinka, Ivan Kramskoy, Arkhip Kuindzhi, Angela Bosio and many other equally famous people who had a huge impact on world culture. The second place, which is loved by almost all residents of the city, is the place near the Griboyedov Canal, on Nevsky Prospect, where the cathedrals are located - the Kazan Cathedral and the Savior on Spilled Blood. This place has a magical influence, almost any walk in the center of St. Petersburg starts from there (or from Gostiny Dvor). Kazan Cathedral is such an epic, monumental and delightful structure that the very fact of its occurence in the middle of the Scandinavian swamps is awe-inspiring. It seems to us that if you build a Kazan Cathedral in the Sahara Desert, then in a few decades a city will arise around it, gardens will bloom and rivers will flow.

We could say nothing about such places as Palace Square or the Spit of Vasilyevsky Island, they simply don't need advertising. This is crystal clear doom metal of recreational architecture. But I would also like to mention not very popular places, those that cannot be found in tourist guides. There are many such places of power - numerous city cemeteries, northern ghettos of new districts, gloomy parks such as Sosnovka - a real dense coniferous forest with mushrooms and corpses crawling out from under the snow every spring. There are many abandoned factories left over from the USSR, for example, the Red Triangle - the space of ancient dilapidated factories on the banks of the Obvodny Canal; 90% of the rehearsal studios for St. Petersburg groups are located here. There are thousands of such places both within the city and outside its borders.

A week ago you announced the release of new EP 'Golem'. Is the album's idea based on Gustav Mainrick's book or is it an independent story?

Of course, it is. Vladimir still can't throw this story out of his head. Sometimes it seems to us that he lives some similar story inside himself, but there's nothing we can do about it. We're watching.

There are some allusions in the album, they are quite implicit. But I really was inspired by this work to some extent. The meaning of the album doesn't intersect with Meyrink's Golem but the influence exists, you've guessed that right. Maybe there are special definitions from medical terminology for that, but the lyrical hero of NEUROPOLIS's songs spoils my life the same way as the Golem from Meyrink's novel, trying to help Athanasius.

Neuropolis - 'Golem' (Full EP, 2020):

What does the figure of Golem personify in your songs?

In our songs, the figure of Golem incarnates the invisible spirit of evil, destructing justice, which has come to put things in His order by His own will. He will help you, He will bring you to the highest summits, but He will bring much harm and pain to those who let the situation get to the point so bad that He had to come.

Golem from the song is the alter-ego of the lyrical hero, doppelganger of a sort. Everyone knows that bad guys are lucky and that walking over the heads towards the goal is the most efficient method, world likes cynical fools. At some moment, the hero of the song has nothing left to prove the world the purity of his thoughts, nothing left to defend his right to live. Then Golem arrives and destroys everything around himself, executing everyone around Him and makes the ones punished love Him, paradoxically. That is life.

Did you release Golem DIY or through the label? How do you plan to support this release?

It is pure DIY at the moment. Some people don't believe that it is possible to create stuff of this level under conditions we made it under. We wouldn't like to tell the sum it cost us to release, some suicides may happen (kidding) .

We would like to release the material on label, but there's a problem, In Russia there are almost no labels, which would take part in that kind of music. There is one still, probably we would suggest cooperation. Anyway, Golem will be released as limited edition on CD, maybe on vinyl.

It all has just happened and started, we have a certain strategy of the distribution. We think that it will fully justify itself. Of course, we will be glad to any support from outside and we're always open to suggestions. Here's our e-mail. (neuropolis.doom@gmail.com, if the autolink doesn't work).

Did you try to get in touch with foreign media and labels?

We do have such plans. Once in the past, we received a nice review from Doomed&Stoned. Sooner or later, the album will find its way to the genre fans. Once there is the attention from the audience - the media reviews will appear. In our turn, we'll just try to ensure that our stuff is delivered to as many listeners as possible. We can't say anything definite about the labels yet, it's best when the band grows step by step. We need to understand whether this work with a real label does us good or it transforms the project into something different from it used to be - into commerce. We will not sign to any label for money only: this is doom metal, and it's not about money, as you know. Regarding distribution, publication and publication, we are always open to suggestions.

How do you see Neuropolis' prospects concerning a full-length album? Do you see it as a priority now that you have another EP?

Vladimir considers the Golem a full-length album. We could make a longer album, but there was too high an attention towards the concept. It was impossible to add something excess, even though we had material. It's not clear why the world has so much fuss around these categories - EP, LP, etc.

Technically speaking, in today's world we could record an album of any length, and this classification is nothing but another anachronism. There is an album. It is self-sufficient. The next release is expected to be longer in play-time. This is how it is conceived. Some amount of material is already accumulated for it. The lyrics will be more uncompromising, the music will be more devastating.

Thanks for the interview, that's all for today. How would you like to complete our conversation?

We would like to thank you as well.

Everyone has his own path. It may turn out in the end (and it will) that we will rot away like the hero of one of Leo Tolstoy's stories, and even bones of ours will be no use for anyone. Some people spend years on copying someone else and replace their own lives with lives of others and eventually erasing themselves from our world's reality, and then they die choking on their own hollowness. You need to be yourself and shout to world about yourself as loud as possible. Didn't our fathers and mothers create us as a unique force that struggles against this world? Remember that the ugly is the beautiful that couldn't fit in your soul. Search for a kindred soul of a greater volume.

The real self-expression is never vainly wasted, everything is taken into account in the world, like on a drug dealer's scales.

Neuropolis - '#Doom_Na_Neve' (Live, 2018):

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Interviewed on 2021-02-08 by Comrade Aleks Evdokimov.
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