(Comrade Aleks returns to NCS in 2019 with more interviews, beginning with this one, in which he talks with Levi, vocalist of the long-running Polish black/death band Neolith, who are now at work on a fifth album.)
Neolith is a pretty old band from Poland. They started as a death/doom outfit in 1991, and kept a down-tuned vibe for almost a decade. A series of demo-tapes and the full-length Igne Natura Renovabitur Integra (INRI) were influenced by the UK Doom Trinity’s stuff to some degree. However Neolith’s anti-Christian message demanded a more suitable form of exposure, and they’ve done it in a blasphemous death/black metal way from their second album Immortal (2004) through the fourth one, Izi.Im.Kurnu-Ki (2015).
The band are half-way to new work, I Am The Way, and we had a nice talk with Neolith’s initial vocalist Grzegorz Lukowski, a.k.a. Levi.
Hail Levi! Thanks for your time and energy, much appreciated! The band’s story is long, I’d like to start from the very beginning if you do not mind. So Neolith was born in 1991, you were 18 years old or something like that. What drove you to start the band with the guys? How did everything happen?
Hail Aleks. The pleasure is all mine. Yes, it’s been over 27 years since Neolith was created, but I can remember it perfectly. And although I was not in the first line-up, I witnessed the first rehearsals as a befriended editor of my Death Force zine and friend of the band. Soon after, I joined Neolith, and it all started very simply — we wanted to play the music we loved and create sounds that would satisfy us first of all, and if it appealed to others it would be fucking great. And that’s the way it is until today, even though it has been a long time and nearly 30 people have passed through the band.
I always was curious why you named the band this way? What did you want to express through this title?
The band’s name was taken from the title of one of Nocturnus’s songs and turned into a more Polish-language version with the addition of the letter “h” at the end, to make it more dark – haha. In addition, we found that this era in the history of the earth perfectly suited the image of the music we wanted to play. And although in the beginning it was the assumption that it would be death/doom metal, from the very beginning we introduced a lot of other genres into our music. However, we always wanted it to be widely understood extreme metal.
Did you know that there was a band named Neolithic in Poland? They started as a death doom band too, so it’s kind of a crazy coincidence….
Well, sometimes there were funny situations when, for example, we were getting questions for an interview that were really directed to Neolithic. And as far as I know, our pals from that band also had such situations. Or when people approached us before a concert, especially in the initial period of activity, and asked if we would play something out of their repertoire – haha. Anyway, until today, some of my friends make me all kinds of jokes, and despite the fact that our music has been much more brutal and technologically advanced than what Neolithic did, they joke that we are such personal fragments of life or for destroying the laments. 😉
Through the first seven years Neolith managed to record three demo albums; what were your influences back then? Did you really need all this time to finally form the sound we hear on Igne Natura Renovabitur Integra?
Ooooh, in the beginning, we really looked for a lot. And there were plenty of inspirations, from death/thrash/doom/black metal to more mild climates. And it was heard on the first demos, all of which sounded completely different. However, only before the works and recording of the debut album, our style became more consistent and typically metal. We put a lot of work into the preparation and recording of the debut album, but we realized that this was not the time for amateur things or searching. In addition, for some time we had a strong and coherent line-up, and a specific vision of our music, lyrics, and the overall concept of the album.
In retrospect, I am convinced that it was good that we waited for a few years for the debut album, because I’m still proud of this material and I claim that at the time it was the max that we could afford in every respect.
Neolith – Igne Natura Renovabitur Integra
The band already had a kind of anti-Christian image back then; what formed your position towards organized religion? Did you feel it necessary to transfer your point of view through lyrics?
I believe that metal should generally be anti-religious. And that just in particular in my country, where the dominant religion is Catholicism, it is natural that we are against it. Although I am really far from being a preacher and giving in a direct way my aversion or negation of any religion. That is why, especially on later materials, the lyrical layer presents a lot of ambiguity, obscure messages, whose interpretation we leave to recipients. Of course, like most critical and mature people I have my opinion on these topics, but I do not think I need to be so exposed. Instead of thousands of other bands, I obviously prefer to show them in a somewhat veiled way, which maybe is only appreciated by those who are more interested in the lyrics, but if they do, the words will hit them with a lot more power.
Anyway, I’m bored and pissed off with what is done to manipulate millions of people every day from the pulpit. I do not want to be like this and try to manipulate others. Instead, I prefer to be myself and present things that are important to me just in a way known to me.
You recorded the second album Immortal with new members, but the main thing is that the whole band finally succumbed to the black metal gospel. How did this change happen?
The changes in music began after the recording of the debut album INRI, when we came to the conclusion that we had done a lot in this climate and now it was time for something else. And since I had always been a maniac for great noise, it came out naturally somehow. Another reason was the changes in the line-up, first of all the appearance of the former drummer of Lux Occulta, Kriss, and the second guitarist Jimmi. It is also thanks to them that the Neolith sound became very brutal, and the lyrics along with the music began to take on more complicated and less obvious shapes. Just as I have already mentioned, we wanted to do something new, not to revolve around topics already played.
Neolith – Immortal
By the way, did you stop playing the old death doom songs after the change of direction?
No, we played older pieces all the time, especially those stronger ones, in which there was power and energy. Not too much, because the remaining ones were very far away from the current climate of our music and could significantly reduce the level of brutality and the straightforward element of our message. Apart from that, we did not want to end up like most bands, which gradually softened their sound and approach to music. There was still a high concentration of aggression, brutality, and rebellion in us. As far as I remember at that time, we played live such numbers as: “Curse Thee Lord” or “Unbeliever” …
It’s hard to tell if Neolith was really active after that: Immortal saw the light of day in 2004, and the next album Individual Infernal Idimmu appeared in 2010, and the latest release is 2015’s Izi.I.Kurnu-Ki. What slowed the band down? How actively did you play in those years between albums?
All the time we were active and we played concerts, with a small break when during the session for Individual Infernal Idimmu our drummer Tomek “Fil” Górawski died in a car accident. It was a shock for us, which stopped us for almost a year. However, besides, we played concerts and made new pieces all the time. But everyday life, as well as numerous changes in the line-up, somewhat hampered the creative process, and therefore the periods between our albums are so long. On the other hand, as a band we have enough comfort that we do not have to record an album every year, but only at the time when we are ready for it and satisfied with what we manage to do.
Izi.I.Kurnu-Kiwas was put out by Non Serviam Records. How do you work with that label? Did they help elevate Neolith to a new level?
At the beginning, the cooperation was very good, but later I missed something. Perhaps these are the differences in the mentality between cultures in which we live every day? It’s not for me to judge if we managed to make a step higher. We definitely got a lot more great reviews than the previous materials did. We also played a dozen great concerts, and here we certainly jumped a step higher, because we became an even more conscious and deadly machine, which began to live without taking prisoners. And here probably the biggest progress has been made.
Levi, as you’re not the same person as the guy who started Neolith twenty seven years ago, can you tell that this is reflected in your lyrics somehow?
Well, I’m certainly not the same over-excited kid who ran with the inverted cross and pentagram, eternally with a bottle of vodka or beer – hahaha. You know, first and foremost life, family, children and many other experiences have taught me that we cannot do everything by shouting, being controversial, and having an orthodox approach. And I will not say that I became a crock; on the contrary, I have even more extreme or orthodox views on many matters, but the thing is that today I can express it in a much more intelligent and more organized way. And so, with time, the lyrics of Neolith changed, even more so since the release of Immortal when I have been dealing with this with my friend Jacko S. It was also thanks to him that we strongly fell into the path of Necronomicon, ancient Sumer, and other less known civilizations, which are more appealing to me in terms of the message or the entirety of knowledge rather than heavily exploited topics of Satanism or anti-Christian symbolism.
Neolith – Of The Angel And His Orison
The band is working on a fifth album under the working title I Am The Way — what’s your progress? Do you see the light at the end of this black tunnel?
At the moment as I’m answering your questions, we have 8 new pieces recorded, which should be released in the spring of 2019. As of today, I can say with full awareness that it will be the most mature, aware, and at the same time the most brutal material of Neolith that we have managed to create so far. And the motor rhythm of the new pieces is actually killing. Already before recording the last tracks, and before mixing and mastering, I am proud of what we have managed to create and I believe that it will be a really big step forward in our history, or maybe the above-mentioned jump to a higher level. At least I hope so …
What kind of material should we expect from this album? Will you keep it the same way as Izi.I.Kurnu-Ki? Or do you have some new blasphemous tricks?
As I have already mentioned, on the one hand it will be a bit simpler material in terms of song construction, but also the most direct, brutal, and energetic stuff we’ve ever recorded. In some pieces the construction is based on 3-4 riffs, but these are THE riffs. And finally we’ve matured to what I think is the most difficult place in music, realizing that often less is more. Also, in terms of lyrics, it will be more interesting, although we will revolve around similar themes and symbolism, but it seems to me that it has been our trademark for some time now.