Review: Tholen – Neuropol

“Neuropol is the name of a fictional city where bleak scenarios of a post-apocalyptic world are painted. A society divided in two distinct classes populates this contaminated place, a lethargic mass of working slaves on the surface trapped in vast industrial landscapes and the elite underground, who direct their doings while gaining power from rituals for the church of Miro. This is a time of imminent change and possible revolution, since the slaves gathered spiritual power for resistance. This album reveals the darkest corners of these subterranean temples, deadly industrial complexes and hostile slums, where those enslaved are in search of spiritual salvation from mass control and misery.”

Credit to Tholen for justifying this elaborate album description by creating a suitable soundtrack. Neuropol is as desolate as you might expect, with waves of bass and drawn-out drones placed in such a way to preserve a feel of gaping emptiness within the soundscape, occasionally broken up with the soft cycle of hydraulic machinery or the subdued whispers of Neuropol’s inhabitants.

The opening piece is strong, with thick echoes of angelic choir put in the unlikely accompaniment of a nuclear reactor buzz. Neuropol is most engrossing at busier moments like these, where sounds either melt into one another like fragile mental images or grate alongside each other in chilling (and cleverly placed) juxtaposition. Quieter passages can occasionally expose some of Tholen’s more blatant techniques to achieve “twisted paranoia”-type vibe, and personally I find the whispered mutterings and guitar work of “Tiefe – Floating Corpses Odor”, or the piano and strings of “Cryogenic Ceremonies”, to be quite unnecessary and ineffective. It’s a shame, as I get the impression that it’s moments like these that should most vividly convey the city in its state of break point, acting as the quiet intake of breath just before the imminent screams of defiance commence.

The album’s finest moment arrives with “Skeletons of Steel”, largely for the fuzzy throb of major-key pads buried within hideous noises that flock to suppress it. The piece continually transforms into various ambiguous shapes for mere seconds at a time, with moments of beauty brief enough to make you feel as though you could have imagined them, and chilling layers of noise and pads tucked almost out of earshot. There are plenty of instances like these, during which Neuropol successfully slithers into the dark and eerie territory laid out in its description. Unfortunately these are matched by the times where I feel unable to really connect with Tholen’s ideas.