The Leningrad collective Alisa rocketed to fame in the mid-'80s following a short-lived stint of approval by the Soviet regime. At their outset, Alisa were a typical new wave band not unlike Kino, but with the leadership of vocalist Kostya Kinchev, the band quickly converted to a heavy metal sound from which it has never returned. Early in their career, Alisa were one of the founding groups of Russian rock & roll, helping to establish the Leningrad sound. The band quickly fell out of favor with the Soviet regime and many fans, but found new popularity in the post-Soviet era.
In November of 1983 Leningrad bass guitarist Svetoslav Zadery was already rehearsing with a collection of musicians under the name Alisa, but the group's history really began at the moment in 1984 when Kostya Kinchev signed on as the group's vocalist. Zadery named the group after himself, since friends called him Alisa after Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland. With guitarist Petr Samoylov, Alisa soon rose to prominence in Leningrad's emergent music scene, honored as laureate of the Leningrad Rock Club's third festival. Their first two self-released albums, Krivozerkalye (The Crooked Glass) and Pokolenie X (Generation X), helped them develop "Alisa's Army," a concert following known for its rowdy behavior.
In 1985 they landed a record deal with the state record monopoly, Melodiya. Their official debut, Energia (Energy) was a new wave album with an orchestral influence of saxophone, flute, violin, and cello. One of the first rock albums to be officially released (the state opposed rock music on principal), Energia made history, selling more than a million copies in the U.S.S.R. In 1986 some of their songs were released in the United States on the Red Wave: 4 Underground Bands from the USSR collection. In the interval between Energia and 1987's BlokAda (BlocAde) Zadery left the group because of artistic clashes with Kinchev and was replaced by Igor Tihomirov of Kino. The group underwent drastic stylistic changes, incorporating elements of heavy metal and turning out a more idealistically driven product, no longer suitable for government release.
The press frenzy that followed and the short-lived arrest of Kinchev on charges of disseminating Nazi propaganda only intensified the group's popularity. Alisa even recorded an album, 1989's Statya 206, Chast 2 (Article 206, Pt. 2), dedicated to the yearlong court process that followed. The addition of guitarist Igor Chumykin in 1988 led the group to an even heavier sound for 1991's Shabash (Sabbath) and 1993's Dlia Teh, Kto Svalilsa s Luni (For Those Who Have Fallen from the Moon). In 1994, after Chumykin's suicide, the group toured Europe and Israel with the group Aria and released an album, Black Mark, dedicated to his memory.
In the new millennium Alisa have resorted to a nu metal sound, finding a public among fans of industrial music but losing many members of the original Alisa's Army, given the commercial quality of the new albums. In the group's early days, lyrics dealt with mundane questions close to the hearts of Soviet youth. But since Kinchev's 1990 baptism, lyrical compositions have become increasingly clouded by Christian and nationalistic messages distasteful to many of Alisa's former followers. Nonetheless, the group releases new albums regularly as well as a host of concert recordings, and plays in Europe, Russia, and the former Soviet states.