Album Review(?): Neptunian Maximalism’s Eons is an esoteric, expansive odyssey unlike any other
Over the past several years, I, Voidhanger has garnered the reputation as one of metal’s most experimental and eclectically-minded labels. With releases from the likes of Spectral Lore, Howls of Ebb and Fleshvessel among others in their catalogue, this Italian independent music label has been the home of some of the most cerebral and off-kilter projects the metal underground has delivered in recent memory. And for as acquainted as I may feel to I, Voidhanger’s unwavering dedication to spotlighting some of the most bizarre examples of contemporary extreme metal, there are still times where even I struggle to make heads or tails of a project. But with the recent debut of the psychedelic nightmare that is Neptunian Maximalism‘s Eons, the label has finally had me at a loss for words as to how to describe a project. That doesn’t mean I won’t give it an honest to god shot though.
Dizzying. Daunting. Dense. These are some of the descriptors that come to mind across Eons’ two-hour runtime. Described by project leader and multi-instrumentalist Guillaume Cazalet as an “album trilogy” of sorts, this immense three-disc experience from the Belgian “drone orchestra” has elicited reactions from me in a way that I can say no other 2020 release has.
Regarding that, my use of the term “experience” to describe the album is intentional, as Eons has done everything from enthrall, to immerse and to even intimidate me, so much so to the extent that putting together a review that doesn’t amount to hyperbolic talking points seemed, well, impossible.
Finding a way to describe or categorize Eons in any way succinctly would be both a fool’s endeavor and certainly not convey the full scope of the work itself. While deeply ingrained thematically in the realm of psychedelia and occultism, Eons is so stylistically dense and varied that its more analogous to a sonic Rorschach test, where one’s perspective as to how they would go about classifying the record as a whole could very well drastically differ to that of another person. To some, the monolithic drones characteristic of SUNN O))) or the arid, reverb-drenched twangs of mid-2000’s Earth may be the first things to pop out. Others may immediately latch onto the glimmers of zeuhl weirdness or the klezmer-laced, jazz-fusion freakouts with a striking sonic resemblance to Zorn’s Electric Masada.
And to me, that’s where the real genius of Eons lies. It’s such a unique and challenging beast of a record that how one goes about making heads or tails of their listening experience depends on their own unique tastes and sensibilities. Where, say, Johnny may hear Nadja or Earth, Ronny (please bear with me here) may hear Sun Ra or Acid Mother’s Temple. It’s within reason to proclaim that Eons embodies a level of conceptual and compositional density that is truly immense, if not outright overwhelming. If we can each potentially interpret or ground our experiences with this LP in such a diverse array of perspectives, I’m more than sure that there are at least some aspects of the record that I have missed that others may have picked up on. And for that reason, I can’t exactly call this writeup about Neptunian Maximalism‘s stunning two-hour opus a review.
Dizzying. Daunting. Dense. These are some of the descriptors that come to mind across Eons’ two-hour runtime
I could go on about the blend of jazz, metal, drone and ambient that the ensemble executes with the utmost expertise. I could go into detail as to how the first two discs are decidedly more aggressive than the drone-inclined finale, “To The Sun”. Hell, I could go on and say that, yeah, while 128 minutes is a bit much for a runtime, an argument can be made that goes a long way to drive home Neptunian Maximalism‘s indulgence in themes of cosmic and metaphysical natures. And yes, I could go about assigning a score to Eons. But at the end of the day, can something that we’ve identified to be such a variable experience benefit from an assigned value like that? Like, let’s be honest here: Would I be saying anything new or making any meaningful insights if I just rambled on with the tried and true metal blogging formula of spouting descriptive hyperbole in every single sentence?
I’ve come to terms that this offering from Neptunian Maximalism isn’t best described in the typical framework of an album review. Rather than scoring the thing or trying to find the best way to categorize this work in stereotypical metal music fashion, Eons is something that instead demands discourse. Considering near-endless glimmers of stylistic influence that pop up over its two-hour runtime, what you may latch onto most may be completely different than what I may have from my experience.
The best examples of art generally are conversation starters, with Eons being no exception. But even then, there’s no denying that what Neptunian Maximalism has crafted here is, by all means, incredible on an objective level, even if how each of us may evaluate the genius of Eons can drastically vary.
You can purchase Eons from I,Voidhanger’s Bandcamp page as a digital download or a limited 3-disk digipack CD.