Review: Neptunian Maximalism ‘Solar Drone Ceremony’

Releasing a debut triple (!) album was a ballsy statement of intent from a new band but Belgian collective Neptunian Maximalism’s Eons absolutely could not have been contained in any other format. That monolithic debut quickly earned a cult following with a sprawling set of boundaryless heaviness that melted hints of skroning Zornian jazz violence, Rock In Opposition, progressive metal, angular noise-rock, and whatever else they felt like, into the cauldron. If you were lazy you could have called them ‘brutal prog’ but even that wouldn’t have been the full story.

Neptunian Maximalism ‘Solar Drone Ceremony’

Neptunian Maximalism expected a lot from the listener on that first set, both in terms of the music and the actual format. So, the idea of them releasing a fifty-five minute one song drone based live recording might be some sort of walk in the park, after that is, frankly, something that should be dispelled immediately. This isn’t just some one chord wonder. This is a piece of music that sees the band playing the long game that’s expertly paced. The review copy sadly didn’t come with the DVD that apparently accompanies the physical release, so disclaimer here, this review is purely the music (though as an aside while I can’t account for the DVD, I can confirm the album cover is fucking incredible).

Opening with ambient swells like clouds passing over a breaking sunrise that devolves into a more alien sounding set of bleeps and bloops, topped with ominous sax, the first ten minutes develop an atmosphere that sets up the rest of the piece. By the time the full band are on board, we’re into a bleak musical terrain that’s definitely indicating that the ‘Solar’ insinuations of the title refer more to a burnt, sun bleached desert of bones on an abandoned world, rather than some balmy Mediterranean beach. The drums have an almost tribal feel and combined with the waves of sound and swirling doom-laden chords, it’s almost akin to Neurosis at their darkest and most psychedelic, indulging in a jam with Sun Ra’s Arkestra.

Neptunian Maximalism don’t get louder or more aggressive – they get wider, expanding to fill all frequency ranges at once in a dense wall of sound…

At some point in this hypnotic marching dirge a wailing tenor voice begins emitting a wordless lament that feels vaguely eastern, before beginning an alien sounding incantation. Neptunian Maximalism don’t get louder or more aggressive – they get wider, expanding to fill all frequency ranges at once in a dense wall of sound. This far in, it becomes clear there’s not going to be any respite. The ‘sun’ they’re embodying in these sounds is clearly on a collision course with earth and the longer the piece goes on, the more it feels like there’s a sense of imminent obliteration.

About thirty-nine minutes in, after holding one base note for what feels like an eternity, there’s a sudden two chord progression that, after so long in the same key, feels like a climax. You think it’s all over and then with a jolt, the pace picks up and for the last ten minutes or so, the band blow it all apart with a surprisingly rocking atonal section that sounds like it’s been beamed in from a New York loft in 1982. And then the impact arrives. The sun explodes into dust. The crowd roars. NM no doubt board the mothership back to whatever galaxy they came from, and all is left in ruins.

It does exactly what it says on the tin, sure, but the melding of layers and gradual shifts as the piece morphs is impressive. I’m unsure if this recording was improvised or not, but if it was, it might be the most spectacular example of a hive mind to come out of the darker end of the music underground in quite some time. Every working part feeds the other perfectly, and in unison, the way this thing moves – slowly admittedly – to that closing section is masterful.  It’s a massive death star of sound. One for the headphones certainly, particularly if you want to fully get lost in space.

Label: I, Voidhanger Records
Band Links: Facebook | Bandcamp | Instagram

Scribed by: Jamie Grimes