Even though there’s only half of what’s commonly regarded as a full band comprising the lineup of Belgian doomers SardoniS, you can’t argue with the mission of their self-titled MeteorCity debut LP. At their core, guitarist Roel Paulussen (also of Solenoid) and drummer Jelle Stevens seem hell bent on stripping stoner doom to its basest core and dwelling in the harsh reality of iceberg riffs and tectonic crashes. The album is instrumental, and rather than missing the vocals, the effect the nine songs have is one of unimpeded groove. In a genre where the riff is the central component anyway, SardoniS take it to the extreme. Not only is the riff central, it’s all there is.
There are some samples peppered in, and of course, there are the drums, but SardoniS is an anti-guitar-rock guitar rock album. By that I mean none of the tropes of traditional instrumental guitar rock show up: the lyrical solos, the wankery, the pure Satriani-ness are all as absent as a vocalist and bassist. What you get instead is the High on Fire thrash of “Thor” and “The Wolf’s Lair” (which follows the aptly-titled acoustic breath-catching moment, “More Severe Things Await”) or the unadulterated Black Sabbath “Black Sabbath”-ery of closer “It Walks the Mountain.” Nothing comes between the listener and the riffs. Certainly instrumental stoner rock isn’t anything new, but SardoniS tackle it from such a rudimentary stance that adding any frills seems unnecessary or almost silly.
Of course, that wouldn’t be at all the case if Paulussen’s guitars didn’t sound as frightfully huge as they do. I don’t know if it’s the Sunn amps, the engineering of the record or what, but when “The Hollow” starts its drone at about the halfway point, I feel like I’ve just slammed my head into the side of a mountain — in a good way. Duos are very hip right now since thanks to modern recording technology you don’t really need a full lineup, but listening to SardoniS, I think adding a bass to the band’s sound might even be too much. Or maybe it would destroy all the more. Maybe too much is just right with a band like this. That’s a decision you’ll have to make for yourself after listening.
What I do know is SardoniS, the band, in terms of their sound, manage to sound undeniably complete and full. It’s easy to picture the wall of amplifiers behind them as they play, and though this review (and indeed this album) is almost completely guitar-centric, Stevens’ drumming is what allows that fullness to happen, proving at least as essential a component as the other half of the band. The two players work remarkably well together, and while plenty of acts out there claim to be “stripped down” and wind up with nothing more than shitty production to show for it, SardoniS have managed a bee-line to the roots of what stoner doom is all about in 2010. And to put it quite simply, they nailed it. There are some who will want the elements SardoniS aren’t willing to give, but genuine riff worshippers should have nothing to complain about.Bands with unnecessary capitalization, Belgium, MeteorCity, SardoniS