40 Watt Sun - Wider than the SkyThe world became a much darker place in 2009 when UK doom upstarts Warning disbanded after only two albums. When word got out that guitarist and vocalist Patrick Walker would form a new project called 40 Watt Sun with fellow Warning bandmate Christian Leitch, doomsters the world over panted with anticipation. What many people hoped would be a continuation of the morose path constructed by Warning‘s farewell album, 2006’s criminally underrated Watching from a Distance, instead were met with softer, but no less intense, waters with 40 Watt Sun‘s 2011 debut, The Inside Room. Five years and several label woes later, the band returns with their self-released second album, Wider than the Sky.

If Watching was the act of capturing a funeral march, and The Inside Room was the first few hours of sadness that lingers after the wake wraps up, then Wider is the first year of longing and sadness that follows. In other words, The Inside Room bore the label of “doom metal” in only the loosest of terms, and Wider discards it completely. The band retains the minimalist structure and Walker’s pained voice, but they implement the cleanest of tones. Opener “Stages” walks with the pained stride of a man whose heart is reeling from what his brain already knows. The simplest of chord strums and rhythms march with little variation, but Walker’s vocal delivery keeps the momentum moving ever-so-slowly forward. When the song changes things up at 6:05, Walker bellows out “But you don’t see me trying, do you?” adding emotional heft and giving the song a focal point before wallowing back into its initial crawl. The song shifts gears again at 9:51 with a slight uptick in pace, and Walker strikes a chord lyrically, knowing that love will be lost soon, if it hasn’t already (“And through this apathy wider than the sky/I’m feeling everything like nothing in my life.”). Powerful.

Wider than the Sky is an emotionally exhausting listen. Part of the reason for this is the repetition of the chord progressions and melodies throughout the album, which stretch out for minutes at a time. “Another Room” crawls for over 8 minutes before the sky opens up with some variance, with only Walker’s wailing and lyrics keeping things interesting. The Anathema-like “Pictures,” in stark contrast, sounds a bit lively and optimistic compared to the rest of the album, despite the depressive lyrics (“Moving stills of sound and light are spilling through/The projector of my mind/playing like the first time, I am no less unprepared/And a darkness undresses me of everything.”). Closer “Marazion” addresses the feeling of hiraeth (Welsh for “a place or home you can never return to”), and while the shortest of the six songs at a hair under four minutes, it hits home with its effective chord structures and Walker’s lamenting of a home long gone.

40 Watt Sun 2016Despite the relatively low DR score at the bottom, Wider sounds miles better than the rating implies. Little guitar harmonies abound beneath the simple strumming, William Spong’s bass can be heard and felt (as it should since he produced the album), and Leitch’s drums provide a non-intrusive beat without overpowering everything. My qualm with the album, and it stretches to 40 Watt Sun as a whole, is the excessive length of both the parts of songs as well as the songs themselves. “Stages” would make the perfect acoustic doom metal song at 11 minutes, and the song clocks in past the sixteen-minute point. This wouldn’t be a problem if there were some variety in the repetition themselves, but besides Walker’s painfully beautiful voice and lyrics, the song feels longer than needed. “Another Room,” at almost twelve minutes, wore out its welcome for me about halfway in.

Wider Than the Sky personifies the term “mood music” to a crucifix-like T. After a week of listening to this album, I recognize the passion that went into its creation, and respect the work that Walker and company have given before in terms of emotionally heavy music. Bits of the album are great, but this is a difficult release to navigate. As a doom metal fan who loves all things dark and heavy, it pains me to say that Wider didn’t click with me like it should. Your mileage may vary, however.

Rating: 3.0/5.0
DR: 7 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Radiance Records
Websites: 40wattsun.bandcamp.com | facebook.com/40wattsun
Releases Worldwide: October 14th, 2016

  • AlphaBetaFoxface

    Listening to the embedded track and your review is perfect to a tee. I think I’ll still pick this up. Sounds like something good to throw into a shuffled road trip playlist.

    • Grymm

      I wanted it to grab me more. Still a good album, it just didn’t engage me.

      • The Unicorn

        How many times did you listen to it through in good set and setting? This album is a slow burner- give it another chance. Trust in The Unicorn.

        • Grymm

          Twice a day for five days, under different listening methods (speakers, headphones), and in different moods. Hell, I even listened to it with the lights off and a bottle of beer in hand. It didn’t grab me, unfortunately, and I’m a sucker for this stuff, normally.

          • The Unicorn

            Well done, chum. Maybe the mood just didn’t strike you. Its a downer for sure. But oh so good.

    • the hell kind of road trips you taking mate

    • GardensTale

      Road trips usually means heavy and stoner metal for me. Clutch is my favorite car music. This seems more like working music to me, something nondistracting.

  • James Ingold

    Maybe it’s the singer’s voice, but this sounds to me like a very slow, morose version of the Editors.

    Aside from that, this doesn’t sound like it would hold my attention in dedicated listening but would be great to have on while working on something else; I’ll probably give it a spin this week. Thanks for the review!

  • Bas

    This on took me by surprise. I like, but I am not crazy about, Warning. The first 40 Watt Sun album really didn’t click with me, but this one I really enjoy. So I get a bit more mileage out of it… Their albums are of the kind that you need to hear at the right moment. This a bit lighter, acoustic, atmosphere fits me a bit better these days. Great review !

    • tomasjacobi

      Exactly how I feel. This is the first of the Warning/40 Watt Sun albums that really resonates with me.

  • Pimpolho

    Top 10 of the year for me, for sure, it goes oh-so-well with some wine.

  • André Snyde Lopes

    Wider than the sky, maybe, but is it deeper?

    • madhare

      Now you got me thinking about how to define sky and its measurements. I guess the wideness of the sky is limited by horizons. So basically, standing on a smaller planet or moon gives you a wider sky compared to sky on Earth. But depth??? Hmmm…

      • Bart the Repairman

        But on a smaller planet the horizon is closer to the theoretical observer, isn’t it…?

  • The Unicorn

    This is a 5.0. Album of the year contender. So incredibly good it makes the feels, so much of the feels!

    • SegaGenitals

      You have inspired me to give it a spin.

    • Bart the Repairman

      For now, it only makes me feel bored, but I’ll trust you and light this bulb when the proper mood comes.

      • The Unicorn

        Spot on man. Its like trying to listen to funeral doom on a caribbean beach sometimes. I feels ya.

  • Noctus

    I love this album.

  • Wilhelm

    I sampled a bit of the album, I’m not holding out hope – I loved Warning but this isn’t doom nor is it dark nor is it incredibly exciting. I’ll give it a shot but so far it sounds really boring.

  • Nag Dammit

    I will have to give it a bit more time as others are so passionate about it. But first few listens have yielded very repetitive, formulaic and (sorry to say it) dull results. I swear all of the songs have the same jangly strummed chord opening but like I say, I’m going to give it another shot and see if I’m missing something.

    • Innit Bartender

      My thoughts exactly. I love repetition, mantras, recurring structures as much as any other or even more, but my impression of this album was: man this just drags. And I listen to Om. Maybe in time I will see the light.

  • madhare

    They just need to switch to LED. Could probably get away with 4.6 watts. On the other hand, refusing to implement reasonable energy saving things (like, say, proper insulation and double glazing) is a very British thing to do.

    …and after listening to the embedded track, I think I’ll wait for the 4.6 Watt Sun. Maybe it will be better.

  • eloli

    I may be a big doom fan, yet I was never that big on Warning, I find Patrick Walker’s voice too grating.

  • funeraldoombuggy

    I love 40 Watt Sun, but that’s not surprise because I also love Low, they’ve got a similar thing with repetition based around the vocals. Not for everyone I realize but I for those that it clicks for it really clicks for.