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2. Beyond You
3. Another Room
5. Craven Road
Reviewed by: Colin
// Published: 11/13/2016
40 Watt Sun's Patrick Walker wants you to know that he doesn't play doom metal. Sure, his ultra minimalist approach has always been rooted in the genre, but even at its heaviest Walker's material has borne qualities more akin to singer-songwriter material. Watching From A Distance, the hauntingly beautiful opus of his former group Warning, has garnered legendary status for its starkly personal and emotional songs. Having laid Warning to rest, Walker's 40 Watt Sun debut, The Inside Room grew upon that foundation, utilizing the songwriters incomparable croon and penchant for dreary melodies, all while exploring new atmospheres with a hint of acoustic instrumentation.
Walker has also shown he is capable of excelling outside of the metal world. Having released an acoustic version of Warning's Bridges in 2010 as well as covering material from indie folk singers Jason Molina and Damien Jurado, one couldn't help but to wonder if he might shed his heavy past altogether.
Enter Wider than the Sky, the group's sophomore album. Having battled their record label's desire to market the band under the doom metal flag, the trio has released a record simultaneously as distant from, and, as true to that tag as possible. While Walker, along with bassist William Spong and drummer Christian Leitch (also formerly of Warning), has traded in the steady wash of distorted guitar for a clean tone, Wider than the Sky isn't necessarily a departure. In fact, the mellower sound comes off as a natural progression for the group.
Anchored by the same slow churning rhythms and dark, introspective lyrics 40 Watt Sun are known for, the band is actually able to create even stronger moods in this setting. Without the sustain of the distortion, Walker's guitar decays into near silence, creating an openness not heard on previous efforts. If Watching From A Distance and The Inside Room were the sound of desperation, Wider than the Sky is utter hopelessness. It's this newfound restraint that makes this group of songs so alluring.
Walker's signature clean sung vocals lend themselves perfectly to the more intimate, quieter feel, but it's the bands use of different instrumentation that creates an extra dynamic in the overall sound. Interspersed throughout the record are touches of acoustic guitar, piano and synth, adding new layers and textures to the songs. With this wider palette, the songwriting is able to grow beyond typical genre confines.
While there are no moments of metal (in a traditional sense) found on Wider than the Sky, it's clear that 40 Watt Sun haven't abandoned it all together. They have essentially kept their doom roots while spreading themselves out even further, bridging the gap between their heavier sound and Walker's solo efforts.
Bottom Line: Patrick Walker and 40 Watt Sun have evolved beyond doom metal, transcending genres. Wider than the Sky is equal parts Warning and Songs: Ohia. Emotionally heavy and finely crafted, it is a frontrunner for album of the year and one that is sure to have plenty of staying power for years to come.