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40 Watt Sun : Wider Than The Sky

It may not be Doom, as such, but 40 Watt Sun's long-awaited sophomore still offers a deep and meaningful escape.

Following five years of near silence from the band, 40 Watt Sun's sophomore release, 'Wider than the Sky', is a satisfying sequel to their polarizing debut, 'The Inside Room'. To the dismay of many fans, this album isn't Doom Metal; gone are the wall-of-sound guitars and blistering distortion from the aforementioned debut. With this release, 40 Watt Sun finds themselves playing a more relaxed Alternative Rock sound, though there are still moments of high intensity. The new arrangements seem to be a trade off: these songs certainly would sound devastating if they were given the heavier treatment we've heard in the past from Patrick Walker and his bandmates, but then again, the mostly clean electric guitars with only minimal overdrive give the music a more deliberate and mature sound. For slow songs of ten minutes in length where every note matters, maybe getting to fully appreciate every chord and melody is an improvement for a band no longer wanting to play Doom anyway.

Part of the reason the album took so long to release is that the band's old label, Cyclone Empire, wasn't too happy with the new approach, one that is evident right off the bat with the daring, sixteen-minute opener, 'Stages'. The vocals and lyrics are as poignant and introspective as ever, but the instruments now have a hypnotic quality to them, with heartbreaking chord progressions that feel even warmer with the masterful and more distinct rhythm section behind them. The bass and drums play calm, rhythmically identical parts, each sparingly throwing in fills that make the repetitive nature of the music work. These qualities are accentuated by the organic mix given to each instrument and voice. Atmospheric lead guitar parts will creep into the background sometimes without you even realizing it. This is music that is meant to make you feel, and it certainly does that.

'Wider than the Sky' has many highlights, and though a couple of songs might sound the same during a first listen, they quickly separate, and the songwriting talent is revealed. Take the second track, 'Beyond You': this is a song with a depressing, crawling verse - complete with a vocal performance and lyrics so well enunciated it makes me suspect Patrick Walker has been classically trained, or that he's simply a perfectionist - whose cadence is brought to fruition by a chorus which can only be called a melodic masterpiece. The song grows in intensity only to meet its finality with the soft strum of an acoustic guitar and the gentle playing of some piano notes. Most of the songs progress in much the same way, though each one seems to strike a different vibe, and each one carries with it enough idiosyncrasies to remain distinct from the others.

Thematically, the album varies from slow and brooding to upbeat and content. The latter is evident on the tracks, 'Pictures', and the last song, 'Marazion'. With this closing track, we see Walker's usual approach of putting the most distinct song last. This song is only four minutes long, and serves as a great track to show to people who might otherwise not have the patience for this kind of music. 'Marazion' is a cute closer, one that may foreshadow future things to come from the band. Yet, it's the song 'Another Room' that deserves the most attention from any other on the album. This is one that's sure to make any disappointed fans frustrated, as its easily a Doom track without the heavy distortion and the darkest song on the album. Its verses are haunting, with daring melodies and harmonies that are the peak of the album's creativity, and its bridge reveals just how powerful music can sound without being "heavy".

While 40 Watt Sun may have lost some fans with their new foray into the world of not-Doom, they are sure to gain some new ones with these beautiful and heartfelt compositions. The music is still not for everyone, as some tracks test the listener's patience - the opener takes six minutes for the riff to change, and closes with another riff that plays for the same amount of time - but for those looking for an escape, a carefully crafted album such as 'Wider than the Sky' is sure to take you there.

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Reviewer's rating: 9/10


Tracklist :
1. Stages
2. Beyond You
3. Another Room
4. Pictures
5. Craven Road
6. Marazion

Duration : Approx. 62 minutes

Visit the 40 Watt Sun bandpage.

Reviewed on 2016-10-31 by Alex Drozd
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