In 2011, Patrick Walker, and his post-Warning band 40 Watt Sun released an album called The Inside Room. I listened to this album over and over and over, pouring over every miserable chord and impassioned lyric like it was my job to study them. I had always enjoyed Warning for what they were; a powerful doom band who focused more on melodic dirges than pentatonic Sabbath worship, or an overabundance of weed references and fuzz, but 40 Watt Sun enthralled me. Of course, like every other band I love from abroad, they played locally once, which I missed, and then seemingly laid dormant. Until now.
Let’s get this out of the way now; Wider Than The Sky is not a metal album. One could argue that The Inside Room barely was, with the only stylistic connection to metal being distorted guitars. It occupied a space similar to Warning, and was released around the same time as Pallbearer’s first full length Sorrow and Extinction, which also had sonic commonalities with The Inside Room. Wider Than The Sky takes all of the melodic sensibilities of The Inside Room but strips away the crunch and the heaviness from the guitars. While some may bemoan that it would be reasonable to now call 40 Watt Sun contemporaries of bands such as Low or Red House Painters, I could not be happier. Patrick Walker has an incredible voice, and it shines here more than ever, backed by his beautiful chord choice, the restrained but tight drumming of Christian Leitch (who was also Walker’s bandmate in Warning), and the effortless sounding bass playing of William Spong. The production does these songs wonders, as they all seem to have a sheen that allows every note to resonate and hit hard as bricks.
40 Watt Sun initially announced Wider Than The Sky through a short teaser video that showed what appeared to be a man, alone, reflecting out of a window at a world passing him by. The first single, “Beyond You”, brought this imagery to full fruition. It is powerful, but so subtle. It crept up on me and fully absorbed me. Themes of loss and nostalgia pervade Walker’s plaintive vocals. He always sounds like he’s mourning, but for a loss of something inside himself. The beauty of his songwriting is that his guitar lines would sound just as effective were they played on an acoustic. There is no noodling or effect wizardry at play here, just a man, with a guitar, playing amazing and sad songs.
The only conceivable complaint I can see someone having about this album is that 5 out of the 6 songs on Wider Than The Sky stretch at least over 9 minutes, with the opening song, “Stages” at over 16. This is not an album you just throw on and casually listen to, but it was not meant to be background noise. Wider Than The Sky is a fully engrossing experience, one which I feel fortunate to have had. If you’re into bands like Low, Red House Painters, Codeine, and obviously, Warning, you are doing yourself a grave disservice by not listening to this album. Sure, it’s not metal, but it doesn’t need to be.
Releases on Radiance Records (40 Watt Sun’s label) on October 14th