British trio 40 Watt Sun return after a five year period of silence to drop one of the most emotive doom metal albums of this year in the form of their sophomore effort Wider than the Sky.
In 2006 a doom metal quartet from the United Kingdom going by the name of Warning came out with their second album, Watching from a Distance, a record that constituted a huge step forward in terms of quality and refinement to their debut that happened seven years earlier. With its massive, melodic sound and wonderful synergy between the instruments, fronted by one of the most captivating and distinctive voices in doom metal, Patrick Walker, Watching from a Distance became an absolute essential listen in doom metal. Warning disbanded a few years after that in 2009, only for half of the line-up to come back together, joined by a new bassist to form 40 Watt Sun in the very same year.
40 Watt Sun consists of Patrick Walker, again on the guitars and vocals, Christian Leitch on the drums and William Spong as the bassist to complete the line-up. The band made its debut in 2011 with The Inside Room, an album reminiscent of Warning’s take on doom metal but with a gentler and melancholic rather than sad sound.
For a long time I was unaware that the band was working on new material, let alone that they were still active, considering five years had passed since their first album, but now they are back with their sophomore release in the form of Wider than the Sky.
The previously very thick and distorted guitars make way for a cleaner sound and the drumming exchanges the loud cymbals for a gentler style while retaining their many short drum rolls. Patrick Walker’s vocals fall into line and complete the very soft and mostly kind of reserved sound of this album. Whereas The Inside Room was a thick coat of melancholy, Wider than the Sky is more like a curtain that every so softly embraces the listener.
40 Watt Sun generally sound much less upfront on this album and the songs convey a sense of space that makes it easy to simply get lost in them. However, none of that lessens the band’s impact in any way, if anything it merely makes the highlights shine even brighter. The Inside Room was a complete, highly enjoyable package but Wider than the Sky manages to have more memorable single moments in the form of tender and almost fragile climaxes, like on the track Beyond You where Patrick Walker’s vocals swell up along with the guitars after an acoustic interlude and make for an absolutely beautiful moment. Walker delivers equally impactful vocal highlights on the tracks Pictures and Craven Road as well, on top of his usual strong performance. In the same vein, 40 Watt Sun once again display a high level of interplay without which the songs on this album absolutely wouldn’t be the same.
One of the most unusual songs on this album, however, must be the album closer Marazion. With only about four minutes, it’s the shortest song the band has ever released and essentially presents a concentrated version of the band’s sound with yet another captivating climax. I would definitely like to hear the band explore this more concise style a bit more in the future.
Overall, Wider than the Sky took a few listens for me to really come to appreciate the more wavelike sound the band adapts for the compositions on this album. I ultimately really came to appreciate this record however and it definitely makes a fitting addition to the band’s catalog. The captivating and vast compositions and emotive performances make Wider than the Sky one of, if not the strongest, doom metal release of 2016.