Review: 40 Watt Sun: Wider than the Sky

Have you ever listened to something so excruciatingly somber that, even on a particularly amazing day, you very nearly fell to pieces? No? Well, let me introduce you to 40 Watt Sun.

So there I was, just trying to get some work done and feeling pretty good about the prospects for the day, when along comes this song on my weekly discovery playlist. Huh, this sounds kinda slow and boring, I should skip this, I thought. But then I didn’t. Moments later my fingers stopped typing, my head drifted down, and an ominous dark cloud formed in my mindspace. Twelve minutes later I realized I had been staring off into the void, absolutely sucked into this song, with four minutes left to go. 40 Watt Sun are not musicians, they are a band of hypnotists.

Sometimes sounding like a late-90’s rock ballad, but actually good, these songs have a way of feeling both familiar and alien. It is refreshingly honest and a powerful mood-altering substance. Through it seems that Wider than the Sky was primarily written by Patrick Walker, I’ve never heard a trio sound more like a one man project before. There is a singular idea being perfectly executed with no ego to interrupt.

In the masterpiece that is “Stages”, the 16-minute opening track, Patrick achingly croons over a deconstructed doom beat and carefully spaced chords. The distance between those notes becomes an unbearably heavy object. He speaks to an overly self-aware audience, asking questions that we should all ask ourselves, and finding unsatisfactory answers. We are often aware how other’s failings affect us, but overlook our own lack of offerings.

“What have I brought you to, my love, that you have followed me?”

“Pictures” picks up the tempo a little after about 38 minutes of being slowly crushed to death. I would argue they foray into post-rock a little bit in this song, which is a perfect and unexpected variance. This time, he seems to speak of the virtues of a reality constructed by fragments of darkness.

The picture whole is seldom seen
And far less understood.
I’ll see only fragmentary parts
And fill the spaces as the dark deems right.

Proving again, with the likes of artists like Johanna Warren, iamthemorning, and Sea Oleena, you don’t have to be loud to be heavy and dark. You also don’t have to be unrelentingly depressed, as 40 Watt Sun proves with a slight feeling of optimism. Things may not go as planned, but maybe, after all is said and done, it won’t be so bad.

Wider than the Sky is an interesting album for me, in that it has some of the most emotionally powerful moments I’ve heard this year, but the length hurts it due to a lack of variation. If there was one more post-rock tinged song, or maybe even something a little bit heavier, I would be shoving this album in everyone’s faces for the next few months. Maybe I’ll just be those weirdos who shares a single song. If you want a condensed version of this album, check out tracks 1, 2, and 4. Individual tracks would be ranked much much higher than the album as a whole, so while it sits at a 3/5 for me, I urge everyone to delve into a track or two. Maybe you can stay absorbed in the gloom for almost an hour, but I needed to take a few breaths of fresh optimism to get through it.

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Published on: November 29, 2016

Filled Under: Reviews

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  • I’m always down to try out some sad boy music

  • Waynecro

    Goddamn. It’s like the band wrote “Stages” to be long enough so you’d have something to listen to while you bleed out from slit wrists. I think I’ll give the rest of this album a listen (if I live long enough). Thanks, JS!

  • Howard Dean

    I literally fell asleep trying to listen all the way through their debut album, The Inside Room. Just plodding that doesn’t go anywhere, and then occasional jangly stuff, and some irritating caterwauling, and then… more plodding. Fuck me running. If 40 Watt Sun’s goal is to induce suicide, they hit the nail on the head. You’ll want to off yourself out of sheer frustration and boredom.

    • Joaquin Stick

      I probably should have ventured back to their debut to say something about a comparison, but yeah, as much as I really loved the album for 25-30 minutes, you really really have to like the genre to keep wanting to listen past that.

      • CyberneticOrganism

        Good review though

      • Howard Dean

        Admittedly, my preferred types of doom are either: sludgy/stoner stuff like Electric Wizard, Eyehategod, or Sleep (energy and lots of riffs); or oppressive funeral/death stuff (Stabat Mater, Catacombs, Nortt, Skepticism, Comatose Vigil). A lot of the more “traditional doom” stuff like Warning or Pallbearer just puts me to sleep–if it’s riff-deficient and also low-energy, it’s a no-go for me.

        • Joaquin Stick

          I was hesitant to even call this doom, but had no other real point of reference on where to place it. It’s just “feels” music.

          • Dumpster Lung ᴰᵃᵐᵃᵍᵉ_ᴵⁿᶜ⁸⁹

            Yeah, it kinda reminds me of Failure, actually.

        • Dumpster Lung ᴰᵃᵐᵃᵍᵉ_ᴵⁿᶜ⁸⁹

          I love Pallbearer, but that’s as slow as I can really go for the most part. Anything slower than them and it at best will fall into “I appreciate this, but never will want to sit through it.” Pallbearer’s 2nd album has some good riffs, though. The leads are sort of their own riffs.

          My go-to doom is usually Candlemass–the Messiah-stuff in particular. For such a classic doom band, their riffs were actually pretty energetic.

          EDIT: wanted to add that while this is slower than something I’d pull up and jam during the day while I’m working, I’m seeing it at the perfect time right now (evening). It’s definitely working for me at the moment.

        • KyleJMcBride

          RIFFS

    • Óðinn
  • CyberneticOrganism

    90s grunge nostalgia rears its ugly, unwashed head

    • Joaquin Stick

      You hear it too? I was thinking maybe I was the only one who would make that weird comparison, but there’s something about it…

      • CyberneticOrganism

        Oh it stuck out for me immediately, plodding along & strumming chords like a stretched-out STP jam sesh.

    • Dumpster Lung ᴰᵃᵐᵃᵍᵉ_ᴵⁿᶜ⁸⁹

      I actually still really enjoy ’90s grunge when I hear it, but I never listen to the radio, so when I do hear it, it’s probably been a while since the last time, and it’s nice.

      • Óðinn

        Oh yeah, there’s not a lot of it, but there was some good stuff. I was listening to it before anybody called it “grunge”. Mudhoney was actually one of the bigger bands in Seattle before grunge became a thing. I saw Nirvana open for Mudhoney about 6 months before Nevermind was released. I liked Bleach. My friend had the album. We used to blast Negative Creep at full volume. We liked the riff. It was actually quite surprising tha Nirvana became huge. I never would have guessed that they would at the time. We were Thrash & Death Metal fans but we liked Mudhoney, Green River, and Soundgarden too. Also Ministry, Faith No More, Jane’s Addiction, Helmet, Melvins, Kyuss, Bad Brains…alternative metal stuff. I guess it’s not okay for Metal fans these days to admit they listen to grunge, but whatever. By the time STP started releasing albums though, it was dead.

        • Dumpster Lung ᴰᵃᵐᵃᵍᵉ_ᴵⁿᶜ⁸⁹

          I think metal fans hold grudge responsible for killing thrash. At least I’ve seen that sentiment before. I don’t really think that makes a whole lot of sense, though.

          • Óðinn

            No, it doesn’t. Thrash was killed by greedy record labels, and so was grunge. They wanted watered-down sounds that appealed to wider audiences.

          • Dumpster Lung ᴰᵃᵐᵃᵍᵉ_ᴵⁿᶜ⁸⁹

            That and in some cases, groove metal was taking off and that played a part. I think the real mistake was thinking something inherently underground would become a huge cash cow in the first place. I suppose with how Metallica exploded and how well Slayer and Megadeth seemed to also do, it probably seemed like anything was possible at the time. I was like a year old when the Black Album came out, so I can’t really speak from any experience. Hindsight and 2nd-hand internet research is 20/20 lol.

        • NDG

          Monkeywrench just toured Australia…Mark Arm’s voice is still great.

  • Lacertilian

    Bought that Johanna Warren for Mrs Lizard earlier this year but I think I’ve ended up listening to it more than her

    • Joaquin Stick

      She’s something else. Have you tried iamthemorning yet? I wrote a mini way back when (and have a feeling I’ll be mentioning them again soon.) https://iamthemorningband.bandcamp.com/

      • Lacertilian

        I have not, I’ll give it a try today!

      • Paddlin’ Rites ov Beargod

        It’s fucking wonderful.

  • Óðinn
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    • KyleJMcBride

      NARC!!!!

  • Óðinn

    Thanks, Joaquin Stick.

  • Speed metal for sloooooow people.

  • No! I must have my delicious cupcakes! My sweet, cakey treasures! Piping hot, from their 40-watt womb!!

    https://i.ytimg.com/vi/CbFLiaUx72Q/hqdefault.jpg

    • Ah nostalgia. That’s what we do here, post things that relate to the article. But now that the fun is over, I wanted to congratulate you on a great read, Joaquin. You sure have a way with words!

  • Dumpster Lung ᴰᵃᵐᵃᵍᵉ_ᴵⁿᶜ⁸⁹

    That last album by The Body, No One Deserves Happiness, has an atmosphere I think would bring you down from any real positive state of mind, too. I especially love the tracks with the female vocals. Her voice is great, and it works so well with the rest of the music.

  • KyleJMcBride

    Uh oh, no more Bobby Blotzer’s RATT Experience Featuring Bobby Blotzer! The other guys have taken back RATT!

  • Good review, Joaquín!