More than four years since an absolutely genre-essential album with WARNING's “Watching From A Distance”, Patrick Walker returns with a cleverly named new band and five new songs of the utmost misery. What many Doom heads will no doubt count amongst their top five albums in the genre finally gets a sequel - key word being sequel. The themes and sound of the previous album has ascended into an entirely new concept and sound for Walker.
Walker's strident, yet fragile voice still communicates vast emotion via his frank, unpretentiously written lyrics. “The Inside Room” develops emotionally as it plays through, from the abject despair of “Restless”, to the tentative longing of “Carry Me Home”, where the lyrics and vocals dare to reach for some kind of closure, if not salvation. This is the most depressing album you've heard yet this year, and if you like Doom as much as I do, you won't be able to put it away. The whole 'catharsis' thing that the darkest corners of the genre have going on is in full force here, thanks to a sound and song-writing aesthetic that moves on from the requiem dirges of WARNING's swansong.
40 WATT SUN have something more of a droning sound, partly due to the guitar sound and partly due to looser song structures. The guitar sound is grittier and fuzzier, heavy on bass and distortion, creating a great, vibrating backdrop of fug. It sounds like a guitar tone you might find on an album by maybe YOB, SUMA or another Stoner Doom outfit. Compositionally the whole album flows perfectly, like ISIS' “Panopticon” but with an even more organic feel. The songs seem to be heaved from one crushing motif to the next through some force not their own. Rather than driving the music, the guitar riffs collapse with it, the drums letting loose great concussions underneath. The drums sound like they haven't really been mixed, which also contributes to the organic, stripped-down sound. The occasional clean, acoustic moments, that pierce glumly through the mist and fog, all add to the overwhelmingly downcast yet lulling atmosphere.
This is unlike material by WARNING, WHEEL, GRIFTEGÅRD and what have you, which seeks to drive a sharpened length of pure depression through your chest-plate through its relentless, depressing heaviness. 40 WATT SUN seem to step back slightly, creating a thick and heavy morass but allowing you to fall into it, rather than consuming you with it. The slight restraint shown by the band translates into a very effectively emotional recording, and it is clear that Walker has thought long and hard about the story and feel that he would want this to have.
It seems to be at once a logical progression from “Watching From A Distance”, and a total flipside to it. That album, too, was steeped in raw emotion and moved at a total crawl, but it had a slight sense of tragedy and dark drama that gave it quite a scale. This is basically the same length (total record and average song length), but the fuzzy guitars, organic mix and less epic vocalization by Walker make it much more intimate. Despite the still big sound, the lyrics could all take place from the titular room, naturally making the music more personal.
"Turn your face to the moon; let me see you that way.
And the way you appear to me now you'd think the moon would hide for shame."
(Online December 28, 2011)