Saturday, July 16, 2011

40 Watt Sun - The Inside Room (Album Review)

40 Watt Sun - The Inside Room
Release date: July 19, 2011 (Metal Blade Records / Cyclone Empire)

I feel obliged to admit right out of the gate that, prior to reading the press materials for British trio 40 Watt Sun's debut album, The Inside Room, I'd never even heard of singer/guitarist Patrick Walker's former band, Warning. After listening to what Walker has accomplished with 40 Watt Sun, it's safe to say that Warning is a band I will be checking out in the very near future.

On The Inside Room, 40 Watt Sun prove that heavy music can be just as haunting, melancholy and heart-wrenching as folk, shoegaze, indie rock or any other genre those adjectives are more frequently applied to. Actually, the only thing keeping this from being a straightforward folk album is the presence of distorted electric guitars.

Don't believe me? Check out this acoustic version of the opening track, "Restless." It's essentially the same song that appears on the album -- same chords, sung the same way -- minus a thick haze of distortion.

But oh, how glorious that distortion is on the album proper. Much like Jesu, Isis, Failure and even the Smashing Pumpkins before them, 40 Watt Sun employ layered, distorted guitars riffs that don't so much knock you on your ass with their power, speed and ferocity, but cascade over you and sweep you up in their majestic beauty. A little grandiose? Perhaps, but 40 Watt Sun are clearly aiming for an epic sound, and on The Inside Room they absolutely nail it.

With five songs spread across nearly 48 minutes, 40 Watt Sun aren't in any particular hurry to get where they're going, but as the old saying goes, the joy lies in the journey itself. Not that the songs themselves are particularly joyous. It's called doom metal for a reason, after all. But this isn't doom metal in the tradition of Candlemass or Saint Vitus. In fact, I'm hesitant to call it "metal" at all. They might be on Metal Blade Records (here in the U.S., at least), but musically, 40 Watt Sun is more in line with the atmospheric post-rock found on labels like Hydra Head Records and The Mylene Sheath.

However it's classified, the simple fact is that 40 Watt Sun's music is amazing. Transcendent, even. It's sad but hopeful, emotional without ever devolving into melodrama. It's also one of 2011's best releases so far. And it'll definitely make you want to hunt down some Warning...

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