Sunday, November 4, 2012
40 Watt Sun - The Inside Room (2011)
40 Watt Sun are an extremely melancholic, melodic London doom outfit that do their appreciable best to embody an essence of regretful sadness. This is achieved through a very basic, primal shifting of crawling riffing textures, slow, deliberate pacing, and the spectral, quivering, regretfully nostalgic vocals of one Patrick Walker, whom some of you may recognize from his work in Warning . On a basic level, this works incredibly well, at least for a while, and even though I felt some variety could have done wonders for The Inside Room, it’s rainy atmospherics are quite compelling if one has the patience and mood to drown in such a sluggish, dense river, an experience almost like drowning in smoke and molasses.
There are no fancy guitar tricks here, just loose progressions of heavily distorted, ghostly chords, played in a very open style. This lends a very flowing nature to these 5 songs, as each wave of bright, obscure notation flows into the next quite effortlessly, and with feeling. These, along with the vocals, will primarily dictate the enjoyment you will have with 40 Watt Sun, as they truly do crawl along, never attempting to do anything dynamic outside of the spiritually rotting core they initially set up. However, this assists in maintaining cohesion amidst the pieces, a sort of mildly haunted thematic glue that will enrapture some, and drive others absolutely nuts in its seeming inability to evolve. Indeed, these 5 tracks are very, very similar, as is the burdensome crooning from Pat, rising above the conjured fog as a lone, regretful figure. Lyrically, this is about as emo as one can find, dealing with failed relationships and so forth. It’s dealt with in a more mature context than your average screamo band, though, and is emo in the right way, if you will, more like My Dying Bride or Katatonia than cringingly whiny metalcore. These two elements, supported by an extremely restrained (but undeniably effective) rhythm section, shift only slightly across the incredibly lengthy compositions, and it can be very involving and hypnotic, or brutally samey, depending on your natural perceptions. As usual, I reside somewhere in the middle of this equation, sympathizing with both viewpoints rather equally. What 40 Watt Sun are capable of is very good, terrific even, but as The Inside Room grows longer in the tooth, I find myself more and more at odds with it.
And that’s the kicker. Only a very particular mindset will be hypnotized by material as deliberate and sluggish as this, and the rest will be bored silly. In such an admitted specialization, it’s admirable that 40 Watt stick to their guns and attempt to reinforce this chosen oozing sound as much as possible, but to reinstate an inaugurating point, variety could have opened this thing up by miles. I feel and enjoy what the group is trying to do, and they do it quite well, but I simply do not have the patience or willingness to listen to what amounts to the exact same song, with minor pattern changes, for 47 minutes. I like what they’re doing, but they really need to do something else to compliment or punctuate it, as droning emotional sadness only carries weight for so long when it endlessly marches at the same pace, and by the end my viewpoint has shifted from contemplative awe to grudging impatience.
I know a good amount of you, however, will find an opposing perspective to my own, as The Inside Room has received a staggering number of positive reviews, so take my criticism as both a bolstering and a warning, depending on who you are. If you have a high tolerance for bloated doom and drone, and the natural beauty of melancholy touches your blue, broken soul like a kiss, then by all means, plumb these depths, and I truly hope you find them fulfilling. But if you naturally reside on the more extreme side of the metallic lexicon, and your doom metal tendencies lean toward the crushing, approach this one with caution, if at all. The Inside Room has a very poignant natural beauty to it, and indeed is quite special in its own haunted way, but alas it just doesn’t fully enrapture me, unfortunately due to the same innate repetition that has ingratiated them into so many other darkened minds.
Despite how much these perceived flaws really destroyed my initial love, however, I’d recommend anyone with a bit of feeling in their hearts to at least give the band a shot, as I feel they have a lot to offer select forms of consciousness. I want to like this much more than I do, to be sure, and enjoy it much more in 1 or 2 song chunks, when the rare mood strikes, than the entirety of the album. The Inside Room could have been amazing, but at length it’s just too heavily crushed under the weight of continuous familiarity as it drones onward towards its conclusion. The ambience and atmosphere are beautiful, surely enough for many people to eat it up, and that first bite sure is tasty, but when the realization sinks in that this one flavor is all the meal consists of, even the best food gets a little bland.