Review Summary: Take the longing from me...
Eight years after its release, Warning’s second and final studio record “Watching from a Distance” is still considered a doom metal essential and lead man Pat Walker is seen as a modern day icon of the genre. Of course Warning is no longer with us and instead we have 40 Watt Sun as Walker’s new focus, although it acts as more of a reinvention of said band rather than a completely new project. Save for a few minor differences, this is pretty much the same band. So it almost goes without saying that anyone who didn’t care for Warning’s slow and repetitive brand of doom will not find anything here to change their minds, and fans of Warning may be put off by the change in tone heard in 40WS.
Style and song structure are basically the same, with each song being a slow brooding dirge, with guitars playing thick, moody melodies and Pat Walker’s vocals singing saddened tales of failed relationships, regret and loneliness. Simplicity is the name of the game here; songs follow a very basic structure, instrumentation has no technical flare, and each track lacks any real progression. That’s not to say this is a bad thing. I rather enjoyed the minimalistic style of Warning so it’s good to see it here as well. So yes, Warning and 40 Watt Sun share many similarities but there are a few things that separate the two. One of the main ones is tempo. 40 Watt Sun is definitely faster, though that isn’t saying much. Songs are not the plodding heavy walls of sound heard on “Watching…” but still stay true to the dirge like style that Walker is known for performing. It is not as devastating as before, in fact are actually quite beautiful, even hopeful, most of the time. Obviously this very simplistic style of music is not for everyone, and inevitably will lead some to absolutely hate it.
But obviously Patk Walker's style of doom is not known for its extreme technical abilities. In fact one of the chief reasons behind the success of “Watching from a Distance” was its draining atmosphere. Like previously said record, this album is also very emotive in nature, although in bit of a different context. “WFAD” weaved together intense feelings of crippling depression, loss and loneliness. Here, on the other hand, that bleak and tragic atmosphere is no longer as prevalent. Instead, “The Inside Room” conveys a strong sense of longing and vaguely melancholic nostalgia. The kind of the feelings one gets from thinking about the good times one had with someone who, for one reason or another, is not in your life anymore. This less tragic atmosphere can be attributed somewhat to the less bleak melodies and faster tempo. That being said, despite being considerably less depressing, “The Inside Room” is still an incredibly emotional powerhouse. This is for the most part due to Patrick Walker nasally, emotionally charged voice. They perfectly fit the feelings behind the genuine and confessional lyrics. His singing is so strong in its longing and sadness that it’s hard not to feel something listening to it. He is the backbone behind the band’s emotional power, but it won’t appeal to everyone. I’ve heard “whiney” and “irritating” to describe the vocals as well, but for me, I absolutely love the sound of this guy’s voice.
Ultimately “The Inside Room” does very little musically to differ itself from the music of Warning. However its shift in tone does plenty to put it on its own pedestal. Naturally it won’t appeal to everyone, as previously stated. And this shift in tone to a more beautiful nostalgic record from the heartbreak of before will also rub some fans the wrong way, but I found this album to be well worth its 47 minute run time. I look forward to seeing future releases from these guys.