"And a darkness undresses me of everything."
As a follower of Patrick's work over the last decade or so, without wanting to draw too many comparisons to past work, I can't help but feel this line truly encapsulates the emotions that Patrick so accurately evokes; now moreso than ever. There's a real vulnerability to Wider than the Sky; A closeness, an intimacy. So far apart from the man that had a part in Watching from a Distance, respective to the album name, which felt so distant and closed away. Even The Inside Room sounds transitional in comparison. Indeed, Patrick's form of "doom metal" has been stripped completely to its core elements, and in doing so, become its own entity that encapsulates a much clearer vision into the artist who wrote it than anything else as he released to date.
It's easy to see on a surface level that 40 Watt Sun took many of the key elements of Warning; the soaring vocal melodies, the slow moving guitar melodies (not really riffs), the arguably simple structures... When put on paper, not much has changed. If anything, Wider than the Sky is testament to just how much a focus shift can change the very chemistry of sound. Make absolutely no mistake - this is not a doom metal album. The guitars here are far cleaner with only a slight haze of fuzzy overdrive, and the melodies are almost all primarily in Patrick's vocals, the instrumentation (though intricate if you look closely) simply intended as a backdrop to the subject matter and mood. If you're afraid of this change, you likely aren't the intended audience. If you enjoy Patrick's vocal work and melodies, you will find something to like in this album. Absolutely no doubt about that.
Wider than the Sky, oddly, sounds like the full realisation of the music that Patrick has wanted to make for years. When you look closer at the progression between Patrick's past works, and the way Patrick focused more on acoustic remakes of past works both live and as b-sides, I'm also surprised he didn't make this change sooner. From meeting that expectation, Wider than the Sky feels so much more honest. There's a serious challenge involved with objectively reviewing something that seems so stripped bare of facade; so naked and upfront, whilst simultaneously being enshrouded in an enigmatic haze. Behind Patrick's gorgeous vocals with his evocatious melodies, there's a far deeper emotional pool be draws from, far beyond what you could discern from face value.
With much more robust song structures, Wider than the Sky feels less sequential and moves much more freely between movements. Patrick's compositions have always had a tendency to revel in a singular vibe for each song's runtime, but the far more natural mood shifts mean you seldom know where any given track might take you. The sparser, airier sound palette also gives Patrick a lot more space to work with when it comes to letting these songs wander through differentiating sections. The gradual shifts in 'Stages' is quite the emotional journey, subduing the listener into a pensive state. Even the subtle building in tracks like 'Craven Road' and 'Another Room' seem far more noticeable in this album's context. In turn, there's a real vastness to this record that neither Warning's Watching from a Distance or 40 Watt Sun's debut, The Inside Room, couldn't quite reach. The band really go lengths to earn the album's namesake.
If this album suffers at all, it's in the lack of brevity. The album approaches overlong at points, emphasised by some vocal melodies sounding a touch too similar (half way through 'Stages' and near the beginning of 'Craven Road'), and the fact the album is less sonically... let's say, 'upfront', may alienate the doom metal following that Warning managed to muster. Both of which aren't as huge of an issue as you might think, as the engrossing nature of music like this is very effective and making you lose your sense of time.
There's something so alluring about hearing Patrick indulge in his own introspection, especially when coupled with two immensely talented musicians who bring it to life. It's music like this that make scores seem so arbitrary, especially given that Wider than the Sky truly is an experience I whole-heartedly believe anyone could take something from. 40 Watt Sun's reluctance to indulge in interviews and press makes so much more sense after listening to an album such as this; a pure form of personal expression. Putting a score on that seems so disingenuous. But in the interest of adhering to the platform, take my score as a testament to just how easily I found myself lost in this album. Listen to this.
(originally written for metal-archives)