OLD MUSIC: 40 Watt Sun – The Inside Room

40 Watt Sun - The Inside Room

Salvaging one of my few Number of the Blog reviews that I could find.

Pat Walker is one of those unfortunate musicians that will probably never escape their past. Walker will pretty much always be best known for the album Watching From a Distance, and he really should feel no shame about that, seeing as how WFaD is widely considered a classic of modern doom metal. Even though there is no shame being associated with that album, the shadow that a monolithic album like that can cast over one’s career is hardly enviable. Everything Walker does now will inevitably be compared to that album. With that little intro out of the way, let’s move on to the album at hand: The Inside Room by 40 Watt Sun.

So yeah, this album sounds like Watching From a Distance, but “different”. How is it different? Well, all the same elements are there: slow plodding guitar riffs with a faint hint of melody rising above the distortion, lyrics about love and loss, and of course Pat Walker’s amazingly emotional vocals over the top of everything. The difference lies in the feel and the atmosphere of the album. Whilst Watching From a Distance was bleak and pitch black, with not a glimmer of hope, The Inside Room offers some hope. Like standing on a thin grey ledge, with darkness and despair below, but with a light at the other end of the ledge (if that makes any sense). Looking at that description, it sounds pretty stupid, but that’s the best way I could phrase it.

Musically, this album is pretty damn simple. It plods along, hammering out funeral doom riffs that just happen to be sped up. The guitars are extremely fuzzy and distorted (for the most part, there’s an occasional acoustic break), so a lot of the riffs are a bit hard to discern, but not too hard. Occasionally you will hear melodies rise above it all, but on closer listens it becomes apparent that those melodies are pretty much omnipresent throughout the album. Drums and bass aren’t anything spectacular or standoutish, as they serve their purpose and never take center stage (The drums you don’t notice tend to be my favorite kind of drums). It’s fine that there’s nothing spectacular about the instruments on this album, as this is not an album that one showcases their technical ability on. Rather, the instruments serve more as a soundscape for Pat Walker’s vocals to soar over.

And that brings us to one of the main draws of this album: Walker’s vocals. Walker’s nasally voice (which is never annoying) is highly emotive, though not always completely clear. It can be hard to make out some of the lyrics at times, though you are never in the dark as to what the lyrics are trying to convey emotionally (as Walker’s voice expresses them perfectly). The band also does not release lyrics, so I’ve had to puzzle them out on my own. From what I can tell, they’re far more hopeful than Warning’s stuff.

So yeah, I think this album is absolutely amazing in every way shape and form, and can’t think of a single negative thing to say about it (it’s too short, maybe. But at 47 minutes, that’s more just me not wanting it to end than anything else). We shall see if this album stands the test of time to become a classic doom album that will be spoken of with reverence in the future. For what it counts, I think The Inside Room completely deserves that status.

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Magic Circle – Magic Circle

Magic Circle - Magic Circle

I was introduced to this band by my (internet) friend and former fellow TNOTB writer Zane (Sophus), with him saying something to the effect of “boy, do these guys love Pagan Altar.” Now, comparing something to Pagan Altar is one of the fastest ways to get me to check out a band (because Pagan Altar rules you see). When I heard the title track, I was instantly struck by how much it reminded me of ‘Judgement of the Dead,’ so I knew I would have to check out the rest of this album.

Magic Circle hail from Massachusetts, and are apparently made up of a bunch of dudes from various hardcore punk bands, but despite the  dissimilar background, these guys have a supremely good ear for old school doom metal. As the first paragraph mentioned, these guys are heavily influenced by the almighty Pagan Altar, though the title track / Judgement of the Dead comparison is the only one that’s really obvious, if you listen closely and are familiar enough with Pagan Altar’s music you’ll definitely began to hear not only the similarity in riffing, but also a similar type of lead playing, being shreddy and virtuosic while staying rooted in its subservience to the riffs, much in the way Alan Jones plays.

Now don’t get me wrong, despite how much I’ve mentioned them, Magic Circle is not just a blatant Pagan Altar clone. The influence is obvious but they stand out enough on their own to be their own entity. One of the most obvious differences lies in the vocals. They’re nasally but ultimately full of energy and vigor, which shows up a lot throughout the album. Nasally yet throaty, I guess. They certainly sound like their own thing, and Brendan Radigan doesn’t sound like he’s trying to ape anyone in particular, though he does sound a bit like Ozzy, which is honestly just a thing that tends to happen in this genre. In addition to the energetic vocals, Magic Circle will often pick up the pace of the riffing at several places, providing a nice balance between the slow plodding doom, and the faster US trad metal sound.

All in all, this is a really nice album. While it doesn’t do anything particularity new, Magic Circle manages to create their own definite sound while paying homage to the masters of their genre.

On a scale of Trivium to Manilla Road, I give it a Covenant-era Morbid Angel.