I first heard of Brooklyn post-metal/doomgaze duo Spotlights in an online list documenting the emerging trend of the “doomgaze” tag on bandcamp. Out of the bands I heard upon my initial look into the burgeoning subgenre – which, for the uninitiated, is the beautiful union between the fuzzed out gloom of doom metal and the sonic overload of shoegaze – Spotlights seemed to be the only band that seemed to satisfactorily capture the spirit of both genres in a way that managed to be crushing and washed out in equal measure. Their 2016 album ‘Tidals’ thus ended up as one of my favourite discoveries of 2016. It was a brilliant debut, and it’s been all uphill for the band since then. They’ve since released another album and an EP, as well as an Audiotree live set – all of which I’ve yet to hear. They’ve also supported the likes of Hum, Pallbearer and Melvins, and signed to Greg Werckman and Mike Patton’s label Ipecac records, joining the likes of Palms, Isis and Daughters. ‘Love & Decay’ is to be their first album on the label.
I can’t comment on how Spotlights have evolved since their second album ‘Seismic,’ but the music on ‘Love & Decay’ sounds, suitably, much bigger and more monolithic than it did on ‘Tidals.’ The synthesis between shoegaze and doom is much more cohesive this time around; where ‘Tidals’ felt like both styles going on at the same time, ‘Love & Decay’ shows the band writing riffs that could contain elements of both – and a lot the time, these riffs are absolutely immense. Fuzzy, heavily distorted chord progressions, churning bass, chuggy, sometimes groovy riffs – all pulled together by an ever-present gazey noise: the guitars on this album are absolutely beautiful. Tracks are often reminiscent of Deftones more spaced out moments, although with much fuzzier and chuggier textures. The Age of Decay, a particular highlight, actually manages to sound similar to My Bloody Valentine at times, which for any shoegaze band is no small achievement. Leads are thick and expansive, often adding a thicker and more epic dimension to tracks, as can be heard in tracks like Far from Falling and Until the Bleeding Stops.
This thick sludgescape is broken into by oddities such as synths or samples, acoustic guitar and electronics (most prominent in closer track The Beauty of Forgetting) and what sounds like a banjo towards the end of opening track Continue the Capsize. There always seems to be something a little more off-kilter going on in the background – The Age of Decay has what I suspect might be horns just breaking through in the mix. Harmonics seem to be one of the bands favourite ways of tying the doomier songs into a gazier vibe, and it works very well for the most part.
‘Love & Decay’ is chiefly a record that leans more on its sound than its songwriting. The structure of each song on ‘Love & Decay’ is serviceable although a tad too sprawling and lacking in hooks. There’s rarely any build-up to any kind of climax and so it all sort of meshes together in one sprawling tapestry of riffage, harmonics and reverberated fuzz – which is obviously what the band was going for, but I just wish it had a little more going for it in the way of hooks and dynamics. The vocals are so washed out that in some songs it’s easy to forget that they’re there, and it took me a few listens before I was able to distinguish one song from another, and even then, it was only a new hooky riff or catchy lead that made me realise that we’d even moved onto a new song. But this is a relatively minor gripe; the riffs are too good for this to bother anyone too much.
Now, if there’s one thing that I think takes the most away from the album for me, it’s the production. It suffers from some of the pitfalls of generic post-metal and indie-gaze in that it stays at a consistent dynamic more or less the whole way through. The music never really feels like it’s a hair away from blowing your speakers like the best shoegaze or doom albums too. For all its noise, it still feels a little too clean, a little too ambient, and although I do love the sludgy wall of noise being created by the guitars, the drums – while well-performed and technically great – seem to ground it a little too predictably in blackgaze or post-metal territory. All-in-all, I think I preferred the approach they took on their first album, which sounded a little more lo-fi and a lot more natural.
But overall, ‘Love & Decay’ is great. Fans of post-metal, Deftones and My Bloody Valentine would do well to give it a listen.
Pre-Orders available HERE.