May 312023

Recommended for fans of: Junius, Holy Fawn, latter-day Isis

The music of New York trio Spotlights has been described in a lot of different ways over the years, including “Alt-Metal”, “Progressive Sludge”, and “Post-Metal” (with the latter probably being the most commonplace, thought not 100% accurate in my opinion, descriptor).

Personally, however, I happen to prefer the more evocative – and more provocative – “Doomgaze” label, as this pretty niftily sums up the group’s dramatic, dynamic fusion of simmering, doom-laden guitars and shimmering, Shoegaze-inspired atmospherics.

But genre tags are, ultimately, just useful sign-posts, and if you really want to get to know the band then you need to spend more time immersing yourself in their entire back-catalogue… just like I have for this article!

2016 – TIDALS

The synth-infused intro track of the band’s debut album soon transitions, in seamless fashion, into the moody, Deftones-inspired guitars and sombre, SOM-esque vocals of first-track-proper “Walls”, whose low-slung bass-lines and richly-textured distortion offers a compelling counterpoint to all the shining chords and echoing melodies which take centre-stage throughout the song (especially during its calm, contemplative bridge).

The opening of “The Grower” then goes on to suggest that there’s some serious Slowdive and/or Smashing Pumpkins influences percolating beneath the surface of the band, while also putting out a similarly poignant and proggy, Post-Rock inspired vibe reminiscent of Chrome Waves circa-The Rain Will Cleanse.

“Hover” then gives the album an extra boost of both energy and atmosphere with its driving, distorted bass lines and simmering, stripped-back guitar work (which, eventually, builds to a gorgeously dark and doomy climax, by way of a compellingly calm and contemplative mid-section), after which “To The End” errs more towards the proggier end of the Post-Metal spectrum, balanced out by a mid-section that owes a fair bit to the dronier side of the Shoegaze scene (think Junius at their heaviest meets Jesu at their most blissed-out).

This latter sensation in particular then plays a big role in setting the scene for the album’s final track, “Joseph”, where a sequence of glitchy electro-drums, lilting guitars, and drifting synth lines eventually gives way to stunning second-half whose dynamically doomy riffs and gorgeous gloomy melodies should help you understand just why I prefer the “Doomgaze” tag when it comes to describing this band.

2017 – SEISMIC

Opening with the title track, it quickly becomes clear that Seismic is a fantastic refinement of everything which made their debut so good – the heavy parts are heavier, the quieter parts are more captivating, the melodies more intricately-layered and the atmospherics more irresistibly immersive.

“Learn to Breathe” only reaffirms this impression, with the propulsive percussion and rumbling rhythms positively crackling with latent energy which the song’s frequent bursts of hefty, heaving guitars are only too happy to release.

“The Size of a Planet” then shifts gears, opting for a more sombre, Shoegaze/Doomgaze approach that focusses more on tone and texture, whereas “Ghost of a Glowing Forest” fully embraces the poppier Post-Rock side of the band’s identity, marrying an array of vibrant vocal melodies and gleaming (you might even say “glowing”) synths to some incredibly catchy riff work that echoes the deliriously catchy (though understandably divisive) sound of Lantlôs on Wildhund.

This latter similarity then continues to weave its way through both “Under the Earth” and “A Southern Death”, although both songs possess (or develop) a noticeably darker and heavier edge, with the former eventually reaching a powerful, Post-Metal inspired crescendo, and the latter opting for a more propulsive and distortion driven pseudo-Doom approach, after which the fuzzy bass lines and hazy vocals of “The Opening” shift the band seamlessly back into Shoegaze-inspired more.

The final third (or thereabouts) of the album features both some of the heaviest (“What Is This! Where Are We!”, “Hollow Bones”) and moodiest (“Hang Us All”, “The Hope of a Storm”) material on the entire record, with “Hollow Bones” in particular showcasing just how simple-but-effective the group’s juxtaposition of minimalist melody and gargantuan, groove-heavy guitars can be, while “The Hope of a Storm” acts as a calming coda to what has been a rather lengthy, but undeniably rewarding, musical journey so far.

2019 – LOVE & DECAY

As if to put to rest any question of the band’s “heaviness” once and for all, opener “Continue the Capsize” bursts into life with some suitably massive chords and rich, resonant bass-lines, eventually giving way to the sort of hypnotic rhythmic march – pregnant with moody hooks and lambent melodies – which defined Isis‘s sublime swansong, Wavering Radiant.

“The Particle Noise” is, if anything, even more melodic and infectious, propelled by a more up-tempo percussive performance from drummer Chris Enriquez, while “Far From Falling” – the first, and shortest, of the album’s two “epics” – takes this self-same sense of space and fluid flow and expands it into something even more complex and multi-layered.

The striking contrast between the massive grooves and diaphanous vocal melodies of “Until the Bleeding Stops” (whose grungy riffs and gleaming leads give the track a real Alice In Chains vibe) is just one of the reasons why this track is one of my favourites (the fact that it’s a real heavyweight stomper being another), although that’s not to downplay the similar – though arguably no less effective, or infectious – strains of “Xerox” which follows it.

The sombre majesty of “The Age of Decay” once more reaffirms the comparisons to previous Synn Report alumni Junius, albeit with a more noticeable Post-Rock slant to the music during the song’s first half, as well as a much darker, doomier – and all-round heavier – finale, while the surprising intensity of “Mountains are Forever” (another favourite, although that’s not a criticism of the album’s many other great tracks) puts me in mind of Astronoid at first, before the song transitions into a much more intense and Isis-like second half.

Concluding (officially at least – the bonus track “Sleepwalker” is also well worth checking out) with the nearly eleven minute “The Beauty of Forgetting” – the first half of which is a compelling conglomeration of aching acoustic melodies, thrumming bass-lines, and scintillating, synth-infused and electronica-injected soundscapes, which then switches to an increasingly dense, and progressively more intense, fusion of powerful, Post-Metal riffs and atmosphere-heavy, Shoegaze-inspired ambience – this is one album that you won’t want to forget.


The cinematic, slow-burn opening of “Beyond the Broken Sky” always puts me in mind of Kold-era Sólstafir, while the pristine power of the guitars and evocative ambience of the synths which dominate the track’s second half seem to – in my opinion at least – pick up right where Isis left off, whereas the sinister soundscapes of “The Alchemist” – which ultimately build to a colossal climax worthy of even the doomiest of bands – owe as much to the immersive melancholy of Massive Attack as they do the introspective intensity of the Deftones.

These doomier overtones carry over into the prowling bass-lines and weighty guitars of “Sunset Burial” (although the vocals give it a much more eerie and ethereal vibe) and continue to cast a dark pall over “Algorithmic”, whose artsy amalgam of subtle Post-Punk and heavy Post-Rock – think latter-day AFI meets Holy Fawn meets Explosions In The Sky – is then followed by the proggy, staccato stomp ‘n’ grind of “False Gods” and the vibrant, hypnotic pulse of “Repeat the Silence” (part Tool, part Katatonia, part O’Brother).

The juxtaposition of ethereal, dreamlike vocals and powerful, intensely-physical guitars during “Ballad in the Mirror” takes the central contradiction at the core of the band’s sound and cranks it up even further, while the driving riffs, shining synths, and booming drums of “Crawling Towards the Light” shift the focus more towards the more propulsive end of the Post-Rock/Post-Metal/Post-Whatever spectrum.

Last, but by no means least, the six-and-a-half minute title-track embraces a gothier, gloomier approach with its eloquent acoustic guitar work and restrained, almost reverential, vocals, both of which eventually give way to a simple, but strikingly effective, crescendo of doomy riffs and ‘gaze-inspired atmosphere that brings the whole album to a mesmerising close.

  2 Responses to “THE SYNN REPORT (PART 159): SPOTLIGHTS”

  1. Interestingly, I saw this band just last night at a bar here in Tulsa, OK. They put on a very energetic show, and they sounded heavier live than on record. The place was packed, even on a Tuesday night!

  2. Great post! I love this band. My intro to them was the We Are All Atomic EP, and I quickly snapped up their back catalogue after that discovery.

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