21 May 2023 - Gene
Doomgaze | Heavy Rock | Ipecac Recordings | Release date: 28 Apr 2023 | Favorite song: Sunset Burial
Alchemy For The Dead strikes me as a completionist’s revival of some of the most prominent music coming up at about the same time as did I, in the infancy of my musical tastes. Particularly in the better Alt-Rock spheres lie the lesser of the embarrassing musical proclivities from my middle youth. Keeping the Alt-Rock and Alt-Metal train going - in the early 2000’s experimental vein, especially owing its ethos to The Deftones here - is a tenuous choice in 2023. But the unwavering intent of the Spotlights credo remains impressive in its constance and has remained so ever since their inception. So how is it that it’s literally dawning on me only now that this was their core sound all along?
Perhaps it was their Doom-gaze inflections that interested me more than their Alt-Metal aspirations, and I simply disregarded a very large part of their style. Perhaps it is the fact that I am no fan of The Deftones that I simply let myself forget where Spotlights was coming from. Now, having watched their synth-heavy distortions vacillate between sludgy Post-Metal and sublime Doom-Noise, and finally to Shoegaze-leaning Alt-Rock has me wondering how I managed to fixate on the parts I really enjoyed and completely blanked on the parts I was less fond of.
While I do see a lot of merit in what they have done on this album, I still have a preference and a bias for the stylings of Love and Decay and We Are All Atomic, however this album puts into perspective for me the aesthetic they were working on all along. It was me who was a slow learner. Alchemy For The Dead, in that way, is the clearest expression, in my opinion, of the core-Spotlights-sound. A sound that comes from that experimental, quasi-underground Alt-Metal space, owing much to a few Moreno projects (Deftones, Palms), certainly, but ultimately congealing into its own little niche. A dark, distorted, grungy, yet remarkably catchy, take on Alt-Metal, Shoegaze and Doom.
The interplay of pinpoint notes ricocheting against one another atop a tapestry of wondrous reverb, aided by cold percussion and dreamy Doom. Feedback as canvas. Availing itself of UK triphop and crackling Shoegaze. Anchored by boomy bass, the odd Sax, Grunge-era hooks and Chino-style vocals. Alchemy For The Dead perfects the ethos first broached on or around Tidals
Love and Decay leaned into the Doom, Noise-Rock and Shoegaze side of the spectrum, bringing prog along for the ride. A patient and deliberate gift to heavy experimental music circa 2019. We Are All Atomic was a psychedelic concept piece that introduced me to Doomgaze with some Hardcore vocals in the stew. While Seismic was self-evident, and probably the period during which I would have loved to see them live.
The more I listen to the new record, the more I go back to the previous records, and the more I see that the core sound hasn’t changed, only shifted in focus while I wasn’t paying attention. And I appreciate the perfection of what they’ve done here, even if it isn’t what I was after. It isn’t the side of their aesthetic that I was attracted to in the first place. For that I will tend to return to those earlier records.
But I have no doubt that Alchemy For The Dead is exactly the album they intended and no doubt that they’ve done an unbelievable job at culling a huge compendium of influences from the 90’s and 2000’s into an absolutely remarkable tribute. Were I to be harsh I would admit to questions of relevance and originality but what we have here is so lovingly and flawlessly distilled that I cannot fault it. So even if my attention lies elsewhere and I value other stylistic aspects in Rock music these days, I can always appreciate an album like this. I can always cultivate snobbery while sipping on nostalgia in secret, can I not? I would have to suspend my snobbery for a moment and recommend this album for what it has accomplished: something I wasn’t looking for but am glad I found.