Doomgaze is a sound that requires a very tricky balancing act. Both styles on their own have the ability to wring a ton of emotion out of ethereal soundscapes, but without the right amount of soul behind it, doom and shoegaze can become boring much faster than the styles’ slow tempos. Brooklyn-based husband and wife duo Spotlights must be acrobats, as their Ipecac debut (and second overall) is a stunning listening experience. Mammoth, earth-shattering (get it?) riffs sit atop spine-tingling ethereal atmospheres. What helps set Seismic apart from other bands trying to do doomgaze is that Spotlights know how to craft an album’s worth of material together by leaning into-and-out-of their doom and shoegaze elements when necessary. Songs often feel like a perfect mix of the two elements, like mashed potatoes with the perfect consistency, no matter whether it’s more doom or gaze. Songs like “What Is This? Where Are We?” go a different route by expanding Spotlights’ reach. and it’s reminiscent of The Ocean’s best; the song starts with a bold riff before meandering into beautiful post-metal. You expect the song’s pendulum to sway back to sludge, but this duo showcase some restraint and meld the two styles together nicely by the song’s conclusion.
The only minor nitpicks I can find are that Mario’s harsh vocals (though very sparse) feel out of place when they do show up, and packing two 8-minute tracks side by side wasn’t a great choice; “Hollow Bones” is a bit too slow going for its own good, while “Hang Us All” is just sublime. Ultimately, Spotlights’ deserve to be the next forward-thinking metal group in the, uh, spotlight. Their silky smooth doomgaze mixture takes the best of Isis (the band), Deftones, The Ocean, and True Widow and expands upon it wonderfully. Seismic should send shockwaves along the way as a guiding force for those looking for metal that isn’t afraid to be stunningly beautiful and crushing.