There’s an old saying that goes something like, “if you want to make God laugh, make a plan.” In early 2020, a lot of that divine laughter was at the expense of bands who had to cancel months’ worth of tours due to a global pandemic.
In the case of the sludge-gaze trio Spotlights, that meant canceling a massive run supporting Korn and Faith No More. Drummer Chris Enriquez took this as an opportunity to create Light Tower, a project that marries his experience with sprawling post metal, passionate post hardcore, and soaring space rock, with glistening results.
Light Tower’s debut EP consists of three tracks, written by Enriquez and brought to life with the help of a number of other players. And dear listener, these three tracks hit the dead center of my sensibilities. There’s plenty of the heavy shoegaze-laden sludge from his main gig, but the tracks are brisker, with only one lasting longer than four minutes. These tracks are built on huge guitar riffs, mercurial drum rhythms, atmospheric synths, and Enriquez’ vocal hooks that land somewhere between slacker rock and emo.
It’s a refreshing blend of influences that’s just as heavily informed by 90s heroes like Smashing Pumpkins, HUM (whose album Downward is Heavenward is name dropped in the lyrics to “One of a Kind”), and Shiner as Spotlights’ own post metal. At moments, there are even shades of punk, especially in the closing moments of “When the Mask Drops” when the drums switch into an urgent double time, as if pulling the rest of the band like a yoke of oxen in a full gallop.
This tapestry of influences is a backdrop for Enriquez’ meditations on existentialism, addiction, grief, and mental health, offering a deeply intimate emotional center to the storm of sonic magnitude provided by the instruments. It’s an interesting juxtaposition, the instruments offering a Trojan Horse of sorts to what could have been a devastatingly personal record. As it is, it takes the same subject matter and makes it feel universal. In the glistening synths and monumental guitars, the personal lyrics reflect something of ourselves to us.
Light Tower is out now through Iodine Records.