Spotlights occupy the space between a push-and-pull of jarring metallic catharsis and sweeping distortion. Even as either side vies for supremacy, neither extreme ever completely tightens its grip, allowing waves of melodic vocals and expressive sonic sorcery to breathe in the middle. This deft balancing act has enabled the trio—husband-and-wife Mario Quintero [guitar, vocals, keys] and Sarah Quintero [bass, vocals] joined by Chris Enriquez [drums]—to carve a singular lane. Armed with an uncanny ability to wield darkness or light, the trio’s fourth full-length offering, Alchemy for the Dead , finds them exploring something we all face, yet few embrace…
“One of the major parts of our lives, is the fact we’re all going to die,” says Mario. “Most people are terrified of it, some people learn to look forward to it, and some see it as a way out of their misery. Various cultures view it differently. There isn’t necessarily a story to the album as a whole, but each song deals with the theme of death. It could be fantasy such as bringing a loved one back to life or darker moments like suicide and deep depression. Then, there are thoughts about death overall in terms of the entire human race. The “Alchemy” part plays more into occult themes such as seance and crossing the threshold between the living and the dead, or religious rituals that humans use to connect with lost loved ones.”
If you don’t know who Spotlights are, or haven’t heard their name, then you haven’t been paying attention. Mario, Sarah and Chris are one of the hardest working new bands out there – plugging away on tour after tour, earning every fan they have, whether it’s Chino Moreno, or the bartender at a local club. During 2016, the group gained traction with their debut album, Tidals, earning coveted spots on tours with Deftones (we did say Chino is a fan), and Refused. Not long after, they caught the attention of Ipecac Recordings, releasing Seismic in 2017, touring relentlessly (again, enjoying word of mouth amongst musicians to land outings with the Mr. Bungle, Quicksand, Pallbearer, etc) and worked right into the studio, releasing Love & Decay in 2019. Consequence praised their “unique amalgam of sounds that is both heavy and heavenly,” Brooklyn Vegan said the band balances the pretty with metallic sludge, and Invisible Oranges said the album “leans on the ambient and krautrock inspired edges of post-metal.” In the wake of their 2020 EP We Are All Atomic, Kerrang! observed, “That a band as heavy and romantic as Spotlights have become a fixture in the rock scene Is impressive; that they’ve done so in such a short period of time is tremendous.”
Late in 2022, the musicians began to carefully piece together what would become Alchemy For The Dead. For the first time, Spotlights recorded in the basement of the Pittsburgh home where Mario and Sarah now reside. With Mario at the helm for production once more, they clung to an ethos that he describes as “don’t do the same thing again”— and they made good on that ambition.
“I had a sound in my head,” he admits. “It was a little punchier rather than being so open. It’s still big, but it’s tight. A lot of this can be attributed to the basement itself. It’s a tiny room with a seven-foot ceiling. The sound you get is tight and controlled. We tried to accentuate the space.”
Siphoning the claustrophobia of their surroundings into a definitive vision, propulsive percussion drives the first single “Algorithmic.” The bass groans and grunts beneath strains of ethereal keys and guitars. Meanwhile, barely repressed intensity spills over on to a turbulent distorted riff offset by melodic high-register harmonies as Mario promises, “It won’t be long,” and Sarah counters, “You’ll learn as you go away”.
“For me, the song has a religious theme to it,” he says. “It touches on the story of resurrection and afterlife in this one narrative, while wondering, does any of it really fucking matter?”
Then, there’s “Sunset Burial.” Crossing the six-minute mark, a tense bass line trudges through an orchestral hum and a head-nodding drumbeat. Otherworldly percussive flourishes shudder as the fits of distortion shake another hypnotic hook.
“There’s a lot of space,” Mario continues. “But it doesn’t just stick to massive riffs the whole time. Lyrically, it’s a darker, self-reflective story about what goes through our minds while waiting to die.” Then, there’s the opening track, “Beyond The Broken Sky.” Its echoes summon the memory of a particular stormy evening early in the band’s career. “We had gone to our rehearsal space in Brooklyn to practice for the second time, as Spotlights, and got stuck in a raging thunderstorm walking back,” recalls Mario. “So, we sat in a bar drinking all night, I woke up hungover the next morning, and wrote that song. It’s been kicking around for eight years, but finally, seemed perfect as an intro for this album. It draws you into what’s about to happen.”
On its heels, “The Alchemist” represents a creative shift. The incessant beeping mirrors life support equipment as the airy vocals practically stalk an uncontainable bass-and-drum rhythm. This chase slips into the undertow of fuzzy feedback.
“It was probably the first track to encapsulate what I wanted sonically for the album. Bigger and fatter upfront tones, and unique drum sounds.” he reveals. “It sparked the initial vibe of the album. It’s a loose take on the old Frankenstein story. A story about a maniac luring people to their death, so he can reanimate them in hopes of finding his true love.
In the end, Spotlights only cement their own niche with a vision like no other.
“If you’re an artist, I hope our music inspires you to make art and push the envelope,” he leaves off. “If you’re not, I hope it inspires you to think differently, and get your mind off the day-to-day bullshit. Even though the themes might seem morbid and dark, as always we hope our music creates positivity. We all need to care for one another and all living beings on this planet, while we can.”