Spectres – “Utopia” LP Review and Interview
Vancouver, British Columbia’s Spectres are set to release their long awaited third full length LP, Utopia, this Spring (2016). The North American release will be on Deranged, while the European release will happen thanks to Sabotage Records on March 18 (On that date the Spectres will also be playing live at a special CVLT Nation event with Sad Lovers and Giants here).
Utopia is an 8-song offering of gloomy and compelling gothy postpunk that shows the five piece evolving further along the road to more complex melodies, guitar lines, and singer Brian Gustavson pushing his vocals into higher ranges, adding a more dynamic cast to the overall song selections here. Put bluntly, Utopia is a magical postpunk masterpiece: while the Spectres’ earliest EPs and songs had a gritty Warsaw/Crisis feel, Utopia is a lush and shimmering document of doomy greatness, one of the crowning albums of the current postpunk and deathrock revival. It’s more firmly in the ballpark of bands like The Sound or the early 4AD “lush” postpunk bands of the early 1980s than the band’s earlier material.
In an interview I did with the Spectres for CVLT Nation in 2012 (Jesus, I can’t believe it’s been that long), I asked singer Brian and guitarist Zach Batalden how they would describe their sound to others. “I usually just say ‘Dark Punk,'” Zach responded. “To avoid having to give a lengthy description of influences that most people have never heard of or care about.”
Around the time of 2007’s “Cold War’ EP, “dark punk” wasn’t a bad way to describe the band, considering they came out of the same basic cultural matrix of bands from the Pacific Northwest that had produced The Prids, The Estranged, Modern Creatures, The Observers, and was producing other postpunky acts like Arctic Flowers – many of whom had come from the DIY hardcore/punk scene.
Utopia is the band’s 3rd LP and was recorded in 2015, but has been delayed for various reasons (see chat with guitarist Zach below). It showcases an evolution towards a more nuanced sound – the vocals are more echoey, the guitars feel more atmospheric and shimmery, and Nathan Szilagyi’s driving bass provides a firm underpinning for each track. On tracks like the penultimate “Strange Weather” – which was originally supposed to be the title of their last LP – Mitch Allen’s drumming chops shine through brilliantly.
Zach of the Spectres was interviewed in February, 2016.
When is Utopia coming out?
Zach: Utopia will be released in Europe on Sabotage Records on March 18. It will be released in North America on Deranged Records, though we have been given no release date. We are still waiting (as of Feb 23rd) on test presses as the pressing plant (quality) had some kind of major machinery malfunction last Summer and is amazingly behind schedule. At this point, we are saying Spring 2016, but we don’t know anything.
When did you all start writing the new LP? When was it finished?
Zach: Utopia has really been in the works since we finished Nothing to Nowhere. We wrote “Vertigo,” “Figures in the Sand” and “Strange Weather” not long after Nothing to Nowhere came out, and had begun working on the song “Crosses and Wreathes” when some stuff happened with our former drummer and he ended up leaving the band.
Has the lineup changed at all between the last LP and this one?
Zach: We spent about two years figuring out who our new drummer would be, and that halted progress on writing new material. We made an unsuccessful attempt at recording those four aforementioned songs with our interim drummer, original guitarist and long time friend Steve Hanker, but it didn’t really work and Hanker was shortly thereafter replaced by Mitch Allen, who was also playing in Pura Manía at the time.
We knew when Mitch joined the band that we’d finally found the right person for the job and began to work on new material and plan for the next LP. We began studio work on Utopia in November of 2014 and did a few sessions throughout the winter, completing it in February of 2015. There was a minor mixing error that hung up our sending things off to be pressed until the beginning of May 2015, and we’ve been waiting ever since.
Thank you for your time, Zach!
Spectres have a Facebook page here.