The Spirit – Sounds From The Vortex – Album Review

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Artist: The Spirit

Album Title: Sounds From The Vortex

Label: Nuclear Blast

Date of Release: 10 August 2018

In recent weeks, I have had an unprecedented level of inspiration and enthusiasm to write reviews in every spare minute that I have had. One of the reasons for that is the sheer quality of music that is currently being unleashed upon the world. With music of such a high quality, I feel obligated yet excited to keep the keyboard well used and warm to the touch.

The latest in a long line of worthy albums to go under my personal microscope is the debut release, ‘Sounds From The Vortex’ from a band by the name of The Spirit. Formed in 2015, this is a very new band on the block, but based on this first release, they show a great deal of promise for the future. For that matter, and to be more accurate, they actually deliver the goods right from the off.

‘Sounds From The Vortex’, a debut that was initially independently released in 2017 in small numbers, also strongly suggests that the Swedish quartet that comprise The Spirit find themselves in the wrong generation. That’s because the music on this record has more than one foot firmly embedded in the past. But this is in no way a criticism because The Spirit manage to somehow sound relevant in today’s music world whilst also paying a warm and authentic homage to the past. I suspect it has a great deal to do with their obvious abilities and songwriting nous.

I do wonder, however, whether the word ‘warm’ in the preceding paragraph might be a little misplaced, because when it comes to the actual music here, warmth is not the description that immediately springs to mind. This is the kind of dark and foreboding Scandinavian black-laced death metal that was rife during the 1990s. In fact, the first band that popped into my head when I first listened to this record was Dissection, thanks largely to the way in which the guitars sit at the heart of the music, injecting malevolence as well as bleak melody in a not-too-dissimilar way to Jon Nodveidt and co. back in their pomp. Needless to say, this is a very welcome attribute, one that is then seized upon and developed nicely through each of the seven tracks on ‘Sounds From The Vortex’.

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The record kicks off with the ultimate 90s death metal atmospheric intro, as ominous buzzing guitars are gently introduced above the sound of windswept wilderness. The lead guitar melody is slow-paced and frosty in the extreme, as if ushering in some kind of malevolent being from the underworld. The drum rolls are nicely placed and you get an uncomfortable inexorable feeling that is actually quite intoxicating. In my case, I’m transported back to my mid-teens with alarming clarity, as the title-track instrumental comes to a close.

Without so much as a pause for breath, ‘Cosmic Fear’ blasts into being, a whirlwind of breakneck drumming and swirling staccato twin guitar melodies, cold as ice yet surprisingly catchy . The pace slackens, allowing a mammoth groove to break out which only further enhances the song. When the vocals finally make an appearance, I hear a hint of Ihsahn in the gritty but intelligible growl which fits the mid-tempo stomp that ensues, broken up by some increases in pace created in tandem by the guitars and drums together.

‘The Clouds of Damnation’ is a longer track and so is able to play around with even more pronounced variations within their core sound. As such, we’re treated to sections of all-out black metal attack, more ponderous slower-paced material and plenty of sadistic melodic intent.

There genuinely isn’t a weak track to be heard on ‘Sounds From The Vortex’ and as such, it is almost impossible for me to single out any of the seven tracks for special praise. That said, I do have a soft spot for the up-tempo and slightly more upbeat and catchier ‘Cross The Bridge To Eternity’. There’s even something approximating a chorus to be heard as it displays more of a playful, cheeky edge to it whilst remaining heavy and unforgiving in places. But the final guitar lead at the death is the piece de resistance.

Elsewhere, ‘Illuminate The Night Sky’ sets off at thunderous pace and impressively keeps it up almost entirely throughout. As the name might suggest, ‘The Great Mortality’ has a sombre feel to it at the outset before launching into yet more uncompromising blast beats and a controlled cacophony of extreme metal. The melodies that are introduced on the eve of the mid-way mark are inspired, whilst the slower, groovier sections are a dark delight, everything coming together to offer another cracking song.

Before listening to ‘Sounds From The Vortex’, I didn’t realise that I had a hankering for the old days of Swedish black/death metal. I did, as it turns out, and The Spirit were on hand to perfectly sate my hidden thirst. If you’ve ever enjoyed anything that this underground genre has delivered over the past 20-30 years, I urge you to seek this record out and give it a spin. You’ll think it’s 1993 all over again.

The Score of Much Metal: 8.75

If you’ve enjoyed this review, you can check out my others from 2018 and from previous years right here:

2017 reviews
2016 reviews
2015 reviews

Aethereus – Absentia
Unanimated – Annihilation
Manticora – To Kill To Live To Kill
Rivers of Nihil – Where Owls Know My Name
Halcyon Way – Bloody But Unbowed
Michael Romeo – War Of The Worlds, Part 1
Redemption – Long Night’s Journey Into Day
Distorted Harmony – A Way Out
Tomorrow’s Eve – Mirror of Creation III – Project Ikaros
Atrocity – Okkult II
Lux Terminus – The Courage To Be
Kataklysm – Meditations
Marduk – Viktoria
Midas Fall – Evaporate
The Sea Within – The Sea Within
Haken – L-1VE
Follow The Cipher – Follow The Cipher
Spock’s Beard – Noise Floor
Ihsahn – Amr
The Fierce And The Dead – The Euphoric
Millennial Reign – The Great Divide
Subsignal – La Muerta
At The Gates – To Drink From The Night Itself
Dimmu Borgir – Eonian
Hekz – Invicta
Widow’s Peak – Graceless EP
Ivar Bjørnson and Einar Selvik – Hugsjá
Frequency Drift – Letters to Maro
Æpoch – Awakening Inception
Crematory – Oblivion
Wallachia – Monumental Heresy
Skeletal Remains – Devouring Mortality
MØL – Jord
Aesthesys – Achromata
Kamelot – The Shadow Theory
Barren Earth – A Complex of Cages
Memoriam – The Silent Vigil
Kino – Radio Voltaire
Borealis – The Offering
W.E.T. – Earthrage
Auri – Auri
Purest of Pain – Solipsis
Susperia – The Lyricist
Structural Disorder – …And The Cage Crumbles In the Final Scene
Necrophobic – Mark of the Necrogram
Divine Realm – Nordicity
Oceans of Slumber – The Banished Heart
Poem – Unique
Gleb Kolyadin – Gleb Kolyadin
Apathy Noir – Black Soil
Deathwhite – For A Black Tomorrow
Conjurer – Mire
Jukub Zytecki – Feather Bed/Ladder Head
Lione/Conti – Lione/Conti
Usurpress – Interregnum
Kælling – Lacuna
Vinide – Reveal
Armored Dawn – Barbarians In Black
Long Distance Calling – Boundless
In Vain – Currents
Harakiri For The Sky – Arson
Orphaned Land – Unsung Prophets And Dead Messiahs
Tribulation – Down Below
Machine Head – Catharsis
Bjorn Riis – Coming Home EP
Twilight’s Embrace – Penance EP
Bloodshot Dawn – Reanimation
Rise of Avernus – Eigengrau
Arch Echo – Arch Echo
Asenblut – Legenden
Bleeding Gods – Dodekathlon
Watain – Trident Wolf Eclipse

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