Typically when one thinks of melodic death metal, images of the Scandinavian region usually come to mind. There’s also a particular sound, the high pitched growling and onslaught of kick drums that just don’t quit! Not to mention the unmistakably scratchy tone of the guitars, traditionally provided by the Boss HM-2 guitar pedal with all settings maxed out into any amplifiers clean channel. It all amounts to a dramatic portrait of isolation, frost and terror.
One of the progenitors of the genre, Sweden’s At The Gates, pioneered this sound and it’s colloquially known as “The Swedish touch”. This torch has been brandished by many influential bands from those parts such as The Haunted, Hypocrisy, Dark Tranquility, Entombed and Carcass.
It is a characteristic of sound that you certainly would have trouble replicating outside of that decrepit womb. Yet somehow, German band The Spirit have perfectly encapsulated these qualities and have faithfully produced their own take on it in the form of the album “Sounds from the Vortex”. Not only have they done this, but they have put in a heck of effort behind this release!
Originally being self released at the tail end of 2017, the band went as far as setting up their own record label to distribute the album in addition to funding the recording and producing it themselves. They continued this endeavour until Nuclear Blast decided to give them a well deserved hand and re-release the album with all new artwork from Costin Chioreanu who has designed cover art for some of the bands previously mentioned as well as Isahn, Deicide, Possessed, Ulver and tons of others.
What they deliver is what is expected, authentic Melodic Death Metal. All of the expected hallmarks are present and the band has kept the skimping to a minimum. The production as a whole is something I really enjoyed a lot! It’s a highly natural sounding recording that comes off as a polished but raw product.
The guitars are characteristically scratchy/fizzy but dont sound gross, more reminiscent of Black Metal than directly taking on the characteristic of typical Melo Death without going into 80’s boom-box recorded territory. The riffs are clever and the solos are pretty good, they don’t shred but that isn’t really a requirement. The bass is understated in the mix yet has an intricate feel to it. It purrs on underneath everything while having a secret life of its own, not strictly sticking to supporting the guitar but balancing feel with function. The drums do the MDM thing here, they are great and pound on relentlessly. While virtuosity and extreme variation isn’t a feature of the album, the drums establish the feeling and mood for everything else to build off. Tonally, it’s a natural sounding drum mix that is full of flaws from a restrictive technical perspective but ultimately I feel it takes a lot of talent to write interesting and impactful drum parts with such restriction.
Vocally things are very straight-forward, there is 1 tone and not a great deal of phonetic variation. To be completely honest I think this is the area where a bit more thought could have been employed. There’s lots of rhyming, broken flow and predictable sing songyness going on which isn’t favorable in my opinion. That being said, the foundations for great vocals are present.
The album clocks out at roughly 40 minutes or so, a satisfying length for what’s on offer here.
Overall this is a competent package not without its flaws, the band have put a lot of effort into getting the tone and feeling of MDM right and have succeeded wonderfully in the sense that the production values take on a timeless feel. The arrangements are thoughtful and the repetition is kept to essential. It’s not overly original or ground breaking, but certainly deserving of a place within the music collection of anyone who considers themselves a fan of good old-fashioned Scandinavian-style scree-ing.
GRAB YOUR COPY OF “SOUNDS FROM THE VORTEX” HERE
CHECK OUT OUR INTERVIEW WITH FRONTMAN MT HERE