Band: The Spirit
Album: Sounds from the Vortex
Label: Nuclear Blast
Genre: Melodic Death Metal
Release Date: August 10, 2018
The Spirit are a melodic death metal band hailing from Germany who formed in 2015. Sounds from the Vortex is a re-release of their debut album which came out last fall. Opening with a doom-laced instrumental, the album begins by establishing a sense of foreboding that draws the listener in. It made me excited for what’s to come and set the mood well. The next track continued in the same vein, adding guttural but very discernible lyrics. The vocals are reminiscent of death metal from the early 90s – not incredibly low but very raw. Intricate song structures are abundant, mixing expected death metal string galloping with modern metal and classic metal influences. Cross the Bridge to Eternity starts off with a quieter arpeggio before the distortion kicks in, a brief cessation from the fast-paced riffing and blast beats. The guitar tone is crisp and does not bury either the vocals or the drums. The drumming is varied and technically proficient, up to snuff with the guitarists. They carry the album, giving it its speed. Their absence in certain parts is purposeful and duly noted. The break in Illuminate the Night Sky is one of the only other slower parts of the album where a trance-like effect pedal comes on to entice the listener.
The lyrics instill despair, decay, and doom into the listener. An impending destroyer is a recurrent theme throughout the album. While this impending destruction is implied to bring about agony and untold crises it is also referred to as bringing about the end among other maladies. One interpretation is the end of all mankind or life as we know it by a cosmic threat. Another which I prefer to adhere to is that the end is merely death of the individual – not by any extraterrestrial or sea-monster but by ordinary means of disease and age. Such an end is its own agony. Another theme is what waits after death, with eternal fire and damnation being what the lyricist expects. Additional mysticism surrounds the lyrics as they are not so specific and possibly draw from various dark mythos.
Not much is known about The Spirit as the band members are known solely by their initials. What we do know is that they hail from Saarbrücken, a small city in Western Germany bordering France. This place was unknown to me until I began doing research for this review. The city is an old medieval city, known today for its Baroque castle. Notably, the city was the site of the first battle in the Franco-Prussian War in the middle of the 19th century. It was likewise a battleground in WWI and subsequently occupied by France until a referendum was held in the city and the residents voted overwhelmingly to rejoin Germany in 1935 (despite a small portion of the population favoring to rejoin Germany only after the Nazis were out of power), and was subsequently heavily bombed in WWII. In more recent history, it experienced a bomb attack in 1999 targeting a controversial Wehrmacht Exhibit. The controversy arose from the exhibit’s conclusion that the entirety of the German armed forces during WWII (the Wehrmacht) participated in a war of annihilation.
I believe the history of a city can have a profound effect on the music made there, especially one so marred with war. While it is only conjecture that The Spirit draw lyrical inspiration from their city and country’s history, one can imagine the very real destruction Saarbrücken and its inhabitants faced. I hear The Spirit imbuing that destruction into their music. It adds depth to their craft and might go some ways as to unraveling their mystique.
Overall the instrumentalists are classic death metal players all the way through. The guitars are fast and powerful, injected with enough melody and leads to reward the attentive listener. They are nearly always distorted but each note is perceptible. The album is lean at 38:00 and only seven songs but this gives it just enough staying power without recycling ideas. However, some songs do seem to blend together and become difficult to differentiate. For this reason it becomes difficult to pick out a standout track among the seven. It would be nice to see more experimentation on their sophomore album. Follow the roads set by softer passages and instrumental breaks a little bit further and see where they go. Challenge the vocalist to go outside his comfort zone to create some more varied performances. These are nitpicks to a really good album. The Spirit’s strength is creating a cohesive unit that sounds like it was meant to be listened to as a whole. In this case, the sum is greater than its parts.
1. Sounds from the Vortex
2. Cosmic Fear
3. The Clouds of Damnation
4. Cross the Bridge to Eternity
5. Illuminate the Night Sky
6. The Great Mortality
7. Fields of the Unknown
Total Playing Time: 38:02