If you’re used to judging a band by its name and album cover then you may already have decided to skip past The Spirit – but that, my friend, would have been a mistake. Because Sounds From the Vortex is actually some pretty solid black metal sitting firmly in the Dissection camp with a bit of Immortal and Mgla thrown in at the edges for good measure. You may even very well feel like you have heard tracks like The Clouds Of Damnation before somewhere (and almost certainly if you’ve ever picked up a copy of Storm of the Light’s Bane or Reinkaos). But it’s a good example of a track where The Spirit punches well above its weight for a debut album and then proceeds to crank things up to the promised Vortex of sound in the final three minutes that moves this band rapidly from the also-rans to one-to-watch pile in within a few breathless riffs.

And while The Spirit’s influences are writ large in the first two or three tracks – all done with impressive aplomb and the sincerity of a band that knows originality is not the main ingredient – as the album progresses it’s easy to forget there is a heavy, if honestly presented, dose of hero worship here. The pace and pressure begins to increase to some cardiac-challenging levels to the point where it’s The Spirit steps out of the shadows of its forebears and begins to form its own blackened skin. Throw in some soaring tremolos and a few goosebump-inducing melodies rising out of the plunging black metal crescendos, and you begin to get the feeling that the The Spirit are only just getting going.

By the seventh and final track, Fields Of The Unknown, the question arises as to why the band devoted the first two and a half tracks to Strömstad’s infamous suicidal son when there’s clearly plenty of ammo left in the blackened and smoke-charred cannon to aim a little higher. I counter The Spirits liberal but well-executed use of black metal cliches with one of my own: Sounds From The Vortex is one of those black metal albums that reminds you just how many incredibly solid black metal bands there are out there waiting to be cruelly overlooked. And, dare I add, it’s also one of those thoroughly enjoyable albums which makes you think that these guys feel like they’re just warming up and the next album could be a cracker.

(7/10 Reverend Darkstanley)