We report on our first results from a mid-infrared spectroscopic study of ISM features in a sample of deeply obscured ULIRG nuclei using the InfraRed Spectrograph (IRS) on the Spitzer Space Telescope. The spectra are extremely rich and complex, revealing absorption features of both amorphous and crystalline silicates, aliphatic hydrocarbons, water ice and gas-phase bands of hot CO and warm C2H2, HCN and CO2. PAH emission bands were found to be generally weak and in some cases absent. The features probe a dense and warm environment, in which crystalline silicates and water ice are able to survive but volatile ices, commonly detected in Galactic dense molecular clouds, cannot. If powered largely by star formation, the stellar density and conditions of the gas and dust have to be extreme not to give rise to the commonly detected emission features associated with starbursts.