Black Lotus Records has presented us with a whole string of good to excellent albums of late, just look at the latest releases by THE DUSKFALL, THOU ART LORD or NAER MATARON, to name but a few. So when HORTUS ANIMAE's debut "Waltzing Mephisto" joined my collection, I was intrigued, not least because of the interesting cover. Even when I read that their chosen style was Melodic Black Metal, I was not expecting anything bad.
Now many people complain about the sheer number of Power Metal bands emerging and being there in the scene. I dare to say that with Black Metal and there especially the melodic side, it is at least as "bad", if not "worse". Why do I write this? Is HORTUS ANIMAE just yet another grain of sand on the wide black beach? Yes and no. Yet one thing is for sure, the expression of "Imposing & majestic Black Metal" does only really fit for the latter two words.
The skills of the musicians stands out of question, they can play, no doubt. Also that they have ideas cannot be denied at all. The production is good, too, so what is the bone I have to pick with this Italian quartet? It's the flow, the cohesiveness. The troop around ANCIENT and DOOMSWORD drummer GroM just does not manage to form their abilities and ideas into a really gripping whole, too often parts of the songs appear to have loose ends which, connected the right way, could result in an impressive outcome.
The problem is that HORTUS ANIMAE seem to try too much, try to use too many ideas in too little time, not really fully developing good ideas and intentions, but right away jumping to the next one that in itself would not be bad either, but does not get the time to really ignite and stick to one's memory. As much as I like it, when bands spice up their sound with calm interludes and things like that, they have to fit in and not seem to be placed there on random as it sometimes appears to be.
Now not all of this is bad, don't get me wrong, the almost 12 minute epos "A Lifetime Obscurity" takes us on a rollercoaster ride between Black Metal, some Gothic and some classical music, that shows that these guys definitely know what to do to make a song work, something that many of the other songs unfortunately lack, without necessarily being bad, just somewhat directionless. To mix three songs into one, as happening with MAYHEM's "Freezing Moon", Mike Oldfield's "Tubular Bells" and "Terzo Incontro" by IL BALLETTO DI BRONZO is an interesting idea (again), but turns out to be just a tad bit too much again.
If you like Black Metal and if you like it with tons of ideas in it, check out "Waltzing Mephisto" by all means, I might just not have been in the right state of mind for this album or whatever. But still, despite many good ideas, great musicianship and an equally great production, this work lacks cohesion and flow to me and that has not really changed too much with repeated listens either… (Online July 10, 2003)