~reviewed by Joel Steudler
Nimbly darting between genres like a devilish waterbug, Hortus Animae has crafted an album of beguiling yet catchy dark metal on their debut Waltzing Mephisto. Their influences are legion, and other bands' styles constantly drift in and out of phase... but Hortus Animae are clearly well versed in making kickass verses. Choruses too. And all the bits in between. As far as largely unoriginal sounding blackish gothy symphonic metal goes, it doesn't get alot better than this.
Waltzing Mephisto plays like a combo-sampler-platter of dark metal tidbits. Ever been to Red Lobster (or your seafood eatery of choice) and couldn't decide if you wanted the shrimp or scallops or orange roughy, but knew you wanted some clams and hush puppies for sure? Well, like their magical combo plates that give all you could ever want and more, this album will satisfy indecisive consumers. You get a big helping of Dimmu Borgir, a smattering of Paradise Lost, a dollop of finely aged Sepultura, a side of Arcturus, and a thick, steamy broth of Hortus Animae to hold it all together. Come to think of it, that sounds more like a stew than a combo platter. So much for that analogy.
In case that last paragraph made no sense to you, allow me to clarify. Waltzing Mephisto is chock full of ferociously speedy riffing... but said riffs waver between black metal chaos and thrashy crunch. Amidst some Arcturus-ish craziness (recalling 'La Masquerade Infernale'), you'll find a familiar 'wall of sound' approach right off Page 1 of the Dimmu Borgir playbook. Luckily, Satan gave the Hortusites the good sense to vary the pace here and there... and that they do, often with stunning success. The outstanding track "Springtime Deaths" seamlessly transitions from doom metal to black metal to thrash and back, and includes some totally unexpected thrash soloing and a piano interlude and outro. Every instrument but the bass shines at one time or another, and all performances are quite good- occasionally verging on excellent. Even Martyr Lucifer's monster rasp is strangely invigorating, perhaps because of the fervor with which it hisses out of his leathery air bladders.
Fervor, actually, is what makes Waltzing Mephisto less of a rote repetition of numerous genres and more a rollicking jaunt across pleasingly familiar territory. Not even the trite, cartoonish Satanic overtones can keep me from sporting an evil grin and enjoying this album quite a lot. The strong songwriting, varied instrumentation, and constant flow of brutal riffs keep the album interesting the whole way through. Heck, they even manage to work in Mike Oldfield's "Tubular Bells", which is not a melody I'd expected to hear in a release like this. Hortus Animae mixes crazy skill with just plain crazy and sets it all to the familiar strains of dark metal's greatest hits, making Waltzing Mephisto worthy of a spot on all metal fans' dance cards.
Hortus Animae is:
Hortus Animae Official Website:
Black Lotus records:
The End Records (US):