I personally discovered Hortus Animae (The Garden Of The Soul) via last album ‘Secular Music in 2014 although the Italian band had been going since 1997. It came from an unlikely source at least for a ‘progressive black metal’ band via Flicknife Records who are more known for things of a psychedelic nature and long-time past affiliations with Hawkwind. Still Frenchie the label boss knows a good tune when here hears one and there were no shortage of them on it. I had not heard anything from the band since, until this dropped through the door in a package of albums from Aesthetic Death and notice it is actually out via no less than 5 different labels. It’s a live album as the title states and recorded at the Tartaros Rock Club in Banska Bystrica Slovakia on October 9th 2016.

The sound of ‘Furious Winds / Locusts’ fill the speakers and one finds themselves struggling to take in the clattered sound mix, especially if they have not heard the tracks which hail back to 2005 previously. Things clear a bit and we get the scope via snarly vocals, bludgeoning drums, keyboards and the occasional solo in the background. The clean vocals here are good and work well amidst the fast and furious cavalcade but it is a bit tricky getting to grips with the band at first. Long flowing leads herald in ‘Chamber Of Endless Nightmares’ and the track with plenty of ‘hey heying’ taking on a more commercial edge no doubt getting the Euro fists pumping and spurring on the Slovakian audience. For those sitting at home though, it’s not an easy job at all getting into the necessary atmosphere and the feeling is that you really had to be there to appreciate it all.

It’s obvious the band are talented, their last album proved that but its most powerful song ‘At The End Of Doomsday’ really lacks the necessary bite here and sounds all a bit lacklustre. Another thing that does this no real favours is a medley of 3 songs, I appreciate they had to cram everything into a 40 minute set and the classic keyboard sounding like it has come straight out of an Italian giallo sounds suitably Simonetti but… Apparently the band are “famed” for a cover of Mayhem classic Freezing Moon blended with Mike Oldfield’s Tubular Bells and no doubt that would have proved a fitting finale but instead they choose to do Slayer’s Raining Blood which let’s face it even if they are joined by headlining band Necronomicon’s Volker “Freddy” Fredrich, we need like a proverbial hole in the head.

Having been around for over 20 years and releasing 4 studio albums and a variety of other things there is no reason a live album is not a valid route for the band to take but it just didn’t do it for me and I can only really see it appealing to the die-hard fans of the band. Nicely packaged and including a poster with loads of live shots though, if you attended the dates and enjoyed the show this is certainly a nice souvenir.

(6/10 Pete Woods)