“If you’ve never heard of these guys, it’s because they haven’t made an album in ten years. The Blow Of Furious Winds came out in 2005 and I still remember where you could order the album along with a lighter, a coaster and several other things. In all honesty, I had never actually seen a package like the one they had offered back then and believe that larger labels caught on with these “fan packs” just a few years later. I don’t believe the band have offered a full dining room set with this album, but what you do get are eight rather intelligent and boisterous pieces. One thing that I’ve always liked about Hortus Animae is that they’ve never made the same album twice. The Melting Idols was a very boisterous black metal disc, whereas Waltzing Mephisto was a progressive black metal album with added death metal elements, with The Blow Of Furious Winds being an extreme progressive album. These guys were doing progressive black metal before other bands thought it was cool.
This new album, which did have the much more interesting moniker of “At The End Of Doomsday” first (Why didn’t you keep it?) was originally an Indiegogo project. Even though the currency exchanges were going to be a bit much, I still managed to donate a decent sum into production for this album. I thought the band would have had a larger following however, as only a mere eight or so people donated to the entire project and the band only raised about 300 euros towards the production of the disc. At this point, I wasn’t so sure how the release would fare and if it would still be completed at all. Yet the band persevered and Secular Music finally surfaced in March. Just like the rest of the band’s albums, this is also a one of a kind recording that can’t be compared to anything that they’ve done in the past. Yet, it still feels familiar. This is indeed that same band who gave me such songs as “The Heartfelt Murder” and “A Lifetime Obscurity” but it is also an interesting evolution in the band’s sound; something that hearkens back to the frontman’s gothic work in his namesake act, Martyr Lucifer. Tracks like “Chamber Of Endless Nightmares” and “At The End Of Doomsday” are definitely representations of this, as they’re covered in the blood of Type O Negative, yet still evoke a little bit of funeral doom as well.
So did they trick us and give us a thickly veiled Martyr Lucifer album? Some might try to make that claim, but “God And His Disgusting Children” certainly refutes it with a stark contrast, as it fills with black metal influenced shrieks, deathly growls and a bright clean vocal approach. Though I don’t like the black metal shrieks on the track quite as much as the others, I think that I can learn to like them, especially with as memorable a chorus as that piece has. I don’t want to completely spoil Secular Music for you, but I will tell you that you’ll hear progressive theatrics like never before featured on a Hortus Animae album, in addition to more of those deep vocal croons which have also never been featured throughout the band’s lengthy history. These guys have definitely been keeping in touch with their Opeth, Emperor and Mayhem collections, as this record certainly seems to have taken a key note from those artists and then some. Not to mention that the keyboards love to play with gothic organs, gentle piano keys and seventies prog. It’s not so far off from Hail Spirit Noir or Barren Earth, which is definitely going to make them a must have for extreme prog metal fanatics. Yet the album also contains several small oddities that you’ll just have to hear for yourself!
The most spectacular part about Secular Music might be in its guitar work though, as Hypnos still plays the living hell out of his axe. The man literally lights up the sky and illuminates the cosmos on spectacular tracks like “Impromptu Op. II/Pain Relieved” and “Chamber Of Endless Nightmares.” But didn’t I tell you that said track was also slathered in gothic goo? Well, there’s also some utterly massive guitar solos on it too. And that’s just the kind of massively muscular song structure that you can expect from a band like Hortus Animae. Never have these gentlemen ceased to impress me and this album definitely sits up there as a masterpiece of modern heavy metal music. Though some of the vocals aren’t perfect, the musical performance is uncanny. You’ve never heard anything like it, but it still manages to sound familiar and inspired, rather than just something thrown together for the sake of experimentation alone. Many bands have tried to tinker around in this vein, but only few bands become successful in these extremely dangerous attempts. For some acts, such a move is career suicide. But for Hortus Animae, they just didn’t give a damn and the album sounds better for it. Secular Music is a disc that you’ll want to have on your mantle above the fireplace right next to In The Nightside Eclipse, Bloody Kisses, Blackwater Park and Isa. It’s an absolute must for anyone who’s tired of the same old swill and serves as a high water mark from this obscure Italian diamond in the rough. There’s nothing more to say about this masterpiece other than the fact that it was worth the wait and I’m glad that I’ve lived long enough to hear it. Relish the same feeling of thankfulness when you pick up a copy of this album today. And don’t forget to grab Godless Years while you’re at it! Oh, and by the way… I’m in the booklet!”
(7 Tracks, 58:00)
Originally Posted on New Noise Magazine