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Italy's Hortus Animae (which translates as "garden of the soul") were formed in 1997 by Martyr Lucifer (vocals/bass), Shred Blast Hypnos (guitar), Bless (keyboards), and Thomas (drums). Bringing a highly theatrical sense of burlesque into their gothic/black metal sonic amalgam, they recorded their first demo, the spectacularly named An Abode for Spirit Made Flesh, with the help of temporary second guitarist Larsa, then followed it with 1999's The Melting Idols debut. Local support gigs with Lacuna Coil and Napalm Death, among others, ensued, as did various lineup changes before the arrival of new drummer Grom (ex-Ancient) for the recording of their ambitiously symphonic second effort Waltzing Mephisto, released in 2003. ~ Eduardo Rivadavia