Red Harvest

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Red Harvest is the fifth release by Holland's Altar, and not too shabby a death metal album it is, either, despite its positively heinous cover art. Tracks like "The Stress Factor" and "Spikes and Pain" continue to explore the melodic accents first tested on 1999's In the Name of the Father and 2000's Until Heaven Forbids mini-LP while losing little in the way of speed and ferocity. In fact, this is pretty much modern death metal defined, with the mandatory death grunts and blast-beats nicely tempered by surprising time changes and occasional hardcore overtones. The band's anti-Christian stance remains militantly intact and yields one of the album's strongest cuts in "The Unbeliever," featuring a shockingly non-extreme clean-riffing middle section. And the excellent title track represents a career highlight in terms of diversity and maturity, meshing all of the band's new ambitions with their violent past for a very promising future.

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