Red Harvest

Altar

Spitzenburg Records / Crash Music, 2001

http://http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Altar_(Dutch_band)

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 09/17/2001

It's no secret that I like heavy metal - I have ever since high school way back in the mid to late '80s. And it's no secret that, while I might not always agree with the messages a band sends out, I like thrash/death/speed metal, depending on what particular tag is being hung on the genre that particular day.

But the more I listen to some of the death metal out there, the more I begin to think that precious little ground is being broken by bands around the world. The formula is pretty much the same: band plays as fast and as loud as they can, band sings about murder, rape, torture, hatred for Christianity, or any combination of this list.

Altar, a five-piece act from The Netherlands, does make one step in the right direction on their latest disc Red Harvest, but for the most part, the group - vocalist Edwin Kelder, guitarists Marcel Verdurmen and Richard Ludwig, bassist Nils Vos and drummer Skoerd Visch (who recently left the group) - follows in the same patterns as so many other bands I've listened to.

The one thing that strikes me early about this album is that Visch's drum work, especially anything in the cymbal department, either wasn't being played very strongly (a suspicion I honestly doubt) or that they weren't mixed high enough. Without that key element to the drums - an element which is fixed later in the disc - Visch's playing often sounds like so much whack-whack-whack while the band plays on. The backbone of the group needed to be stronger on songs like "Sick" and "Spikes And Pain".my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

The other thing that sticks out is that, for the most part, Kelder is a vocalist whom you can understand a lot of the time without having to resort to the lyric sheet. That being said, it doesn't feel like Kelder is challenging himself enough as a vocalist. He seems to be locked into one particular style of delivery, and while it works a lot of the time, it just doesn't feel like Kelder is discovering his true potential as a vocalist.

Ironically enough, the track that works the best on Red Harvest is one which features no vocals at all. "To My Friends (RIP)" is a track which demonstrates the true musicianship of Altar - and while I know using the word "musicianship" to describe a death metal band might be an oxymoron to some people, Altar shows there's some real substance to their music. (With five full-length and one mini-album under their belts, one wonders why Altar would need to even prove this.)

The bulk of Red Harvest, though, is a pretty typical death metal album, filled with venom aimed against God and those who believe in Him. (It is interesting, though, to hear a song like "The Unbeliever," which slams someone who once shared the views of Altar, but have apparently changed their views after meeting a woman. Lyrically, this track is pretty engrossing.) If you're a diehard fan of death metal, chances are you'll find plenty to enjoy - but for the casual listener, it's pretty much the same anger and hatred we've heard all along.

Oh, this isn't to say that Red Harvest is a bad album; it does have some enjoyable moments, and is a nice way to release the aggression built up over the course of the day. But Altar doesn't try to set themselves apart from the rest of the crowd - and if you don't try to impress your own individuality, you tend to get swallowed up by the sea from whence you came.

2001 Christopher Thelen and "The Daily Vault". All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Spitzenburg Records / Crash Music, and is used for informational purposes only.

Rating: C+

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© 2001 Christopher Thelen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Spitzenburg Records / Crash Music, and is used for informational purposes only.