without Internet Explorer,
in 1280 x 960 resolution
This stands out as an island of brilliance in Broken Hope's mostly dull catalog, and it's especially remarkable given its 1995 release date. In the midst of death metal's absolute nadir in quality comes this mostly-ignored borderline masterpiece of abstract, technical death metal, and it came from a band that previously was content with copying Lividity and writing songs about felching vampires. It seems that no one knows or cares about this album, which is a real tragedy considering how enduring this music manages to be despite its era of origin.
It seems that around the mid-'90s, a lot of death metal bands were jumping ship from their traditional sound due to lackluster sales and the pulling of support from labels like Roadrunner. Most of the time these attempted experiments resulted in outright failure (with Morbid Angel's odious 'Domination' as perhaps the greatest example of all), but Broken Hope's 'Loathing' is an example of exactly how it should be done. The band strove to achieve a unique and creative sound and succeeded completely where so many others failed, and it's surprising that it doesn't get more attention than it does. Abandoning their fairly typical oldschool death metal sound, Broken Hope adopts on this LP a style of almost progressive death metal with definite notes taken from Atheist and Gorguts, with technical, abstract riffing dominating the sound alongside creative drumming and excellent use of bass guitar. I don't know if it was a fluke or what, but damn if it isn't a fine piece of work.
The riffs are no longer simple chug/tremolo affairs, but harrowing, somewhat melodic patterns of unusual almost proggy notes supported by a croaking, sardonic bass that pops out occasionally for a fill before combining with the guitars again. Clean guitar pops up frequently to break up the chunks of pure death metal. The speed of the music rests at around an upper midpace, giving the compositions space to breathe but still propel themselves along at a decent clip. This is a very riff-centric album, and the vocals are pushed back into a supporting rhythmic role more than the dominating force that they were on previous albums. Rhythms stop and start frequently in new configurations while the guitars set the mood of each passage. This album seems entirely themed on abstract thought rather than the rather simplistic gore of previous releases, and it's actually all the better for it; it seems that Broken Hope are best when they're actually trying rather than repeating symbols endlessly. It's hard to articulate the sound of this album precisely as there's nothing that sounds quite like it; perhaps a bit of Disincarnate here and there, but this is mostly very unique.
I suppose this is what happens when you take an oldschool death metal band and make them listen to Cynic for a week. It has all the right progressive notes of some of the bands of that era without sacrificing brutality or inaccessibility; there's no point on this album where you feel like you're listening to Pantera gone death metal. It's an extremely worthwhile release that's been unfortunately forgotten by most of the metal scene, and I highly recommend that those interested give this a try. It certainly deserves more attention than it gets.
Yet another technical brutal death metal release arises from the ashes of more unpolished gore-grind material. Unlike previous albums, Loathing is a release of considerable tightness, variation, and interesting twists and hooks that set truly great death metal bands apart from shallow imitators.
The guitars here are flawless in their execution of atonal death metal meanderings, similar to the anti-melodic lines of mid-era Cannibal Corpse, Monstrosity, or any other famous death metal band from the mid 90’s. However, the melodic lines feature an unusually high amount of squealing harmonics, pitch bends, and bizarre phrase timings that remind the listener of that masterful work of off-kilter death metal, Immolation’s ‘Here in After.’ There is also a nice peppering of synth samples that add an element of the unexpected and unique to sometimes overly muddy technical riffing that can be overwhelming in its unpredictable predictability. Overall, this sampling of brutal guitar technicality is very advanced in its knowledge of riff and song construction, easily moving between traditional dynamics, stop/start syncopations, and pacing breaks and refrains. The bass mostly follows the guitars as on any release of this period, but there are moments when it shines through as the separate instrument it is capable of being, adding considerable depth to already tired power chords and palm-muted atonal attacks of endless variety.
Drumming here is perfectly precise and rhythmic, punctuating the album with accents upon accents above and beyond more typical blasts, fills, and double-bass work. While not on the level of masters of the Genre like Hoglan’s work with Death or Sandoval’s work with Morbid Angel, it does that most interestingly common yet admirable trait of death metal turning a human drummer into a machine of lopsided syncopated brutal rhythms. Guttural gurgling grunts ooze over the tight mix of the other instruments, containing rhythm but nicely flowing into the cracks of an otherwise sharp production to provide an excellent death metal sound. The vocals are not incredibly unique, but do their job and do it well. There is no talking or singing, just brutality.
The overall attack of purposefully off-balance technical death metal here is executed with immense musical ability. While some songs go on for extended periods with nothing overly memorable, there will always be one or two startlingly fresh ideas to bring the song to a higher musical plane than other imitators of the genre. The instrumental track, ‘A Window to Hell,’ is the only mediocre insincere track on the album, trying too hard to add a bit of mysterious Morbid Angel-type ambient atmosphere to a death metal release. The execution and scant tones that are present in this instrumental are not really evocative of anything except a b-movie, which is not a terrible thing, just relatively uninspired. The opening song, ‘Siamese Screams,’ is an excellent intro to this album, and possibly the highlight of the entire work.