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Broken Hope is a name associated with what can be dubbed the transitional era of old school death metal, particularly exemplified in the turn towards a more brutal sound and a gore fixated lyrical and visual aesthetic as seen in Cannibal Corpse's seminal early albums. They never quite achieved the same level of notoriety as their zombie-steeped rivals, but it wasn't for any lack of shock value, to speak nothing for the insanely deep and forbidding vocal presence of Joe Ptacek. After being off the scene for over a decade and seeing the world of death metal change rather dramatically, the old beast decided to give it another go and reformed with a new vocalist and a largely newer instrumental lineup, and a new sound that may be somewhat unrecognizable to most older fans of this band, though fairly familiar to anyone who has been following where the more extreme fringes of death metal have ended up.
On the surface, Omen Of Disease bears more resemblance to the sort of exaggerated brutality, put forth by the likes of Guttural Secrete with a dash of the otherworldly typified in Disgorge. As best as can be explained, the album art features a creature that somewhat resembles a giant arachnid from Starship Troopers crossed with distorted human features right out of a Resident Evil boss' appearance, robbing graves of their corpses. The music, in most respects, tends to resemble most of the characteristics of the implicit style associated with the imagery, exhibiting the high speed blasting and lead guitar happy technical character that falls just a tad short of Decrepit Birth and Necrophagist. However, the riff work and the vocal approach is of a slightly older variety, having more in common with Suffocation and Dying Fetus than the totally inhuman character of the various bands coming out of Italy, Eastern Europe and Russia over the past 6 or 7 years.
While the melding of modern brutal and maybe an occasional slam element with turn of the millennium technical death metal doesn't quite come off as fully novel, the unique middle ground that is accomplished does yield a handful of solid slabs of musical violence. After getting past the rocky start this album suffers on the intro track "Septic Premonitions", which sees the band resorting to a redundant and disjointed electronic instrumental that is mercifully short, but inappropriately tries to lead off a supernaturally tinged album with a modern Sci-Fi character, things get a fair bit better. Once this album actually gets going, the songs tend to be on the shorter side yet so loaded up with ideas that they seem longer, kicking off with a more traditional Cannibal Corpse inspired thrasher in "Womb Of Horrors", chased by a more technical blaster reminiscent of Suffocation in "Ghastly", which also features a sudden, almost mid-90s Death inspired keyboard driven section.
As a whole, this is an album that is largely consistent in terms of songwriting, but also stops just short of closing the deal when it comes to being memorable. Though not nearly as bad of an offender as Vital Remains' "Icons Of Evil" and definitely confined to a shorter song format more appropriate for a technically tinged sound, it does tend to fly by without offering much of a point of reference, save a few isolated points of interest on a couple songs where atmosphere plays a role or a fleeting slower groove that sounds halfway between something from Six Feet Under's Haunted or maybe Tomb Of The Mutilated. It is an album that sees an old band trying to play to a younger audience, but it tends to exhibit just a bit more of the older school of brutality prior to the advent of the "tech vs. slam" dichotomy. If anything, the bizarrely gruesome album art may be interpreted as a somewhat deceptive marketing ploy given its implicit correlation to the aforementioned new mode of disseminating tales of gore and horror.
2010 and up has seen a huge streak of old school bands reuniting and trying their hands at crafting a new album, Broken Hope is one of the newer additions in this streak and they almost managed to outdo some of their classic efforts on this, their "debut" reunion album. Omen of Disease is one beast of an album, the revamped Line-up featuring original member Jeremy Wagner and returning bass player Shawn Glass, which is cool, especially seeing how Shawn had some really intense moments on "Loathing", their 1997 album (which I feel is criminally underrated).
The new vocalist Damian Leski (ex-Gorgasm) is a pretty decent replacement for Joe Ptacek (RIP), although he does bring a more modernized, conventional brutal sound to the band. It's certainly not a bad thing, but it can be a bit jarring for anyone who was seriously expecting a return to their first two albums musically. New guitarist Chuck Wepfer has some really cool solos throughout Omen, like the ones you can find in "The Flesh Mechanic", "Give Me The Bottom Half", "Ghastly" and "Predacious Poltergeist", just to name a few, but in my personal opinion I don't really think he matches old guitarist Brian Griffin as far as technicality goes, although it's not a major issue since Chuck can shred pretty damn well too. I do also have to mention the new drummer Mike Miczek, who blasts his way through this album. While that's certainly not a bad thing, it also means that he's not terribly flashy with his playing, opting for a more brutal combination of blast beats, double bass and some "almost but not quite" bland drum fills sprinkled throughout. Don't get me wrong, he's a better drummer than myself but he's just not terribly original or anything like that. Also his blast beats seem kind of on the slow side in parts like in sections of "The Flesh Mechanic" and the title track "Omen Of Disease".
I did notice that track 5, "Rendered Into Lard" features Trevor Strnad doing backing vocals on a few parts, and I thought that was pretty cool, I'm not overly fond of The Black Dahlia Murder but i've always enjoyed the vocals to some extent, so it was a cool surprise. The vocals from Leski can get a bit repetitive after multiple listens, his vocals never really leave the guttural side of the spectrum. It's not really a downside unless you plan on spinning the album multiple times in one day, in which case you might find yourself turning it off around track 8 due to the minorly monotonous vocal performance. Another issue people who were hoping for a return to their earlier sound might have an issue with is the production. It's a very sleek and modern sounding album, with a rather clean feel throughout. Now I don't mind this because I feel like most bands from the early 90's would've killed for one of these sleek modern productions back then, but I can see how it could be considered a turnoff for those seeking a more dirty, gritty vibe like they had featured on their first two albums.
Overall I do enjoy the new Broken Hope record, although I do hope the drummer picks up the pace a bit and the vocals venture out into the higher range every now and again. These seem to be pretty minor flaws when taking in the entire production however, It's honestly great to see that Broken Hope still has what it takes to put out a solid brutal death metal record. It may not be the most technical or the absolute pinnacle of brutality, but it's a damn fine piece of work overall. I appreciate that original guitarist Jeremy Wagner deemed it fit to bring back this monolith of death metal and brought the fans a admirable new album to showcase their potential, Ultimately it could've used a little bit more tweaking, but it's a refreshing listen, and worthy of your time, especially if you find yourself listening to the more brutal side of death metal regularly,
With their gore/horror imagery and particularly brutal brand of death metal during the 90s, Broken Hope remained more or less in the shadow of Cannibal Corpse with which they shared the same label, the mighty Metal Blade Records, even if they were not treated quite the same. The Metal Blade era led to a reissue followed by three albums, The Bowels of Repugnance and Loathing which in my opinion are the most memorable. Dumped by their record label, the Chicago-based group released a last, rather good, album in 1999 that went relatively unnoticed, before throwing in the towel following the split between the group's two heavyweights Brian Griffin and Jeremy Wagner, not to mention the death of the formidable growler Joe Ptacek in 2010 which crushed all hope of the group possibly getting back together.
Without Brian Griffin who has definitively left the group to this day, Jeremy Wagner nonetheless put Broken Hope back together in 2012 with the help of former bassist Shaun Glass. The two formed a quintet with frontman Tom Leski, the former guitarist/vocalist for the incredible Gorgasm, a staple of the post-2000 American brutal death metal scene. After signing a spanking new deal with Century Media, and releasing an album mainly written by Jeremy and devilishly illustrated by Wes Benscoter (Sinister, Mortician), the group undertook a lengthy tour with Deicide and became one of the big hits of the fall of 2013.
Wickedly dubbed Omen of Disease, Broken Hope's sixth offering blasts out of the gates with the powerful Womb of Horrors followed by the excellent track Ghastly, which is without a doubt one of the best of the group's career. The rest of the album is perhaps a bit less noteworthy after those openers, but it goes the distance thanks to the quality of the songwriting and the interpretation as well as the violence of tracks such as Rendered into Lard, with its murderous riffs and head-spinning accelerations, not to mention carefully crafted guitar solos. The good re-recording of Incinerated, from the first album Swamped in Gore, points to the extent of the group's progress since 1991. Moreover, while one of the line-up's ultimate weapons was once Joe 'Eusophagus' Ptacek with one of the deepest voices in the business along with Mortician's Will Rahmer, Tom Leski perfectly picked up the torch with his thick guttural singing style that works well without being exaggerated and jibes ideally with Jeremy Wagner's shredding compositions.
In the fall of 2013, Broken Hope made a successful return on the scene with a good compromise between an old school sound coupled with more modern parameters that placed them solidly within the current American brutal death metal landscape while avoiding overly technical twists and putting the accent on full frontal riffs. Omen of Disease is one of the best of the year and one of the most accomplished along with The Bowels of Repugnance and Loathing. Let's hope that the tour that followed, which was particularly heated due to Deicide frontman Glen Benton's tantrums, did not wear down our group from Chicago.
It can be said Broken Hope were always a crappy band that offered brief glimmers of hope in the form of their instrumentals (Drinking the Ichor was pretty cool). Their boring and monotonous debut was succeeded by a sophomore album which had a couple instrumentals that were better than the NYDM with extra brain damage that was the bulk of their music. They then proceeded to defecate all over whatever little they had to offer by signing to Metal Blade and incorporating mid 90s influences such as trailer park riffs (Pantera) and wigger stomp parts. On this album, Broken Hope return sans the technical pretension of their Loathing and Grotesque Blessings LPs with an album that is more representative of what they always sought to be: the NYDM version of the Wu-Tang Clan.
The first track being just an ambient intro is disappointing enough, considering their acoustic guitar interludes were better than the actual metal content. Womb of Horrors then kicks things off with the disposable Unique Leader riffs that any other death metal band after 1998 would play and goes into a wiggerish "swagger" riff soon after. It's everything that made Repulsive Conception awful but now all those hip-hop derived rhythm based groove riffs are sandwiched between riffs that are even more hopelessly generic. None of the songs match their themes of disease, with the "swaggering", "down with the streets" riffs being more suggestive of fat guys tired of waiting in line for their donuts and Olde English. The song structures are more of what made the existence of deafkore a terrible certainty by 1995: random blasting part, annoying hip-hop on guitars groove/mosh part, random trem stupidity, and then another hip-hop on guitars groove riff to end the song. Random solos that don't have any of the musicality of what was attempted during their "after some guitar lessons" mid 90s era is another step down. It's all organized in a meaningless fashion. Some songs even go from wigger "slamz" parts to a doomy dirge riff for no reason at all. This kind of music is the reason people don't want to listen to death metal after 1995. It's like trendy Roadrunner Records MTV garbage dressed up to appear as "rebellious bad guy" underground music for people with no discerning taste (explains the Century Media deal). Angry pickup truck driver noise.
How many more of these albums need to exist? A lot of dumb bands have come up during the years (Lividity, Stabwound, Mortal Decay) that arguably contribute as much as Broken Hope have during their career (not much). The only difference is Broken Hope were around since death metal's heyday, but they never reached the level of musicality of their peers. So they came up with this wiggerfied groove abomination that is dressed up to appear as death metal to the uncritical listener. If you need "beatdownz" parts in music that won't give you brain damage (or as much), get Pierced from Within and leave this behind. Everything that's bad about death metal after 1993 is on this album. Avoid it.