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Fear & Loathing in the House of Death - 95%

bayern, May 8th, 2017

Broken Hope are often forgotten when talking about US death metal; at least I rarely recall them which is a real shame I have to admit. I guess a main reason for their somewhat low profile is the band’s birthplace, Chicago, which has never been the most treasured cradle of filth… sorry, metal in the world. Consequently it wasn’t a problem for the guys to become the premier death metal practitioner over there by the mid-90s with a string of intense, inspired rough death metal opuses. They didn’t place them on the top of the death metal Olympus, but at least they won them the reputation of a reliable, stolid outfit with a brutal, squashing sound.

The second half of the 90’s started with “Loathing”, a surprisingly technical achievement seeing the guys joining the more serious side of the movement in the company of Suffocation, Monstrosity, and Morbid Angel. The album reviewed here was supposed to consolidate the very positive impression made with its predecessor, and establish The Hopes on the forefront of the technical death metal movement. Did it manage to achieve that? You bet it did, with flying colours at that.

The guys make no mistake starting the opener “Of Wolf and Sheep” with the most dazzling “salad” of technical riffage this side of same year’s Necrophagist’s “Onset of Putrefaction; riffs that wind in and out of existence in the most consummate manner imaginable. More orthodox aggressive passage commences with friendlier grooves “humming” on the side, a gimmick already introduced on the first two Dying Fetus efforts with which the band here must have been acquainted. Stunning technicality and affirmative groovy chugs walk hand in hand on “Chemically Castrated” as well which lets the latter in first until a stupendous intricate rifforama rises out of the blue in the middle putting half the pleiad of death metal cohorts on the field at the time to eternal shame. “Necro-Fellatio” gives more freedom to the fascinating technical rhythms to win over the audience, and they do exactly that marching remorselessly creating vortexes of exquisite steam-roller riffage; the thick grooves re-emerge along with great bass support making this composition a wonder to listen to not without the help of the superb super-technical epitaph. “Christ Consumed” “consumes” all the past and present technical metal wannabes with just a single sweep of dazzling brutality provided as “an appetizer” the abrupt time-signatures making the listener dizzy also satisfying the headbangers thanks to fast, intense configurations; the dramatic intricate accumulations are simply overwhelming as there isn’t much room for any groovy digressions although there’s a short doomy section inserted.

Christ consumed, Christ crucified, Christ resurrected… after this absolute stunner, after which even masters like Atheist and Gorguts would stand humbled, “War-Maggot” has the ungrateful task to keep the inordinately high level up, and it does to the fans’ amazement, with more delectable complexity which now comes assisted by twisted melodic tunes, the band constantly switching from one tempo to another the technical riff-formulas literally never-ending, overwriting the several attempts at compromising, more peaceful chugs which simply have no place here. “Earth Burner” is brutal technical death at its less bridled this violent stride broken by a slab of elephantine grooves. “Infernal Inferno” begins as a forgotten piece from Cathedral’s “Forest of Equilibrium”, but this doomy gloom can’t possibly last very long on an album like this, and later on the music naturally becomes more intricate and more dynamic with a few aggressive appreggios putting an end to all ventures into the aggro realm. “Razor Cunt” stomps and pounds its way before dramatic technical riffs appear, lashing in a consistent mid-tempo with more puzzling arrangements arriving later to bewitch the listener who can’t help but admire this labyrinthine elaborate tapestry amazingly sustained without a single dash of speed. “Hate Machine” tries to compensate for the marginally more peaceful nature of its predecessor, and brutalizes the environment with strikes of fast, aggressive leaps and bounds without too much unorthodox show-off.

In the end it would be difficult to decide which album is better, this one or “Loathing”; the former has obviously enchanted a bigger number of fans due to its more linear adherence to the technical death metal canons. The one here has pulled back a certain amount of conservative metal heads due to the application of chugs and grooves, but if one wanted to survive the “deadly” 90’s, they had to pay, at least a passing, tribute to these charmingly ridiculous elements. What’s worth of respect is that Broken Hope have done it in the most intriguing and most compelling manner inserting these gimmicks amongst the virtuous whirlwinds of technicality thus providing a kind of relief from the latter’s abundant supply. Their symbiosis is way superior, needless to add much more technical, than the one stirred by Dying Fetus, and far less predictable than the disciplined, well organized deathcore initiations on Dim Mak’s “Enter the Dragon”. If the Cryptopsy landscapes are too chaotic and over-the-top, Suffocation too rigidly follow a not very adventurous, tried-and-tested formula, and the Morbid Angel feats are too weird and avantgarde at times, here come these stalwarts from old Chicago town to stir you a delicious cocktail of dazzling complexity with a pinch of in-vogue groove.

Psycroptic must have listened to this opus intently before making “The Sceptre of the Ancients” as the structuring and the compositional layout on the Australians’ magnum opus is quite similar excluding the groovy connection, of course. The penchant for melody among a very intricate, spiral-like passage has been lifted from here and led to perfection by the Aussies, largely because Broken Hope themselves didn’t have time to complete the process as they split up right at the dawn of the new millennium. These “Grotesque Blessings” didn’t have a distinguished follow-up which would have been next to impossible, and the guys wisely never even bothered with such an option.

2013 brought them back although from the old line-up it’s only Jeremy Wagner, the band founder and the only permanent member, that can be detected. His presence more than suffice, though, as he is also the guitar player, the magician responsible for all the supreme fretwork on the earlier albums. His performance on the comeback effort “Omen for Disease” is quite subdued as his passion at present lies with his very roots which means that apart from tiny bits and pieces of flashy guitar pyrotechnics what occurs for most of the time is the good old traditional death metal in its pristine, semi-polished form. More is coming from their camp in the very near future; let’s keep our hopes unbroken that more stylish technical grotesquery will befall our ears… soon.

Grotesque Greatness - 98%

RepulsiveVenom, August 17th, 2014
Written based on this version: 1999, CD, Martyr Music Group

To start off with, I'm a MASSIVE Broken Hope fan and to see the negative reviews on this album appalls me. The album was recorded during a time when death metal was all but alive & well and the band members had some inner turmoil and record label/contract difficulties. Sooner or later most bands experience one of these issues, but the trio of Wagner, Ptacek & Griffin proceeded to write and record this underrated gem and charged forward despite the obstructions they had to face.

The album begins with an intro from The Wishmaster - "Listen to their screams, child, listen to the music of their agony" - to prepare the listener for an onslaught of chords that come crushing down upon you. They use their trademark Broken Hope sound with some semi-breakdowns throughout with bass lines that add character to the song. Griffin's solo proves to be nothing less than fucking brilliant whilst Wagner is, as usual, dominating with rhythmic euphoria. Joe Ptacek's vocals are an underground inhuman growl that matches the music very brilliantly. You can barely tell Ryan Stanek had left the band as Larry DeMumbrum's drumming suits up well with the Broken Hope sound.

The production is crystal clear with a perfect crunch for a death metal album made in the late nineties. The album has only one slight flaw and that is I feel like a few songs are just fillers - War-Maggot, Earth Burner, and Hate Machine. Despite there being several session musicians contributing bass to the album, it is very consistent and without knowing it you would not have guessed it upon listening. The lyrics are still Broken Hope - politically incorrect, gore & horror-filled, and nightmarish. Jeremy Wagner's lyrics never fail and always deliver as does his rhythms.

I recommend giving this album a thorough listen. The musicianship between the band members on this album is really tight, as is their sound.

Overall, this album deserves a lot more praise than it gets (if any). I consider it a tie personally for me between Repulsive Conception and this album. Stand out tracks: Wolf Among Sheep, Necro-Fellatio, Christ Consumed, and Internal Inferno.

technical and groovy - 70%

Yargolek, May 10th, 2011

Broken hope is one of those early death metal bands that some people love and most people hate. I personally love Swamped in Gore and Bowels of Repugnance. The old Broken Hope sound is not captured in this album too much. Of course the vocals are the same intensely evil low gurgle and the band still has their style, but this album is less in the vein of early Broken Hope and much more technical. It's still Broken Hope, however the riffs merge more fluidly as opposed to Swamped in Gore where the blastbeats fly in and out without warning. The guitarist always pulls through with ill solos which can be rare in death metal. They have put much emphasis on the bass, in particular opening riffs that are bass riffs which lead to a welcoming metal carpet, and most of the songs will have that catchy intro but kind of leave you dry in the actual bulk of the song. They still have a unique and very heavy sound and I would play this album over other better albums without any explanation. There's something about those riffs just makes you want to hear them over and over, and even when you've listened to the album way too many times and it shifts to the depths of your collection, you will still find yourself periodically needing to hear those tracks.

All in all, the old spastic Broken Hope still shows through here, alternating chugging death lines with grinding blasts, but there is more structure, more flow, and most importantly more bass! Broken Hope's albums may not be the only death metal albums that matter, but they are certainly classics. This particular album is good as hell and heavy as shit with no decline in skill over the years and are one of the few bands to get better with time!

A Disappointment - 30%

Minutial, October 1st, 2008

After hearing the relentless assault of no-bullshit brutality, twisted melody, and ample technicality that is Loathing, I had relatively high hopes that this album would build upon, or at least continue from, the style exhibited on that album. Unfortunately, these feelings of hope were eventually replaced by feelings of discontent and utter boredom by the time the album was done.

First of all, the production on this album is horribly dull. The drums are flat and uninteresting and while the guitars are quite clear, they lack a certain liveliness that makes the album hard to give a chance without falling into deep sleep before the second song. Joe Ptacek's vocals demonstrate only a small fraction of the intensity and depth of his work on the previous album and ultimately feel very monotonous in comparison. Although to be fair, the production job here does fit the tediousness and mediocrity of the material on this album quite well, so it wasn't completely without purpose.

Now, just to get this out of the way, I do believe this band has the ability to write some good riffs and melodies. They proved this on Loathing, and, to an extent, on this album as well. The problem is their approach to songwriting is so ridiculously stale and incompetent, it almost completely invalidates any sort of merit these riffs and melodies could add to this album. Every song is so irritatingly formulaic, there really is no point to listening to any one song for more than the first minute. Once you've heard the first three or so riffs, you've pretty much heard them all. The sad thing is there are a good amount of potentially crushing riffs that are completely ruined by repitition and terrible arrangement. On the other hand, there are also many superfluous, tasteless tech-for-tech's-sake filler sections that bring this album down much more than any of the aforementioned problems I have with it. Carelessly pasting together decent riffs didn't help this album in any way, I don't know why they thought contrived complexity would do any better.

In summary, this album is the definition of triteness. Just stick with their previous effort Loathing and pretend this one never happened.

Totally boring piece of crap. - 25%

ABHORRED, December 26th, 2003

Hey, remember the days when this band was good? My, that was a long time ago. After about a billion breakups and member changes, Broken Hope return with the most pathetic mundane piece of pseudo-technical redneck Death Metal crap imaginable.

First thing to catch my attention was the production. Pretty run of the mill stuff. Muddy and limp sounding. I think this matter alone defeated any chance Broken Hope had of creating the percussive bombast I think they were shooting for with this record. The snare sounds poppy, gay, and (This isn't really the producer's fault, but...) slow. The riffs are creative enough to amuse the average Six Feet Under fan for about 15 minutes. Mostly just meaningless chugga chugga garbage. I think at some points, they are attempting a more "technical" sound.... But the problem is, it's hard to take them serious musically due to the fact that they're still dumb drunken hicks. Except now, they're dumb drunken hicks that know a few scales and modes.

How do you guys justify going from Proto-Goregrind to this? I don't know if it's some sort of attempt to streamline and modernize their archaic sound, but in any case... It SUCKS

In closing, do NOT buy this album unless:
A) You're trying to expand your already impressive collection of 3 Nile CDs with something more "obscure".
B) You have dreadlocks and are named Chris Barnes.
C) You don't have a clue who "Oppressor" were.
D) You live in a trailer in Alabama
E) You have someone in your family whom you refer to as "Uncle Dad"
F) You drive a 1986 IROC Camaro

If you fit none of those descriptions, you probably have decent taste in Death Metal, so stay the fuck away from this hunk of processed third rate horse shit.