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Repulsive Conception - musically quite appealing - 85%

Arktos77, January 24th, 2023
Written based on this version: 1995, CD, Metal Blade Records

Let's start with the only flaw worth mentioning here: the cover "artwork". What you get on the front cover basically is a tasteless combination of colours, a deformed band logo and an out of place hovering ghost face, its mouth opened to - of course - a tortured scream. Maybe this is some metaphor I don't understand but it doesn't get any better on the tray inlay which depicts a skeleton glowing from the inside. I find this conception as repulsive as that of the debut "Swamped in Gore" (anyone remember the ridiculous chess board with the body parts attached to it?).

Whether the cover design was imposed on Broken Hope by the record company or not, the band makes up for this minor let-down with the first song already: "Dilation and Extraction" starts with a mid-tempo, dragging riff which evolves into a steamroller like groove with double bass drum and the deep growling voice Joe Ptacek was so famous for (once attending a Broken Hope show as an exchange student in Minneapolis around 1994 a friend who was more into Pantera asked 'How do you get such a voice?' - Neither did I know then nor do I now). As a matter of fact, Ptacek's voice sounds as natural on this record as it did ever. Critics stating his vocal performance would be one-dimensional may be right, but I think his constant deep guttural growl fits this type of death metal best. High pitched screams or so would just cut the overall heaviness and groove of this album short.

Here we have the type of record that makes it hard to point out certain stand out songs as the whole material keeps its forward pace as one devastating entity. Compared to the rather straight forward blasting predecessor "The Bowels of Repugnance" aforementioned opener is more restrained and slowed down. This causes the heaviness of Monty Python's 16-ton weight - a characteristic staying constant with all of the 15 songs presented on here. Broken Hope definitely gained heaviness and depth, but lost some of the dark vibes they displayed on the predecessor. Concerning the drums, fans of blast beats don't have to worry since there is plenty of that ingredient still to be found in almost every track. The most stand out instrument besides the voice might be the lead guitar: Brian Griffin almost adds a doom touch to the slower parts with his solos. I like the strange melodics of his leads which sometimes reach the border to kitsch, luckily without crossing it. Yet full virtuosity regarding technique is still to come with 1999's "Grotesque Blessings". But James Murphy, then with Testament, as a guest contributor makes up for this with a solo in one of the tracks.

One thing I highly appreciate in death metal of the more brutal kind would be an audible bass. Shaun Glass delivers nicely in this respect without annoying due to too much presence. His sound is rather clean which helps discerning him and the overall wall of sound. This way some nice details in the bass line can be discovered, such as in the opening riff of the eighth track, where some filler notes off beat set a distinctive accent. Also worth mentioning is the fact of Broken Hope keeping up their tradition of featuring a violin in the short acoustic interludes. Violin player Ravicka improved compared to her work on the predecessor. This time she keeps up proper intonation most of the time but still the outcome sounds a little bit overstrained. By no means do I want to dwell on that point too much since mastering the violin is another league. Besides this interlude can be regarded as filler anyway - the latter not being the case with the rest of the few interludes or intros, that one to the Twisted Sister cover "Captain Howdy" being a good example.

Once again I have to return to the album cover, this time regarding the band picture. Besides the usual suspects a sixth member is depicted: Zaya the pitbull, whose barking in the corresponding track "Pitbull Grin" forms an uplifting duet with that of Joe the singer. I don't know what Zaya had been up to but one thing is for sure: she delivered such an aggressively strained performance that there is no need to worry that she relieved herself on the pool table where the picture was taken. If any I would pick this one as stand out song of the album. By the way, I have to put some serious shame on Broken Hope for not even mentioning the two absolutely most outstanding artists to be heard on this album: the couple screwing as an intro to track no. 4 "Engorged with Impiety". Whether or not it was Joe Ptacek himself who got laid here by a definitely committed lady ('fuck me bastard fuck me'), this couple's rhythm ('who - a aah he - who - a aah he - who - a aah he') seamlessly merges into one of the most dedicated romping rhythms Broken Hope ever came up with.

So in an attempt to finish my review in a serious way: "Repulsive Conception" really is a brutal slab of death metal, which comes with superb sound (the best of any Broken Hope production in my opinion) and actually quite a lot of variety - not to mention the (unintentional?) comical aspect. Broken Hope deliver a profound performance here, both the slower and the usual blast beat-ridden fast tracks work out great. They managed to add more depth to their sound and overall clearly matured as a band. I regard "Repulsive Conception" as the last "old school" output of that combo, before they started to follow a more technical approach with "Loathing".