Monday, October 21, 2013

Broken Hope - Omen Of Disease

Broken Hope
Omen Of Disease
Century Media Records/E.M.I. Music Australia

It’s fair to say that while Chicago (Illinois, U.S.) based outfit Broken Hope were never hailed as the most innovative or ground-breaking death metal band on the scene during the ‘90’s, they did manage to produce a few solid releases during their time together. But despite the underground following the band attracted during their thirteen years together (Their debut effort ‘Swamped In Gore’ was released in 1991, and their final release ‘Grotesque Blessings’ emerged in 1999), they eventually parted ways in 2001, with almost all of their achievements overlooked with the passing of time.
But after a lengthy eleven years of hibernation, rhythm guitarist/lyricist/group founder Jeremy Wagner (Who has spent the last ten years getting his groove metal outfit Lupara off the ground) decided to once again resurrect Broken Hope, with Gorgasm front man Damian ‘Tom’ Leski taking on the vocalist role after the passing away of Joe Ptacek (Who committed suicide in 2010) and ex-Dirge Within lead guitarist Chuck Wepfer, bassist Shaun Glass (Who was also a member of Dirge Within, and played with Broken Hope for a few years in the mid ‘90’s) and drummer Mike Miczek rounding out the newly resurrected Broken Hope.
So what’s to be expected from a new Broken Hope after fourteen years between releases? Well, if I were to be perfectly honest, I think it’s fair to say the answer is pretty much more of the same. On the band’s latest and sixth full-length release ‘Omen Of Disease’, Broken Hope isn’t so much breaking any new ground, but re-establishing their place within the death metal scene with a release that essentially picks up where they last left things back in 1999 – albeit with a slight change in sound.
After a suitably ominous industrialised instrumental opener track in ‘Septic Premonitions (Intro)’, the band get straight down to business with ‘Womb Of Horrors’. In terms of the music, ‘Womb Of Horrors’ is everything you would expect from Broken Hope in terms of pummelling blasts, strong tight-knit groove based riffs and shredding solos. The only thing that’s really taken a leap forward is the production (James Murphy handled the mixing and mastering), which is easily one of the cleanest and dynamic sounds Broken Hope have achieved to date on an album. The other notable change within the group is obviously the vocals. Some may find Leski’s indecipherable guttural growls a little overbearing and different sounding from Ptacek. But as far as I’m concerned, he more than passes the test in filling in the void left by Ptacek, as well as adding an intensity that more than matches the band on the musical front with his lower range growls and gargled roars.
The fast paced ‘Ghastly’ and the mid-paced ‘Give Me The Bottom Half’ are definite favourites with their subtle touches of melody shining through the intense death metal framework, while tracks such as ‘Rendered Into Lard’ (Which features a cool tongue-in-cheek spoken word skit at the end, and features a guest vocal performance from The Black Dahlia Murder’s Trevor Strnad), ‘Predacious Poltergeist’, ‘Choked Out And Castrated’ and ‘Carnage Genesis’ prove that the band still have what it takes to deliver solid old-school death metal.
Towards the tail end of the album, the band gives fans a taste of the past in revamped form with a re-recording of their ‘Incinerated’ classic (Which originally appeared on their debut effort ‘Swamped In Gore’), which is suitably brutal and different in a good way, before closing out the album with live recordings of ‘Grindbox’ (From 1995’s ‘Repulsive Conception’) and ‘He Was Raped’ (From 1997’s ‘Loathing’), both of which were recorded live in San Francisco while out on tour in 2012.
While the band may have lacked some of the recognition they deserved in the ‘90’s, there’s no doubt that ‘Omen Of Disease’ will right the wrongs of the past. Sure, Broken Hope’s latest effort isn’t the kind of album that’s going to launch the band to the top where the death metal elite reside, but it will at least give them a second chance at marking their mark on the scene.

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© Justin Donnelly

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