Releases September 30 through Century Media.
Few bands do I hold as near and dear to my heart, and few death metal reunions have I anticipated with such fervor, as Broken Hope. Early on in my discovery phase, I latched onto the Chicago band’s final two albums and never let go. While Loathing initially intrigued me because of the appropriately disgusting cover art, it was the guitarwork that made me stay and still keeps me coming back for repeat listens to this day. Grotesque Blessings offered more of the same, for which I was grateful, but the band’s earlier output just never clicked with me. I’ve always leaned further on the technical side of death metal, but BH’s first three albums are unflinching in their simplistic brutality–no doubt what endears them to some fans, but not this one.
This is why when I heard the band was reuniting with 3/5 the lineup that recorded their final two albums, I was set ablaze with anticipation. Would I finally get more of that Broken Hope sound I so desperately wanted? Well, the answer is yes and no. While there are moments, riffs, and tracks that sound like the band I fell in love with, there are also others which echo a much simpler Broken Hope – that of Swamped In Gore and The Bowels of Repugnance. Unfortunately the previously mentioned 2/5 missing from this lineup were the key ingredients that made BH one of my favorites, and the reason why this album ultimately falls a little short.
As soon as the vocals kick in after the album’s intro, longtime fans will notice a marked change. After Joe Ptacek tragically committed suicide in 2010, the surviving members took their time finding someone who could fill Ptacek’s legendary shoes, and ultimately recruited Gorgasm’s Damian Leski for the job. After spending an album with Mr. Leski however, I must say that he simply doesn’t cut the mustard. Perhaps I had too lofty an expectation going into Omen of Disease, but every track I heard simply made me yearn for Ptacek’s trademark delivery all the more. The band certainly doesn’t do itself any favors in this regard by devoting the album’s final word to a re-recording of a song off their debut album – an act which I think will just make listeners want to return to the Ptacek era. I don?t want to beat Leski up here, but a little enunciation goes a long way.
Luckily, things fare a little bit better for the musical side of this album, as the guitars do a pretty excellent job of balancing the tremolo riff with the chunky riff–a technique that Broken Hope seemed to have perfected by the end of their initial run. A late-album standout, “Give Me The Bottom Half,” starts with a trademark Broken Hope bend riff, and features the album’s most memorable lead work. Unfortunately, the absence of previous lead guitarist Brian Griffin can be felt in just about every other solo that permeates this album. It’s not that the solos aren’t good enough; surely they are technically proficient and check all the boxes in that regard, but they simply don’t stay with the listener like in previous albums.
While you can tell the original members are trying desperately to recapture some of that old BH magic, one of the album’s quote-unquote singles, “The Docking Dead,” seems to be a complete regurgitation of earlier material. Sure, it sounds like Broken Hope, but it doesn?t sound like the Broken Hope I want to listen to. “Blood Gullet” is much more effective in this regard, because while it wouldn’t sound out of place on one of the earlier albums, it also brings something different to the table. As with any guitar-centric album, it’s always going to come down to the riffs, and this album is a mixed bag. “Carnage Genesis” varies it up just in time to save the album, with that patented groove riff that goes straight into the tremolo-work that defined later-era Broken Hope. This song also allows the drummer to give his snare a rest (not completely, mind you), and work out a little double bass and cymbal jam.
Broken Hope has always been a bit of a tongue-in-cheek band, and the sample at the end of “Rendered Into Lard,” captures this perfectly. They don’t want to set the trends, and they don’t want to follow the trends. Omen of Disease, if nothing else, is a testament to their complete unwillingness to alter their identity to suit death metal’s current landscape. In a scene that is dominated at the moment by bands trying to be darker and more dissonant than the next, Broken Hope proves that there is still a need for death metal. Absolutely crushing, unrelenting death metal, and there’s nothing wrong with that (now if we could just do something about those vocals…)
This is Mike Melvin’s first review, so be gentle. Please refrain from using anything that can be inserted.