Broken Hope return from dirt nap with retooled band, disgusting ‘Omen of Disease’

Broken HopeIf you don’t like being disgusted by death metal, I kind of understand. And I kind of wonder why you’re here reading, since we talk about that. A lot. Not to get in broken-record mode, but death metal has just turned into this thing, where you don’t have to disgust or disturb. You even can be kind of pretty doing it! Huzzahs all around! And money. And bad death metal.

I can only imagine what Broken Hope must feel reentering the death metal world and seeing what has become of the genre. Everyone growls now. They all play what we call “death” and try to be brutal. But does it really work? Or has death become just another homogenized form of metal where bands are seemingly cool with existing and selling colorful, pastel-colored shirts at shitty teen stores? Well, that isn’t true death, and I’m sure Broken Hope would agree, so here we go with “Omen of Disease,” the band’s first record since 1999’s “Grotesque Blessings,” a record that came out way, way before death metal exploded as a genre. And got horribly watered down.

Broken Hope coverHearing “Omen,” it’s almost as if Broken Hope paid no attention to the music that came out since 1999 nor its shifts. It’s almost as if it is completely uninformed as to how death metal has changed. And thank fuck for that. This record sounds devoid of all the bad ideas that came out since this band last ruled the earth and feels like an album that doesn’t give a damn what the followers have done to poison the waters. They only care about the true blood and guts, and if you’re not on board, oh well.

Broken Hope, like many other bands, have been through the revolving door of changes. Some of that is from the natural creative process, and others has been through nature itself. As of today, the lineup stands as long-timers Jeremy Wagner (guitars) and bassist Shaun Glass. Joining them are new vocalist Damian Leski (original vocalist Joe Ptacek passed away in 2010), new guitarist Chuck Wepfer, and drummer Mike Miczek, and they sound as energetic and bloodthirsty as ever before, ready to take on death metal’s current crop of bands. Look out, kids.

“Omen of Disease” is a compact 36 minutes and 13 tracks, and it’ll gross you out and enthrall you with its gore, zombie apocalypse, and vile cannibalism. It opens with a practical warning sign on “Septic Premonitions,” with its eerie gasses wafting and sirens wailing, leading into “Womb of Horrors” and its pit of destruction. The leads are razor sharp, the soloing is astonishing, and Leski’s growls sound like they tore right through his throat and onto the record.”Ghastly” is in a similar vein, with gurgly vocals, cool guitar trickery, and gut-filled horrors that sound like they could make for one heinous mini-movie. “The Flesh Mechanic” not only is an ominous sounding title, but it lives up to its name fully settling into a gory death groove and even slips into some grindcore territory. “Rendered Into Lard” is a highlight not just for its sticky, bloody terror and weird and prog-like passages, but for a disgusting, stomach-turning skit that might make a meal fairly unappetizing after listening. If you don’t at least crack a smile at this, you take yourself too seriously, perhaps. The guttural title track is brutal and crunchy, and the death groove returns again as it heads into sludgy territory.

“The Docking Dead” is belchy vocally and pretty furious musically, with the band just splattering you with noise, while “Give Me the Bottom Half” is built on strong riffs, a full metallic assault, and and playing that goes back and forth from chunky to stunningly precise. “Predacious Poltergeist” opens on a weird speaking sample, then it delves right into soupy, gooey guitar squeals (something that doesn’t really appeal to me), and those noises return on “Carnage Genesis.” These are my least two favorite tracks on the album as a result, but you might feel differently. It’s just a personal hangup. “Blood Gullet” is fast and pulverizing, keeping the attack short and blunt. “Choked Out and Castrated” leaves very little to the imagination, and it shines because of the weirdness in the guitar work, ugly vocals, and devastating drumming. Closer “Incinerated” is a sort of surprise for longtime fans, as it’s a redone version of a track from their debut full-length album, 1991’s “Swamped in Gore.” It’s a pretty cool bonus that shows how the song has developed over time, and hearing this version of Broken Hope tackle the track is a great way to end this killer new album.

Having Broken Hope back practicing their brand of death is a pretty cool thing, and “Omen of Disease” is a bloody sign that their disgusting mission is alive and well. The new version of the band sounds pretty hungry, and hearing these songs lurch on stage live should be something to behold. Longtime fans might have a bit of an adjustment with the new lineup, but several listens should smooth over any worries and cause you to dry heave over this ugliness in no time.

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