Released: 2013, Century Media Records
Reviewer: Peter Atkinson
Chicago's Broken Hope return after a decade-long hiatus, soldiering on despite the 2010 suicide of vocalist Joe Ptacek, sounding and feeling a lot like the chunk-blowing Broken Hope of old. Indeed, the band's comeback album harks back to even before their last album, 1999's aimless, overly technical Grotesque Blessings, to the more comfortable blunt-force death metal of 1997's Loathing and earlier – this despite guitarist Jeremy Wagner being the lone remaining original member.
One-time bassist Shaun Glass is the only other member from back in the day who returns here, but he and Wagner have rounded up an ace lineup of newcomers - ex-Dirge Within guitarist Chuck Wepfer, drummer Mike Miczek and Gorgasm vocalist Damian Leski – for Omen Of Disease and the new blood do a stellar job of bringing the old-school Grand Guignol grind back to Broken Hope. Omen offers few frills and little tech-death bullshit – instead, the band seem happy belching up their gore-flecked spew in putrid piles. And that's just fine.
The band hardly miss longtime guitarist Brian Griffin's sweeping leadwork and intricate tendencies – which got pretty out of hand on Blessings. The relatively simple, but undeniably corrosive riffing of Wagner and Wepfer – who turns in some pretty tasty, though terse, solos himself - are far more apropos and viscerally effective, as evidenced on “Ghastly,” or the delightfully sick “Choked Out and Castrated,” “Blood Gullet,” “Give Me The Bottom Half” and “Rendered Into Lard.” And while the cannibal-family dinner time outro to “Lard” is dumb and unnecessary, the song itself slays – as does the vicious remake of “Incinerated” from their 1991 debut Swamped In Gore.
Leski's gurgled, upchuck vocals will certainly remind old fans of Ptacek, and fit Broken Hope's bludgeon to a T, even though he's rarely intelligible. His vocal patterns, such as they are, seem almost like another instrument here, kind of like John Tardy's did on Obituary's legendarily near lyric-less debut Slowly We Rot, and make everything just that much heavier, which is never a bad idea.
Getting back to basics was certainly the right way to go for Broken Hope as they return in the death metal game. Omen is brutal, efficient and doesn't try so hard to impress. It simply goes for the throat, and never lets go.