BROKEN HOPE OMEN OF DISEASE ALBUM REVIEW BY JAMES WICKS.
Broken Hope – Omen of Disease
Album Artwork: Wes Benscoter (Slayer, Kreator, Hypocrisy, Cattle Decapitation…)
1. Septic Premonitions
2. Womb of Horrors
4. The Flesh Mechanic
5. Rendered Into Lard
6. Omen of Disease
7. The Docking Dead
8. Give Me the Bottom Half
9. Predacious Poltergeist
10. Blood Gullet
11. Carnage Genesis
12. Choked Out and Castrated
Omen of Disease marks the sixth studio album from Century Media artists, Broken Hope, and presentation-wise they aren’t pulling any of their punches. The album artwork, done by Wes Benscoter (Slayer, Kreator, Hypocrisy, Cattle Decapitation, etc…) gives the ideal first impression for fans of metal. It depicts an amorphous, disease infested creature standing in a barren graveyard, holding the torso-half of a cadaver over an empty grave. It is crafted extremely well (as has come to be expected of Benscoter) and leaves me with high expectations for this album.
It begins with “Septic Premonitions,” an instrumental piece that effectively sets a hostile and threatening tone; it sounds like an army of terminators slowly descending onto the listener. My only problem with the track is with the name. The sound is very mechanical and synthetic while the word septic suggests something more organic. That being said, I think this is a good start.
The hostility continues with the next track, “Womb of Horrors” as it bursts in with droning guitars and intense drums. Standing out right away is the production; the mix is fantastic! The guitars are warm and full, and the bass adds a tremendous amount of depth. The drums are situated in the mix just right to get a full body sound without any of those distracting ‘womph’s that so often come with metal-style kick drum recordings. (Also noteworthy about the drums is Mike Miczek’s use of the ride cymbal, which cuts through mix like a knife, and adds character to brief moments of silence, particularly in this song). Vocalist Damian Leski comes in at about thesecond mark, and underwhelmingly so. His guttural growls are deep and nasty, exactly the way he intended, I’m sure, but there isn’t a single hope of understanding the lyrics (at least he’s staying true to the band’s name). Nonetheless, I find myself banging my head.
My favorite song thus far has to be “Ghastly,” which begins with a haunting guitar riff and traditional style blast beats; now THIS is what I’m talking about! The riffs that follow are intuitive and just intricate enough to be interesting without overdoing it. Also keeping the song interesting are time signature changes, which are accessible and don’t ruin the flow of the song, or the listeners head-banging momentum. Then the middle of the song hits, and it hits hard (also, fast since the song is only 2 minutes and 43 seconds long) going into an apocalyptic sounding bridge. It is slow with punctuations of Miczek’s ride bell, and despite what I said earlier about Leski’s vocals they are wonderfully appropriate here. Orchestral swells linger in the background and fill the listener with a true sense of dread.
The next track, “The Flesh Mechanic” begins similar to the second; droning guitars and fast, intense drums. Honestly, there isn’t much to say about this track other than how unforgiving the guitar solo in the middle is. It screams almost out of nowhere, and keeps the listeners attention despite being in an otherwise forgettable song.
“Rendered Into Lard” starts off heavy, and sounds like it would translate well onto the stage. Some of the riffs in this song are suggestive of older styles of thrash metal, which I think is a refreshing departure from what the album has been so far. Also notable is the cameo from Black Dahlia Murder vocalist, Trevor Strnad, who adds a bit of vocal depth to the song. The track’s charm is immediately dashed however by the ridiculous conversation had by a family of rednecks as they sit down to enjoy a meal of prepared…child? Caucasian child? Wait… no… “teen boy.” The execution is awful, and fails to take seriously how far the gore-death metal scene has actually come since Broken Hope’s disbanding in 2002, and reforming a decade later.
The title track of the album, “Omen of Disease” stays true to the album’s sound. It trudges a little more than the others and is very easy to head bang to. A few of the riffs are interesting, but for the most part it’s pretty typical for a death metal song. The lyrics are probably the most substantial thus far, which for this album isn’t saying much. By now I’m missing the ingenuity that made the earlier track, “Ghastly” so good.
“The Docking Dead” picks up the pace a bit and offers a short but sweet foray into fast double kick and intricate guitar solos. Listening to this song I wonder why there aren’t more solos like this in the entire album. Clearly they have the writing and playing ability. Also I have to admit, the short song lengths are growing on me. It certainly increases the replay value, and when there’s a 30-45 second solo it sort of becomes the center piece for the song. It seems like a good formula for bands that have little else to offer.
Before listening to this album I noticed a song called “Give Me the Bottom Half,” and was excited to get to this point. (There’s just something about that song title…). The opening riff does not disappoint as it uses a questionable sequence of notes, but this only entices me. The next few riffs are heavy and fairly accessible; I’m not even hesitating to head bang to this one! Miczek’s frequent use of the china cymbal adds a punch, and Chuck Wepfer’s solo is satisfyingly disorienting.
“Predacious Poltergeist” has one of the more brutal beginnings on the album; a short but eerie voice over leads into a heavy blast beat with speed-picked, droning guitars. The guitars on this song sound very insect-like—almost like a swarm of hornets flying around the listeners head. An interlude in the middle of the song offers a breakdown-like head banging opportunity before going back into the main riff. Overall a good song that once again showcases the virtue of brevity.
The next song, “Blood Gullet” starts with a fist pumping riff and then takes the listener on a roller coaster ride. Time signature changes are frequent in this track, making it a potential favorite to hear live for devoted fans of the album. Newcomers may feel uncomfortable adjusting to this one at first, but it stands out as one of the more interesting songs. Though not extremely technical, this track really demonstrates how versatile and creative Miczek can be on the drums. With only three tracks to go I'm pretty sure what to expect, but I'm hoping for a strong finish. There have been a number of lulls with few high points; i.e. a very average album.
The swarm of hornets returns with “Carnage Genesis;” a song that starts very similar to “Predacious Poltergeist.” The riffs in first half of this song aren’t particularly intuitive, so it is difficult to get into, and especially considering it feels like I’ve heard all these riffs already. The middle of the song is much better, incorporating more dynamic guitar riffs and harmonies, but it is short lived as the opening riffs resume and finish out the song.
“Choked Out and Castrated” is one of the better tracks on the album. The opening riff is aggressive and creates a feeling of anxiety, and the bass seems to cut through the mix much more in this song (something that I wish was more prevalent). There is also another tasty bit of shredding near the middle of the song which is accompanied by an awesome riff underneath; definitely one of the most enjoyable parts on the whole album. The song ends with a note hold and Leski’s guttural growls fading out. (Despite being completely indecipherable, Leski does this arguably as good as anyone else in the genre today.)
The final track, “Incinerated” starts out heavy enough, but quickly devolves into typical death metal. The palm muted riffs that were once the staple of the genre now just seem predictable and boring; a semi-dull end to a comparatively dull album.
Overall this album is sporadically intense, albeit fantastically produced, and reminiscent of earlier styles of death metal. It hits hard at times, and is fairly consistent; you are not in for many negative surprises. Listening to it from beginning to end can be a bit disappointing however. It starts off with promise, but has few gems to offer after about the third track. Also, if you’re a person who enjoys lyrical content and comprehensible vocal performance, this band probably isn’t for you.
Written by James Wicks