Over the past few years, I’ve had the opportunity to finally check a few bands off my old school death metal bucket list. The likes of Cannibal Corpse, Morbid Angel and Grave (I sadly missed Deicide and Suffocation when they were here :( ) have violated the asshole of the Midwest with their unholy presence, and it’s always gratifying to finally experience these bands in the live setting after having coveted their studio albums for all this time. On a cold, rainy Thursday night in Des Moines, I was happy to add Chicago’s original overlords of brutal death metal Broken Hope to that list, and goddamn if they didn’t deliver the goods and then some.
Hitting the stage to the strains of “Septic Premonitions,” the eerie, mechanized intro to their excellent late-2013 comeback album, Omen of Disease, Broken Hope tore into a positively devastating set that very nearly spanned the entirety of their career. What impressed me right off the bat was how incredibly tight they are as a live unit. The band were locked in for the entirety of their forty-minute set, and in spite of featuring a lot of new blood in the lineup, you’d think these guys had been playing together since Broken Hope’s inception in 1988 if you didn’t already know better.
Founding rhythm guitarist/lyricist/mastermind Jeremy Wagner peeled off riff after crushing riff like it was no big deal; if there’s ever been any question as to whether or not Broken Hope influenced legions of brutal death metal, slam and goregrind bands, Wagner’s six-string bludgeoning silenced the naysayers with eviscerating tone and exacting precision. He was complemented by co-guitarist Chuck Wepfer, who brought the shredding leads to the table in just as effortless a fashion. Bassist Shaun Glass and drummer Mike Mizcek made sure there was no shortage of low-end, making songs such as “The Flesh Mechanic” “Awakened by Stench” and “Incinerated” that much heavier.
Anyone familiar with Omen of Disease (or his previous work with the great Gorgasm) knows that vocalist Damian Leski is capable of producing some of the gnarliest gutturals in death metal, but you can’t really appreciate how deep his growl gets until you witness it live. The guy must have a blast furnace lodged in his throat, making him a more than worthy successor to dearly departed original Broken Hope vocalist Joe Ptacek. Leski brought even more brutal intensity to the Omen… songs live and easily did justice to the classic BH material.
What might have been the best part is that all the members of the band showed a genuine enthusiasm for what they were doing and were highly appreciative of the dedicated crowd, who in turn ate out of the palm of Broken Hope’s collective hand for the duration of the set. It isn’t every day you see a band legitimately enjoying themselves on stage and not just doing a job, not to mention building a rapport with their fans. All in all it was an intense, joyous set that won’t soon be forgotten, and I look forward to the next time Broken Hope deem worthy to lay waste to Des Moines.
[Special thanks to Nikki Law at Century Media for arranging this live coverage and of course to the mighty Broken Hope for a killer set and letting this old schmuck photograph them.]