Broken Hope – Still For Only the Sick Part I

Sunday, 25th June 2017

While they may not have garnered all the accolades of their veteran peers, Broken Hope has nonetheless stuck around in the death metal circles for quite some time. Yes, there was a period when the band was in hiatus, and they’ve had to overcome a bit of tragedy in later years but they still manage to come out on top. It’s all about the brutality (and melody beneath), and the band has lost none of their edge over the years.

Their latest effort, Mutilated and Assimilated, is a testament to that very statement. Plenty of hard-hitting riffs with sneaky melodies intertwined, brutal and intelligent lyrics, and guttural vocals. In short, a classic Broken Hope combination, and easily their strongest effort in quite some time. Guitarist/lyricist Jeremy Wagner has been on this scribe’s interview bucket list for some time, so we jumped at the opportunity to talk about the new album, his writing, and much, much more.

Dead Rhetoric: I saw that you had been quoted on this, so what makes this the best Broken Hope album to you?

Jeremy Wagner: I think it’s a number of things. Mostly the personnel in the band. It’s like 5 brothers are in Broken Hope, all with the same vision, all getting along, and loving what we do. That’s a big factor in what made this my favorite Broken Hope album, or at least one of my favorites. Also, the way that we went about writing and recording it as well. We took our time. We didn’t rush anything. The band worked really well together, exchanged ideas, and really hammered things out. We stepped up the quality control, making sure that we only wrote and presented the sickest creations we could.

I think that, even though it’s been four years between the last album and this, taking the time and doing this process really paid off. It really made a sonically epic death metal album. I really stand behind that, the production and the songwriting and everything is our best and strongest to date. You take all that stuff I just told you, put it in a ball [laughs] those are all the reasons why I really feel, as I say in some interviews, this is our finest hour, if you will.

Dead Rhetoric: In terms of the recording, I’m sure everyone’s been asking you about using Jeff Hanneman’s guitars so I want to go a different route. What compelled you to be the one that bought them?

Wagner: I’d say it was being in the right place at the right time. What compelled me to buy them too, aside from timing and good fortune being on my side, is the fact that Jeff Hanneman, if you get right down to the custom guitars that he played – his custom ESPs, even his famous and iconic punk rock Jackson guitar…all those guitars have the same body shape and the same materials. Whether it’s ebony fretboards or mahogany bodies, EMG pick-ups…that kind of thing, pretty much everything about those guitars are identical – the same aesthetic and make-up of guitars I’ve always played in Broken Hope. Right out of the box, those guitars fit me like a glove.

Secondly though, Jeff Hanneman is one of the primary people that you can blame for me being here today as an extreme metal guitar player. It was what I call the three H’s: Hanneman, Hetfield, and Hammett. Those three guys are what compelled me to pick up a guitar and become a metal guitar player. Whether it was hearing Ride the Lightning for the first time with Metallica, or shortly there-after hearing Reign in Blood and it blowing me away and changing my life, Hanneman specifically had a profound influence on me. He was also an insanely talented lyricist. As people know me in Broken Hope, I write all the lyrics…Hanneman wrote all my favorite songs, lyrically.

So fast forward, Jeff Hanneman unfortunately passed away. Not long after that, his guitar estate was going to be auctioned off. Through mutual people that worked with Jeff and myself, I was able to establish a connection with Jeff Hanneman’s widow and talk to her about acquiring everything I could. So that’s what I did. I figured if I could get these guitars and actually use them, I’d be doing right by Jeff. His widow had told me that Jeff would have wanted his guitars to be used and not sitting in a storage locker, which is where some of them had been for quite some time. That’s what instruments are for, and part of my mission here was to keep Jeff’s spirit alive and actually use these guitars.

By the time I got all this stuff to the time we started the songwriting process and recording, everything just kind of fell in place. I got these instruments and I just started writing a new album with Mike Miczek, our drummer, using these guitars and we decided to use them to record too. In a unique way, a very unique way…I don’t know of someone else who would have done what I did; we are keeping Jeff Hanneman’s spirit alive in the music.

When you hear Broken Hope’s Mutilated and Assimilated, when you hear the rhythm and harmony guitars, you are hearing Jeff Hanneman’s actual guitars through Broken Hope guitar tones, basically. Keeping Jeff’s spirit alive – Slayer was certainly a super-heavy band. Broken Hope is a pure death metal band. We play the heaviest form of death metal that we can summon out of our fingers and we hope Jeff would be proud if he’s in some other place looking at us, going “Alright, these guys just made some sick fucking music with my instruments.” That’s all we can ever ask for…that he or anyone else would appreciate it.

Let’s face it, Jeff Hanneman is one of the most legendary guitar players in metal, and while I’m alive and I have these things in my possession, I will always honor Jeff Hanneman’s legacy. I will always try to share these great instruments and other things with people as time goes on. I’ve taken the first steps in ensuring this legacy, and respecting Jeff’s spirit, and with sharing it with everyone around the world by writing this new album and recording with these instruments. I can’t think of a greater tribute. That’s for Jeff and all the metal fans.

Dead Rhetoric: Not quite along the same lines, but it seems like Broken Hope has always been that underdog within death metal. You started around the same time as bands like Cannibal Corpse and Deicide, but there was never really that same level of association somehow. Do you feel that since the revival and doing Omen of Disease, that the band has gotten more of their due?

Wagner: I think so. The thing with Broken Hope’s place in death metal, since we started…which was 29 years ago this year, in 1988. I’ve explained it like this – we formed in ’88…the same year as Cannibal Corpse, Immolation, and others, but we just didn’t have label interest. Some of those other bands got signed, like maybe a year before we did. It’s not a large amount of time, but it’s still significant. You got that first wave of death metal in the late ‘80s/early ‘90s, late ‘80s primarily, where you had Roadrunner, Earache, and Combat Records even, releasing this huge wave of death metal. We weren’t in that first wave, despite the fact of when we formed and had demos out. It was a little harder for us to get signed as none of those labels I mentioned were interested. By the time we got signed and our first album came out – recording and releasing it in ‘90/’91, we had some catching up to do.

With being persistent and still being here now in 2017, it depends…you can never predict the future. We don’t have that level of recognition you have with those legendary bands like Morbid Angel, Cannibal Corpse, Deicide, like you mentioned, but everybody knows who Broken Hope is. This is our seventh studio album and I think that’s quite an achievement. The reason I’m here anyway, is for my love of death metal. I’m still like a teenager about my attitude towards death metal and being a death metal guitarist. That attitude is one of ‘this is my music, this is the music I was meant to play.’

I’m a death metal lifer – I still get excited when we release a new album. I get excited to tour and do shows. I just get great joy out of being in a death metal band. As long as we can keep putting out albums and continue our journey as a legacy band, that’s what our label calls us now [laughs]…old school, legacy band, or both…we keep doing what we know how to do best. We are here to stay, as long as I’m walking the Earth [laughs].

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