When I was reading up on Peter Hasslebrack to write this review, I realized with some astonishment that there was a local connection here, since he once played in the Massachusetts thrash unknowns Deslok, whose first demo Instant Death...Just Add Water! got a lot of rotation from me at the ripe age of 14-15 (the chorus to one of their tunes, 'I am a relic of depression - of misery!' was one of my disaffected teen anthems). Now, Hasslebrack wasn't on that demo, but rather their second the year later, I just thought it was a rather amazing coincidence and proof that the world is smaller than I think. Nevertheless, the guy has moved on to North Carolina and greater things, not the least of which is Bloodsoaked, his one man death metal juggernaut which has to date produced three albums through the stylin' Comatose Music.
Peter performs all the guitars, bass, and vocals here while using a mix of session (Brent Wiliams) and programmed (Shane McFee) drums to support the solid old school riffing. He's also managed to wrangle the iconic James Murphy to perform a few of the leads here, and it's a good fit, for surely some of Murphy's old stomping grounds provided a lot of the influence to what Peter is trying to achieve here. This is essentially late 80s/early 90s death metal with a modern spin concocted through the very precise guitar tone and overall productive values. I hear traces of early Morbid Angel, Death, Obituary, Disincarnate, and all manner of Floridian gods in the bowels of this album, but was much more surprised at the similarity to Dutch forebears Pestilence, in particular their Testimony of the Ancients record or the more recent reunion effort Resurrection Macabre (which drew on the former for much of its riffing structure). The songs have a mechanical, vital semblance to them which meshes solid guitar progressions of menacing mute streams, octave and/or minor chord slides ("The Death of Hope"), repetitious Mameli meets Schuldiner meets Vincent vocal patterns and leaden yet cutting grooves.
Bloodsoaked has the ability to make even the most derivative chugging riff pattern seem somehow fresh and warlike (as in the opener "Lies"), so while you get the feeling you've heard this all before you still can't help but to jerk about in violent libation. Personally, though, I rather preferred the more clinical sounding sequences through the album which focused in on the more delicate, crisp floods of notes. Now, The Death of Hope is not indiscriminately old school in tone: the intensity of the drums is like meticulous brickwork in both the blasted and double bass sections that give it a more modern, brutal edge that you'll hear in a lot of younger tech death acts, if not as acrobatic. However, Hasslebrack's compositions never fly off the handle in terms of self indulgence or wankery. Each practices a measure of restraint, ranging from about 2-3 minutes on average and cycling through only a violent but controlled burst of riffing with near perfect lead placement and no danger of succumbing to ennui.
Admittedly, this utter precision gives The Death of Hope a feeling of tight-assedness that some might feel too callous or inflexible, but I for one welcome our new robot overlords and, like the aforementioned Resurrection Macabre, find this a pretty interesting approach even if it lacks for much range and variation. Not all of the rhythm guitar progressions on the album really stood out to me, but regardless they seemed intense and refreshing despite their obvious sources. The lyrics left a lot to be desired, fairly average ruminations on violence and gore that never become to graphic or interesting, yet I'm sure this is not a deal breaker for most into the genre. Even more, one has to appreciate that Hasslebrack is not just jumping on the current trends in retro death metal. Bloodsoaked doesn't sound remotely Swedish circa 1990, nor does it try to emulate the cavernous atmosphere of Autopsy or Incantation. It belongs to a crop of newer US bands like Nocturnal Torment, Never to Arise and the late Godless Rising in tempering a firm respect for its influences with a contemporary recording aesthetic, and as such it's worth experiencing.
Verdict: Win [7.5/10] (cancelling this life on lease)