One of my best friends just underwent a major life change. No, he didn’t get married, buy a house, or sign up for the military. Rather, he got himself a puppy! There are fewer things in life that are as awwwwww-inducing as owning a new puppy or kitten. These bundles of fur and love look so adorable eating your shoes, chasing after tennis balls, or Sabu-ing off of your furniture onto things, people, or other pets (sans barbed wire, of course). So it’s a bit of a shock that I’m reviewing a band from Italy that’s named after one of the most tried-and-true traditions of rearing a new pet: making sure your new fur child doesn’t poop or urinate everywhere in your treasured establishment. Yes, folks, there’s a band called Housebreaking, and their second full-length, Against All Odds, is here, and is promoted as a cross between Amon Amarth, Rammstein, Dark Tranquillity, and… Soulfly?
I’m sure by looking at both the band name and the comparison to a rather disparate collection of groups, you would probably guess Against All Odds would be one helluva clusterfuck of confusion, and you wouldn’t be that far off. With radio feedback and a Korn riff lifted right off of “Blind,” “Blood Red” jumpsdafuckup all in your grill with that riff beaten into your head repeatedly, with lyrics that would make Max Cavalera hand vocalist Jean Marc Valente his own 20-page dictionary to better assist him while he talk-growls (“The ground is blood red, and deep red the claims of your rage/But no one can see it, only the crows in the sky”) before devolving into a lesser-quality Skinlab. Have you ever been to Ozzfest back in, oh, 1999? Remember the bands of that year? Housebreaking could have easily opened the second stage before the likes of Puya and Apartment 26. In other words, they nailed the Soulfly comparisons down pat, minus things like guitar solos and cohesiveness.
So what of the other band comparisons? Other than lifting and dumbing down the riff to Amon Amarth‘s awesome “Tattered Banners and Bloodied Flags” in sole “standout” track “Misanthropique,” there’s very little to compare Housebreaking to the other aforementioned bands. There are no leads, nor any sense of melodrama that made Dark Tranquility the legends that they are. There’s no sultry backbeat that made Rammstein the pervy kings of industrial rock (except for the disturbing-for-all-the-wrong-reasons creepiness of spoken-word piece “Little Boy”), and other than “Misanthropique,” there’s not a single whiff of the tremolo-picked epicness that our favorite Swedish Vikings have given us in spades. There’s just nu-metally middling modern thrash about timely topics like the West Memphis Three (“Stolen Life”), odes to The More Things Change…-era Machine Head (“Out of Time”), staying away from the band (umm, “Stay Away”), and the closing track, the horribly-titled “thISIShell.” Care to take a wild guess as to what that song’s about?
Produced and mastered by Stefano Morabito (Fleshgod Apocalypse) at 16th Cellar Studio in Rome, Italy, Against All Odds is brickwalled but chunky. The guitars have some major beef to them, and the bass, when you can hear it, is thick and slinky, adding to the Korn vibe. Kudos goes out to drummer Alessandro Ferrera, though, who puts out some rather incredible fills during “Blood Red” and “Misanthropique.” But between the sub-par vocals and lyrics, the lack of melody and originality in the riffs, the awkwardness of transitions within songs (that ending to “Stolen Life” is grossly out of place), and the fact that this style of metal passed its sell-by date 15 years ago, there’s little to recommend here. Then again, I’m probably expecting too much from a band who named themselves after the loving act of training your dog to not shit in your home.
If anything, Against All Odds succeeded at making me look up the 1999 Ozzfest line-up, so there’s that. Other than making me research that little chestnut of information, there’s no reason to hunt down this dated example of ESL nu-thrash. If you do, lay down some newspaper first.