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Album Reviews : House of Thumbs – Crossing the Rubicon

By on March 18, 2010

new case spec DVD.aiMeshuggah and Faith No More are the two bands listed in this album’s press release as influences, and in all honesty, that combination is a spot-on description. Melbourne’s House of Thumbs have certainly come up with an interesting sound; combining the intense polyrhythmic style the former band are famous for, with a vast range of quirky clean vocals that are so Patton-esque at times, you would swear he was involved.

‘Crossing the Rubicon’, their debut album, is a concept album that apparently “follows a sadistic little man who harvests thumbs from various victims”. While that does sound kind of cute in a disturbed fairytale way, the ferocity of the album suggests otherwise. ‘Crossing the Rubicon’ is a vicious assault; it’s balls-to-the-wall heavy from start to finish with the latter half of “End Game (G.O.D)” being one of only rests you’ll get. Thanks to a bloody chunky production and a nicely balanced mix, the drums, guitars and harsher vocals have oodles of power, while still allowing any clean vocals or melodic leads to soar over the top.

While many Meshuggah-esque bands tend to sound quite safe despite their actual heaviness, House of Thumbs sound like they’re going to just explode at times. The bizarre layered mishmash of spoken clean vocals and odd clean riffs of “All Fours” sound like something out of a mental institution, and there are countless musical sections that leave you wondering whether they actually can return to a level of structured normality afterwards. Oddly enough, the clean vocals actually add to the craziness, with their wavering tendencies often adding a layer of madness to some simpler riffing and blasting.

Despite all that, there actually is quite a bit of variety in here, stopping it from becoming too ‘samey’. Some cleaner, technical riff sections provide enough faux-melody to stop the ballsier guitars from becoming monotonous; while straight-forward brutal death metal sections (see “Kin”) will give provide some relief to those who prefer their metal more traditional. There are even a couple of tastefully used breakdowns. The drums alternate between blasting and slower patterns full of groove, faultlessly complementing the music.

Now while I love and praise Linden Audino’s interesting use of clean vocals, it won’t be to everyone’s tastes. Be warned. It’s the type of thing some people will enjoy, and others will brush off as faggy metalcore shit.

‘Crossing the Rubicon’ is one of the more interesting albums to come out of Melbourne’s death metal scene, and one that is definitely worth a listen. 8/10

Band: House of Thumbs
Album: Crossing the Rubicon
Year: 2010
Genre: Death metal
Label: Independent
Origin: Melbourne, Australia

Track listing:
1. Tourian
2. Impulse
3. All Fours
4. Kin
5. End Game (G.O.D) <- Reviewers choice
6. Sunday Rat Race
7. Shura
8. Hangman
9. Plainfield
10. Lead Therapy


Mitch Booth is the owner, designer and grand overlord of Metal Obsession. In the few seconds of spare time he has outside of this site, he also hosts a metal radio show over on PBS 106.7fm in Melbourne (Australia) and organises shows under the name Untitled Touring. You should follow him on Twitter.