In The Black

Written by: AP on 11/02/2010 00:14:23

Girls must have a difficult time in a genre packed with as much testosterone as metal, having to put up with one preconception after another about their gender and put twice the effort (or worse) into convincing labels, critics and fans of their worth. Quite an absurd situation, when you think about it, considering the amount of scheming, emotion and impending wrath stowed inside each woman just waiting to be unleashed on unsuspecting men. Girls should be ideal candidates to perform in metal bands, and if more of them were persuaded to choose that path, perhaps we men could be spared an unjustified bout of rage aimed at us every now and then. It would be cathartic. But alas, the general consensus seems to be little more modern than the common opinion that has stuck with us since the Stone Age: women should just stay in the kitchen and let men do men’s work.

Against all odds, all-girl four-piece Kittie have been around since 1996, trying their craft at pretty much everything hard and heavy: nu metal, hard rock and more recently, metalcore. However, putting four hyper-emotional beings in small confines inevitably ends in disaster, which might explain the oscillations in the band’s line-up over the years. In fact, “In the Black” is the band’s first back-to-back album with a stable line-up. But enough history and misogyny (please understand, we are just kidding), let’s have a word or two on the merits of this album. In order to describe its sound, let us borrow the words of front-woman and founding member Morgan Lander: ”When we were thinking of names to call the band before our first show, we had decided that we wanted something completely contradictory to what the band and the sound of the band was… I think there were a few other pussy sounding names… like Swan or Swansong… but Kittie was chosen and the rest is history.”

Quite right, a kitten is probably the last image to cross your mind when the beautiful instrumental opener “Kingdom Come” is shattered with a jarring and entirely unexpected shift to Lamb of God-esque, groove-packed instrumentation in “My Plague”. It is surprising, but once the initial shock at what just happened fades, it turns out that this and the following “Cut Throat” actually have very little to offer beside Morgan Lander’s diverse vocals (which range from black metal shrieks to deep growling and some rather ballsy singing). Then there’s a decent rendition of The Misfit’s legendary “Die My Darling” before things begin to get more interesting with album highlights “Sorrow I Know”, on which the band nails a chilling opus, and “Forgive & Forget”, a mammoth metalcore piece delivered at thrash metal pace. Unfortunately the succeeding songs take on a descent into same old, same old (with the exception of “Sleepwalking” – a fantastic melodic anthem) and the band’s lackluster devices become more apparent.

Though “Falling Down” makes a commendable attempt at showcasing Morgan and rhythm guitarist Tara McLeod’s solo skills, the overall level of technicality is disappointing for a metal band – whether that’s due to lack of actual skill or mediocre songwriting. There is simply very little interesting going on in the instrumental channels, and although Morgan’s vocals are a genuine pleasure to listen to and overall the songs carry a decent vibe, “In the Black” does not have the competitive edge necessary to thrive in a genre as saturated as metalcore. Of course Kittie will always have the female edge to turn some heads and undoubtedly garner a long queue of faithful (or overly eager?) male fans, but musically the band is simply not on par with their contemporary peers – and please do not interpret that as a deliberate attack on their sex. The album does have boatloads of attitude and old school vibe to it though, and coupled with Morgan Lander’s astonishing vocal techniques, there is no reason to discredit Kittie. After all, this is one of the best female-fronted (yes, I know they are all girls…) metal bands I have listened to.


Download: Sorrow I Know, Forgive & Forget, Sleepwalking
For the fans of: The Agonist, In This Moment, Otep
Listen: Myspace

Release date 23.10.2009
E1 Music

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