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"We wanted this to be a behemoth of an album, a real beast," says Kittie front woman Morgan Lander of In The Black, the fifth studio album of her band's decade-long career as metal's reigning femme fatales. The band delivered true on their promise, creating a 12-track behemoth of unapologetic metal splendor, forging bone-crushing music and penetrating vocals into a snarling beast of blunt force trauma. And better yet, they did it without any drama.
Tara McLeod, Kittie's acclaimed guitarist returns with a prodigious second studio effort. "Tara comes from a different school of music, she's more influenced by blues and jazz, and as we evolve as a band we definitely play off of each other," Morgan says of her fellow guitarist. "They complement each other really well," adds Mercedes, the band's drummer, "and it was really nice to have someone be able to come to practice with a solo for a song or a cool riff. It was nice to have a third party offering suggestions." Also familiar to fans is bassist Ivy Vujic, who has been in the band for two years, making this the most dynamic and engaging lineup in Kittie's history. And their chemistry shows!
With total domestic sales in excess of 1.25 million, Kittie also approached the recording of In the Black as complete free agents, for their first time ever, writing and recording a record with absolutely no outside influences breathing down their necks. The results will make your skin crawl and the hair on the back of your neck stand at attention.
"It's the most focused piece of music we've ever put out, and it was the most focused process," says Mercedes of the new release. "We just did whatever we wanted to do and wrote whatever we wanted to write." Adds Morgan, "We set out to make this album the complete antithesis of what our last album was, and to do things as differently as possible in terms of writing, recording and song structure. We felt very boxed-in production-wise on the last album, and we were determined to make an album where we could feel free, liberated, and left to our own devices."
In other words, the album is Kittie in all their unadulterated splendor, a colossal effort that combines everything fans have come to expect from the fearsome foursome, along with a few surprises. "My Plague" is the album's primal mating call, a sinister brood of Morgan's sadistic vocal dirges and growls, a swirling grind of guitars and an artillery spray of drum cover. "Forgive And Forget" is just as brutal, but laced by a melodic underbelly as soft as the song's guitar solos are scorching, and "Die My Darling" trades the death mask vocals for a melodic pitch and resonating gang vocal on the chorus. It's as filthy as anything Kittie have ever recorded before, but twice as inviting.
"I wanted to try and do something different vocally, not the same screaming and singing," says Morgan. "I challenged myself to find a new voice for this album, and there are a couple of songs where I really think I have it. I wanted to dig deeper to make the sound more raw and real, more in your face. In the case of 'Die My Darling,' it was sassy and it needed that nasty spin on things." Mission accomplished.
And if you think you hear a lick or two that reminds you of some of metal's classic forces? You're probably not far from the mark - As long as you know your history, that is.
"I feel like a lot of bands don't take the cues from their elders, and they're just ripping each other off," says Mercedes of today's metal scene. "We grew up in a house with late-'70s classic rock and early metal, and as we get older our influences are starting to come into our songwriting more. We just don't want to sound like anybody else that's out right now." "The classic metal feel is something that we've grown into," continues Morgan. "As we get older and become better musicians, it's necessary to go back in time and appreciate an older style and the fledgling form of the music you're playing. The '70s and '80s were a magical time in metal and those guys were amazing players. We totally respect it, so why not pay homage if you can pull it off?"
Pull it off they do, "Kingdom Come" kicking the album off in an instrumental fashion that would do Metallica proud and "My Plague" following in true "For Whom The Bell Tolls" fashion, "Ready Aim Riot" packing a guitar swoon similar in style to seminal to the thrash of early Anthrax, and classic rock even getting a nod on "Whisky Love Song," which might emblaze an educated listeners with a vision of Thin Lizzy on speed and steroids. The album is equal parts Kittie's past and equal parts Kittie's future. "For us to move forward," explains Morgan, "we've done a lot of looking back with music, and we wear our influences on our sleeves - Metallica, Death, Carcass, and even classic bands like Thin Lizzy, who Mercedes listens to a lot.
"This album speaks for itself - our musicianship is better, we're more self-assured and comfortable, and we just did what we do with no boundaries and no limitations. We appreciate that people know us from our first album and we respect our history, but we want people to respect and understand what we're doing now and appreciate Kittie for the evolutionary step that we've taken. What we do is both intriguing and frightening at the same time - I think that's why we've been able to keep at it for as long as we have, and why we'll continue to do it for a very long time."