In The Black, by Kittie
Suggested by John Ingham
I first reviewed Kittie back in ALBUM 120, for their debut release Spit.
I found that record to be decent enough. Heavy, but nothing too bludgeoning. Particular praise was heaped on Morgan Lander, the lead vocalist, for her multi-faceted performance. She rocked me with a voice that encompassed a number of styles, from slow and resonant breathy steam to a manic, angry daemonette.
For their fifth album (of six to date), it’s a shame to report that Morgan has foregone a lot of the nuance that peppered her vocal style nine years previous, and instead opted to take her most growly screechy honkings and hone them into a noise that’s akin to being slapped in the face with an oily metal spatula.
I was so excited to return to Kittie after a full fifty albums. I’d left the Spit review with an optimistic refrain that heralded the band’s accomplished debut and looked ahead to hearing more of their established work in the weeks and months to come. Now, with In The Black, I get to come (almost) full circle, covering the band’s development over a decade and five full studio releases. Fun!
We start with Kingdom Come, the ninety-second guitar instrumental that kicks off this album. It’s soulful, and cultured, and reminiscent of the opening bars of the title track on Metallica’s And Justice For All. I raise a hopeful smile, as my anticipation grows. The intro to My Plague slams into my ears, with precise double-bass-drumming and classic thrash guitar melody. My smile widens. All the omens bode well. This promises to be epic.
Then… THWACK! Spatula to the face.
It’s not like Morgan Lander didn’t utilise the Death Growl Scream in Spit. She did, on occasion. But that’s the first point to make… it was on occasion. Secondly, the new version of her Death Growl Scream is much diminished from the gloriously wacky and wonderful version back in the year 2000. This one seems more polished, more cookie-cutter, and far less interesting. There’s no subtlety or emotion this time out. It’s just a static belch.
Maybe this is a consequence of In The Black’s newfound production polish. Back in Spit, there was a certain wooliness to everything, an almost Grungy veneer that muffled everything like a cloying tar. There’s no such thing here. This is definitely to the album’s credit, as the crispness highlights the improved musicianship and song structure. And when the tracks lays off the growling, there’s a lot to enjoy. My favourite song, Die My Darling, is a case in point, but even this loses points for not being the Misfits cover I was expecting.
While Spit took home a 6, I can only offer In The Black 5/10. Musically, it’s better than their debut. And Kingdom Come had me genuinely excited for the songs to come. Then the Growl took a dump on my carpet, as it has done so many times before, and that was all she wrote.