This week marks the arrival of the new CD In the Black from Kittie, the all-female quartet who first clawed their way onto the metal scene back in 1999 with their acclaimed debut album Spit. The band’s undergone a few lineup changes over the years, but the new stuff proves they’re leaner and meaner than ever.
But metal mayhem isn’t all these lethal ladies are about... I was also excited to learn that drummer Mercedes Lander is a self-proclaimed horror geek, and is more than happy to talk about her genre obsessions. We discussed her growing horror movie library, her favorite fear flicks and a few prize horror toys in her collection… and you can read all about that and a review of the new album below!
FEARnet: When did you first get hooked on horror?
MERCEDES: When I was about six years old, I wandered into the horror section of the local video store and spotted The Corpse Grinders. I begged my mom to get it for six months, and after she finally let me rent it, I was hooked. My parents weren’t very strict when it came to things like movies, so after The Corpse Grinders I got into the Friday the 13th series, the A Nightmare On Elm Street series and other movies like that.
What would you consider your short-list of the best classic horror flicks?
Return Of The Living Dead; Don’t Go Into The Woods; The Undertaker And His Pals; Hard Rock Zombies; Burial Ground; Suspiria; I Spit On Your Grave; Dead Heat; Criminally Insane; and Night Of The Living Dead (the original and 1990 versions).
That’s a wild selection… I’ll bet movie nights at your place are awesome.
Every day is a horror movie party for me! They usually consist of my sister and band-mate Morgan and my best friend Yasmina at either of our houses.
What was the last movie lineup you watched with them?
The last few we watched were Shock 'Em Dead, Return of the Living Dead, Midnight Meat Train, and Poultrygeist.
How many titles would I find in your horror movie collection?
At this point I honestly wouldn't have a clue! I counted a few years ago, and had around 350 movies… I’m guessing I’m close to 500 now.
Any "crown jewels" in there?
I have a few movies I am VERY proud to own. I’m more into 1960s to 1980s films, so the cheese factor is a must. Criminally Insane and its really bad camcorder-shot sequel, Crazy Fat Ethel 2, and The Undertaker and His Pals... all very hard-to-find movies, but great!
What's the best recently-made horror flick you've seen?
I didn't mind the Last House On The Left remake; I think that was the last horror movie I saw in theaters that I liked. I really have a hard time getting into newer movies because I hate CGI. As for movies that I rented, I liked Midnight Meat Train... it was definitely different.
What's your overall take on the Hollywood "remake-mania?”
I’m sitting on the fence on this subject, because I have seen a few good remakes... but for the most part, I can’t stand when the director and writer strays from the original plot too much. I’ve actually yelled at the screen in movie theaters because of it! I understand while making a movie you need to have your own creative input, but in reality you’re just making a remake and shouldn't get too carried away. You can’t touch some of those classics, and trying to remake them is just going to turn out badly. Hollywood should let ME make movies… I think I would do a pretty good job!
Apart from your movie collection. do you collect horror memorabilia?
Yes, I’m also a toy and horror movie book geek!
What are some of the prize items in your collection?
I love all my Evil Dead toys to death, and I also have this really awesome 'Good Guy' doll (alias Chucky) that my mom got for me when she went to California a few years ago. I live by the Zombie Survival Guide, just in case the dead start to walk the earth and try to eat me!
If Mercedes never gets that break into movies, it would be a loss for cinema... but then again we wouldn’t want to jeopardize the band’s future, because Kittie have serious skills, and the proof's right here In the Black. Her sister Morgan, the band's lead vocalist and co-founder, isn't kidding when she describes it as "a behemoth of an album."
The band took full creative control this time out, writing and recording all songs with no outside influence, and wisely chose to delve into the roots of old-school metal – including bands like Thin Lizzy, whom Mercedes cites as a big influence – plainly evident in cuts like "Whisky Love Song," for example (great vocals on that one too). But there's also plenty of wicked thrash and death in the mix as well: the low-key but effective opening instrumental "Kingdom Come" is epic in the mold of classic-period Metallica, and leads into the brutal "My Plague," a straight searing blast of simple vintage thrash.
"Forgive and Forget" swings wildly between manic death metal (including a shockingly deep, gravelly voice layered beneath the main vocal), '80s-style riffage and melodic flourishes; "Sorrow I Know" is a pensive, mid-tempo cut that reminds you how good this band is at creating a dark, haunting mood, as exemplified in earlier classics like "Safe" (my personal fave). Equally compelling is "Falling Down," this time grinding more slowly with a lurching 3/4-time beat. The church-organ strains that begin the massive final track "The Truth" give it even more epic weight.
Throughout these twelve cuts, Morgan's vocals flit easily between pristine pop croons and brain-searing demon growls, creating a feeling of tense uncertainty in tracks like "Forgive and Forget," and even meet in the middle for a lascivious twist in the passionate "Die My Darling." Instrumentally, they adhere to a fairly straight, uncomplicated style, with the occasional look-at-me guitar solo (probably another nod to their '80s guitar heroes). I think their guitars feel most robust with a touch of old-school detuned layers ("Ready Aim Riot" is a great example), although the mega-fat sound can sometimes make Morgan's clean vocals sound a bit tiny.
Free from external pressures, the band is at their most expressive and intense, and you can also tell they're having fun with it, as if they were their sole audience. Although it might lack some of the caustic angst of some of their early work, it's just as primal and even more energetic... and that personal touch really comes through. Check ‘em out now!