Our previous visits with Canada's all-female extreme metal quartet Kittie have been super-cool... from their zombie-themed comic video for “We Are the Lamb” (if you missed it, be sure to check it out at the end of this review), to our interview with drummer Mercedes Lander, who told us about her extensive collection of horror videos and memorabilia (including her very own “Good Guy” Chucky doll). My first exposure to this scorching combo came with the powerful single “Safe." I'm guessing that track was also the first time many listeners discovered Kittie's expert blend of moody, gothic melodies, darkly dangerous riffage, and lead vocals by Mercedes' sister Morgan, which simultaneously seduce and destroy. The most popular variation on “Safe” was a remix by industrial heavyweights (and fellow FEARnet faves) KMFDM, and that's the one that won me over, thanks to a haunting piano-backed melody that erupts in its final act into a volcano of Morgan's soaring melodic wails and stacks of gritty, punkish rhythm guitar.
“Safe” originally appeared on the 2001 album Oracle (and on its own EP featuring the remix), and it's one of a dozen excellent tracks featured in this collection, which serves up prime cuts from the first four Kittie albums; no songs made it in from last summer's release I've Failed You, but don't let that stop you from checking out that one too... especially the massive single “Whisper of Death.” From the band's acclaimed and top-selling 1999 debut Spit (recorded when the Lander sisters were still in their teens!) comes the title track, plus the band's first certified hit "Brackish,” as well as "Charlotte" and "Paper Doll.”
While their debut record was a historic landmark, for me the band really hit their creative stride with Oracle, which featured the aforementioned "Safe,” and also included here are "What I Always Wanted" and "Run Like Hell.” From 2004's Until the End, which was less commercially successful but still a powerful record, we get "Into The Darkness" and "Look So Pretty.” From 2009's phenomenal release In the Black (check out the full album review here, including our interview with Mercedes) comes "Cut Throat" and the thrash-tastic single "My Plague.” The album closes with the only live track, "Do You Think I'm a Whore," which originally appeared as a studio version on Spit.
I've been a major Kittie fan for a decade now, and this collection just proves my first instincts right once again... which of course is excellent for my fragile ego, but that's beside the point. I know some fans of extreme metal are put off by female-fronted bands that tend to adopt a more ethereal, gothic or symphonic feel (which is more of a European tradition), but that's not how these kittens roll; while the lyrical content is often distinctly feminine in perspective, the music itself is all hard, mean and razor-edged metal infused with punk ferocity, and it'll stomp your ass two times before you even hear the first one coming. It's their trademark attack, and they're still bringing it after twelve years. While this collection tracks a steady evolution and refinement of songwriting and production, their energy hasn't diminished a bit since '99, and that's what really counts.
Now, as promised, we present Kittie getting their zombie on in the tongue-in-cheek video for “We Are the Lamb”...