First, let's get this out of the way:Perennial Canadian try-too-harders KITTIE have amassed a catalog over the course of a decade that has ranged from barely passable to downright embarrassing, trading on their novelty status as an all-girl band to keep them in the spotlight despite clunky songs, demo-grade vocals and records that occasionally sound like high school recording workshop projects gone awry. Their continued existence has been all the more offensive because it gives chauvinist onionheads on message boards an excuse to hate on all women in metal, and their ability to find someone in this beleaguered industry to keep releasing their crappy records after the initial sugar rush wore off has been nothing short of mind-boggling. They put out crap. But. The new one's not that bad. In fact, it's pretty damn good. And no, I don't know how this transpired, unless the band saved up a career's worth of life lessons and decided to dump them all onto this project. However it happened, there's no denying that "My Plague" and "Cut Throat" are simple, powerful, catchy, punishing modern metal anthems, with impressive soloing, confident vocals that stride with ease from croons to screams, and an overall sense of power and purpose that KITTIE hasn't even shown a hint of before. Elsewhere, "Forgive and Forget" is a seething, clenched-fist statement of intent, with a perfectly sculpted chorus that again shows the band's newfound vocal prowess. The second half delves into a darker, slower, more brooding mood, evidenced by the likes of "Falling Down", "Sleepwalking" and the slow, southern-scorched album-ending dirge "The Truth". And "Sorrow I Know" is a big, slow, bombastic, hair-raising menacer, with some sly, thunderous drums propelling the whole thing along and one of the best vocal performances of a good lot. All of these songs work — they get in, get to the point and get out, with insanely memorable choruses, great guitar hooks, and a go-for-the-throat energy that is welcome and surprising. Despite a couple missteps ("Ready Aim Riot" and "Die My Darling", while still better than anything the band's done before, are weaker tracks), KITTIE have redeemed themselves with one brushstroke. They aren't revolutionizing anything here, and they're not trying to be anything they're not, but they've turned in a batch of great heavy songs played with ferocious conviction -- who the hell knew they had it in them? I'm not quite ready to say all is forgiven just yet, but I may just have to adjust to calling myself a KITTIE fan in public. Unless the new MEGADETH is a reggae record, "In the Black" will easily reign as the biggest metal shock of 2009. If you don't believe it, and refuse to get on board, I don't blame you at all. But don't be real surprised if we have to finally make room for 'em at the grown-ups' table. Almost an 8... I know, I know!
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