For Kittie, it wasn't enough to tour with Slipknot. It wasn't enough to co-headline the Sno Core tour. It wasn't enough to co-headline the OZZfest 2000 sidestage with Soulfly. And it wasn't enough to be hand-picked by Pantera to join their Reinventing The Steel tour. In the world of heavy metal, it just wasn't enough to be the Cowgirls From Hell --Kittie wanted more. They wanted to follow-up their gold Artemis Records debut Spit, which soundscanned over 600,000 (over 100,000 outside the U.S.), with a sophomore release that would blur the lines that differentiate the sexes, resulting in an album that was nothing more than heavy metal, written and performed by heavy metal fans.
Oracle accomplishes that goal. Recorded in the band's hometown of London, Ontario and produced by GGGarth Richardson (Rage Against The Machine, Ozzy Osbourne), who also twirled the knobs for Spit, Oracle takes listeners on the voyage that Kittie has traveled since their primal origins little more than five years ago. With the new release, guitarist, vocalist and principle songwriter Morgan Lander surpasses her heavy metal roots, taking listeners on a tour de force of emotional depths, musical highs and lows, and influences that run the gamut from classic rock and grindcore, to new wave and death metal. Keying in on influences, it's hard to deny the impact that the road has had on the band.
"With all of the variables of touring and playing with a lot of crazy bands, it wasn't necessarily an influence, but it was definitely a life-changing experience, being on the road like that," says Morgan. "Also, we got practice-It wasn't necessarily a conscious thing, but once we got off the road and I sat down and started to write stuff, it just came out this way, it was a natural evolution of the band, really."
That natural evolution goes from horrifying to captivating throughout Oracle, the blinding prophecies of the title track leading a doom-laden march into the deadly vocal blasts of "Mouthful Of Poison," before taking on a more refreshing air on "In Winter," the lyrics soaring above the music's sludge-like crawl, diving from charmed heights to possessed depths. Mercedes piledrives "Severed" into the netherworld, leveling a charge of drums that echo through your soul long after the track has vibrated from the speakers.
"I think it's just an evolution of the band, and a development in musicianship with the touring we've done," says Morgan of Kittie's cunning blend of melodic brutality. "Me, especially-I've had the opportunity to really find my voice, and now we're a lot more confident, as well. I think that confidence comes through in the melody, as much as anything. When there is melody there is a lot more, because I sort of found my vocal niche-I found out what I can and can't do."
But most importantly, Kittie stayed true to themselves, something that no doubt rubbed off on them from their worldwide touring and vast OZZfest dates with Pantera. "I really respect the way that they command the stage, and the fact that they are people who love what they do, and continue to do exactly what they want and not be told otherwise," says the frontwoman of Dallas' metal heroes. "There's no compromise, and I can really respect that. I feel that way about my music, and I know that that's something that's important to us-Keeping our integrity, and doing exactly what we want to do. We've all become fortified, and have become stronger as a three-piece, as a power-trio of sorts. We have totally grown together as people and as musicians. When you're on tour for so long, you're playing the same songs over and over and subconsciously you don't realize that you're improving. When we came home, that was really surprising, I was really blown away with what we were capable of doing."
Look no farther than their first single for that growth, "What I Always Wanted," a melodic catharsis that melds their molten, death metal tendencies with a melodic fusion that borders on irresistible. "The whole theme of the song is a kind of soured victory," says Lander. "It happens when you wish for something and you sort of get it, but it's also not what you intended, there's a twisted irony. Like on The Twilight Zone, when there are always people that want or wish for something, and when they get it in the end, there's always something flipped around. You get your three wishes, but they're not always what you bargain for."
But as the album grinds to a close, the true musical gems lie in the latter tracks-Sure, "Run Like Hell" is a mesmerizing cover that would make Pink Floyd take notice, but for a complete taste of where Kittie have come since the release of Spit, check out "Safe," an enchanting layering of majestic vocals and supple instrumentation, leaving one to wonder just what's next for the Canadian trio. "That song shows that we're capable of so much more-We were able to branch out and still retain our sense of identity and still sound like Kittie. That's something a little different than what people are used to from us, and it's one of my favorite tracks. It's a breath of fresh air, it's like the calm after the storm." If "Safe" is the calm before the storm, the 10-minute closer "Pink Lemonade" sets us down in the eye of the tornado. Madness surrounds us, but Kittie find that place where solace and comfort nestle within the darkness. And they take us there.
If you take anything from Oracle, let it be the boundless limitations that Kittie place on themselves, as well as their music. Kittie may be metal, but they're also capable of a lot more. Heavy metal is a multi-faceted beast, and Kittie grow more and more comfortable in its cloak with every passing day. That comfort is what defines Oracle.
"An oracle speaks of truth, and sort of foresees the future," says Morgan. "This album is a coming-into-our-own album-We've found our own sound, and it's our truth. If you're not feeling in your heart what you're putting in to music, it's not worth a thing-I'm all about integrity, and keeping things pure and true, the way you intended them to be. There is a lot of emotion manifested into this really aggressive, raw sort of album, and it comes out in the music. I found out after we named the album that our ears have an oracle, and so do our hearts-So Oracle pertains to music, emotions, your heart. There's a lot that is intertwined."