rating icon 7.5 / 10

Track listing:

02. I Still Wear This Crown
03. Falter
04. Vultures
05. We Are Shadows
06. Wound
07. One Foot In The Grave
08. Are You Entertained
09. Grime
10. Eyes Wide Open

Knowing when to quit is an underrated skill. Although KITTIE never official split up, their decision to disappear into the shadows after 2011's solid but unremarkable "I've Failed You" now seems like an inspired one. Never the snuggest fit in the nu-metal scene with which they are generally associated, the Canadians return with that genre in the ascendancy — at least in terms of nostalgia's grip on people of a certain age — and a new, young audience primed to embrace music that harks back to the late '90s.

Timing isn't everything, but it does count for a lot and "Fire" is a comeback that makes perfect sense. KITTIE deserve more credit for breaking new ground for women in metal than they received first time around, but their music is also ripe for reassessment. Always heavier and gnarlier than the nu-metal norm, and equally influenced by grunge and extreme metal, Morgan and Mercedes Lander forged a unique sound at a young age, and nothing on their seventh album suggests that the formula has lost any of its potency.

Comprising ten short, snappy songs and absolutely no extraneous messing around, "Fire" makes its purpose and motivation plain. KITTIE always sounded like a band with murderous tendencies bubbling just below the surface, and while these songs are as catchy as they are brutal, mad-eyed aggression and righteous fury are the primary modes of expression. Producer Nick Raskulinecz (FOO FIGHTERS / GHOST / HALESTORM) has done a superb job of bringing KITTIE back to life.

As filthy as a MAX CAVALERA side-project but streamlined and powerful too, "Fire" rarely sounds like a throwback. The sheer spite that drives songs like the pummeling, death-tinged title track and the groove metal beatdown of the closing "Eyes Wide Open" has been vividly captured, and Morgan Lander's vocals are truly venomous and authoritative throughout. In fact, she never sounded this vicious first time around, and the various vocal harmonies that are sprinkled across these songs provide a more telling contrast than they did on KITTIE's early records.

The essence of what made KITTIE a unique proposition on albums like "Spit" (25 years old this year!) and "Oracle" (2001) is alive and well throughout "Fire". The difference is that they hit harder and with a greater sense of purpose these days. "I Still Wear This Crown" is a hulking brute of a song, with some ghostly vocal hooks floating over rugged, machine-gun riffing and a headbang-worthy chorus for the ages. "Falter" is all gargantuan, lurching riffs and bittersweet alt-rock dynamics; "We Are Shadows" offers an inspired blend of mutant, SLIPKNOT riffs and soaring, power metal vocal crescendos, and may be the catchiest song KITTIE have ever written; and "Are You Entertained" is awash with dark dismay and vocals that snap from haunting to belligerent, amid a tense barrage of scowling sludge.

When a band returns after a lengthy hiatus, most fans would vote for a return to top form and no radical departures, if you don't mind. KITTIE were never the most challenging or ingenious bands in musical terms, but the honesty and authenticity of what they did 25 years ago has never been in doubt. "Fire" is true to the band's original spirit, but also resolutely up to date. It's great to have them back.

Author: Dom Lawson
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