Kittie has something to prove. The band is comprised of three women playing in the heavily male dominated genre of metal, and on top of this, they are still, more or less, teenagers. Kittie not only has to win over the boys, but establish itself against bands whose members are much older and more experienced.
After tours with Slipknot and Pantera, as well as a slight line-up change (guitarist Fallon Bowman left the band in 2001), Kittie seems to want Oracle to break it out of the novelty of being an all-girl metal band. From the album artwork (featuring pictures of chest x-rays with open safety pins, highlighted by bloody red) to frontwoman Morgan Lander’s constant guttural screaming, Kittie’s aim is to show how downright scary it is. The band doesn’t want to be seen as having anything to do with anything feminine. Kittie seems be operating under the philosophy that the only way it can prove itself to the boys is to act like them. This is Kittie’s biggest mistake, and while it may come from the band’s immaturity, it keeps Oracle from being powerful and makes it, instead, almost laughable at times, which is unfortunate since Kittie can be quite good when it wants to be.
Lander’s guitar work is masterful, loud and angry, complimented by the pulsating bass of Talena Atfield and the super speed percussion of Mercedes Lander. Kittie’s talents truly lie in its musicianship, and despite some of the band’s sillier tendencies as it tries to master metal conventions, this is what keeps it from failing completely. The band has an intuitive understanding of song structure, which is impressive, given the band member’s ages. Although most songs are fairly short, the final track, “Pink Lemonade” clocks in at over 10 minutes, but Kittie sustains it from beginning to end without letting the listener’s interest fade
But after suffering through two songs of Morgan Lander’s inarticulate growling, some listeners may not get that far. The third track, “In Winter”, which finally showcases her spookily ethereal singing voice, listeners have to wonder why she feels the need to be screaming. Songs like “Safe”, which Lander actually sings, are haunting and seductive, and are much more chilling than any demonic yelling will ever be. Lander seems to understand that her power does lie in her voice, but she misunderstands what she should do with it. Maybe because of testosterone-drive of Kittie’s music, it is truly more effective when it let listeners realize that there are three women here.
Since Lander is generally hard to understand, thanks to her predominant vocal style, Kittie has fortunately included its lyrics in the liner notes. Song titles like “Mouthful of Poison” and “Pain” pretty much let listeners know where the focus of Oracle is, and Kittie pretty much delivers on these promises. “Everything you demanded you bleed right from me” Lander declares on “No Name” and while most of the lyrics have the same sort of gruesome pointlessness, they do match Kittie’s music for the most part. Metal lyrics are nearly always pretentious, but Kittie manages to do better than most.
If Kittie continues to grow as a band, it is going to be one band to watch out for, but right now, its music relies too much on metal formula. Kittie has expanded on its ability since its debut, but it still hasn’t grown much. Once the girls stop worrying about their need to win over its target audience, Kittie will be free to do whatever it wants. Kittie’s Oracle wants to prove itself, and it doesn’t quite, but it does show, that no matter what else, these girls can, and do, rock.