When London, Ontario, metal vixens Kittie titled their 2004 album Until the End, they had no idea how close they were to actually breaking up.
Eight months after its release, the band was without a label, and guitarist Lisa Marx and bassist Jennifer Arroyo subsequently quit because they were unable to pay their bills. They were the fourth and fifth musicians to leave the Kittie clan since the group's 1996 formation, and for six months, the future of the band was in limbo.
"It looked a little bleak when it was only [drummer] Mercedes [Lander] and I," frontwoman Morgan Lander admitted. "We're not the White Stripes. We can't get away with just guitar and drums. So we thought about leaving the band and getting an education or getting jobs. There was a lot of sadness and tears, but there was also a lot of creativity. And we ultimately decided that this is where our hearts lie and we couldn't do anything else."
Once they decided to persevere, the Lander sisters hired unsung local guitarist Tara McLeod and bassist Trish Doan, and spent 18 months writing over a dozen viciously melodic songs inspired by the stress and uncertainty they had endured with their former lineup. Funeral for Yesterday, which comes out February 20 on their own Kiss of Infamy Records (distributed through EMI), delivers on the promise Kittie first made 10 years ago, but never exactly kept. Gone are the rough edges and musical redundancies of former efforts, replaced by a new professionalism and a desire to put the past aside and move on.
"In order to have rebirth, you must have death," Morgan explained. "So, all of the songs are about the demise of the former band, the resurrection of something new. It's really about letting go of what's already gone and putting everything negative or unfortunate to rest."
Funeral for Yesterday was written and recorded without a deadline, and the extra time gave Kittie the opportunity to hone their arrangements and musicianship. It didn't hurt that the new members' skill levels dwarfed those of their predecessors. McLeod is equally capable of playing rapid Metallica-style chugs and textural Evanescence-esque washes — and she can also solo. And Doan's bass lines are tight and tasteful, straying just enough from the root rhythm to retain their own personality.
"They're both amazingly talented girls," Lander said. "And they're totally down to earth. Also, they've never experienced anything like this, so they have this naive excitement that Mercedes and I used to have. They're just thrilled to be here. They don't care about money or politics or the music business."
The new level of artistry and enthusiasm motivated Lander, whose vocals on Funeral for Yesterday are spiteful and soaring — simultaneously seductive and harsh. In addition, the minor-key backup harmonies are as sinister as those of Alice in Chains. And when she wants to, Lander can still spew death-metal vocal venom, as on "Never Again" and "Last Goodbye."
"On the last few albums we've had this strange divide where one song would be all full-out scary screaming metal and then we'd have a hard rock-ish ballad song," she said. "This time I wanted to blend the two styles together where you have the music of something really thrashy and heavy, but there's melody overtop."
Despite the obvious improvements, Kittie still face an uncertain future. Much has happened in metal since Until the End was released, and it's unclear if the band's former fanbase will still be there. It's also not yet known how well their label will be able to promote Funeral for Yesterday. Still, Lander looks to the days ahead with more enthusiasm than trepidation.
"Taking your future into your hands is very scary, but it's also really empowering," she said. "Yes, we've been out of the loop for a while, but I think the entire ordeal was a learning experience that allowed us to find ourselves. And now we're ready to come back with a vengeance."
The rest of the week's metal news:
Meshuggah have been writing material for their forthcoming, yet-untitled album. According to a statement from the band, Meshuggah are "putting together a kind of demo to see where we are at material-wise and basically give the studio, the songs and us a test run. We are swimming in dark waters that constitute putting an album together, and whatever we find beneath the surface is definitely gonna be interesting. Suffice to say that we're in a weird but inspirational period right now. It's all gonna be about the writing during November. The demo recording is hopefully happening in December. We've got no working title or concrete [album] cover ideas yet, but it's getting there." The LP could be out as early as the spring. ... The dates for Slayer's upcoming North American tour with openers Unearth have almost been finalized. The 22-date trek will kick off January 24 in Tucson, Arizona, and end February 24 in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. One date, January 26, is still TBD. ...
Drummer Adrian Erlandsson has decided to leave Cradle of Filth in order to spend more time working on his two side projects, Needleye and Nemhain. According to a statement from Erlandsson, "I have enjoyed my time with Cradle but it is now time to move on. I feel I am going out on a high note, as Thornography is definitely our best album to date." In his place, Cradle have enlisted Martin Skaroupka, who the band says is "a fine gent whose skills are second to none." ... Mastodon's upcoming U.S. run with Priestess and Converge is starting to take shape. At this stage, the tour's set to launch January 26 in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and stops are planned in 20 cities, including Nashville; Minneapolis; Washington, D.C.; and Providence, Rhode Island. The outing's set to wrap up February 18 in Norfolk, Virginia. ... Canadian power-metallers 3 Inches of Blood have begun work on the follow-up to 2004's Advance and Vanquish. The band has entered Armoury Studios in Vancouver, British Columbia, with producer Joey Jordison, better known as the drummer for Slipknot. ...
Byzantine are expected to hit the studio early next month to track the follow-up to 2005's ... And They Shall Take Up Serpents. The band will take a two-week breather from the recording of the LP to head out with God Forbid, Mnemic, Goatwhore and Arsis for a tour that gets under way February 2 in Atlanta and runs through February 17 in Rochester, New York. Then it's back to the studio to finish the effort, which is slated for release next year. According to frontman OJ Ojeda, "If this album doesn't kick our first two albums' asses, something is wrong! Some songs are pure thrash, some songs are off-time as hell and some songs are depressing and dark. This album will be our finest effort." ... Thrash-metal specialists Demiricous have been added to the lineup for this year's Chimaira Christmas 7, which will go down December 27 at the House of Blues Cleveland. Chimaira, of course, will headline the gig. Forever in Terror and Bowel are also on the bill. ...
Zombi will hit the road later this month for their first headlining run. The trek will be in support of Surface to Air, which was released back in May. Zombi have recruited Icy Demons, Maserati and an experimental jazz project featuring Dillinger Escape Plan's Ben Weinman and Chris Pennie to open. The trek kicks off November 29 in Washington, D.C., and concludes December 9 in Buffalo, New York. ... Deicide were victimized by a vandal during a gig in Santa Ana, California, on November 8. Someone — purportedly a member of opening act Amon Isis — entered Deicide's prep room and damaged some of the band's personal belongings, in addition to some of the club's property. Deicide are pursuing legal action against Amon Isis, according to a statement from the band. ... Poison the Well are in Sweden, where they've been working on their next album, which will be titled Versions. "Once again, [we] will be working with [producers] Pelle Henricsson and Eskil Lövström (Refused, Cult of Luna)," reads a statement from the band, who have just signed with Ferret Records. "We're pretty excited to finish this record up and expecting to have a release date early next year."