Hard Reviews 2
by Martin Popoff

United - Distorted Vision
(Howling Bull)

I was a big fan of this Japanese band's lone Metal Blade release, '96's No IQ, so it was cool to see that this 18 year institution was still kicking, now recording for San Francisco's Howling Bull (www.howlingbull.com), whose mandate is to bring Japanese hardcore, punk and metal to these shores. United's sound is now a long way from their early days as a Judas Priest cover band, delving more into tribal artcore vis-a-vis Skinlab, Soulfly, new Sepultura, and, given hard, unfeeling combat-ready production from Vince Wojno, earlier Machine Head and Criminal. As would be expected, the band find a number of fresh riffs and arrangements (even copping Nine Inch Nails's best drumbeat in So Damn Low), while going to the S.O.D. well a bit too regularly, resulting in an album that swings between the tired and tired and the novel and exotic. New vocalist too, Shinichi Inazoo being a tall, drealocked guy with a standard throaty hardcore bellow (where have we heard that one before?). A step back and/or a step trendy? I'd say bring back the power metal.
Rating 6

Kittie - Spit

As much as I would be sadly predisposed and predicted to give no truck to teenage grrl power bands from two hours up the highway into the whitebread part of Ontario, Kittie strip away all the baggage and just rock y'all heavily and smartly. It's no hype why these high schoolers have seen press in Rolling Stone, AP and Spin. It's 'cos they can write, execute, endear, and make you think way beyond their years. Man, where do I start? First I thought Coal Chamber, but then they left Dez in the dust, advancing through Slipknot and then arriving at the hallowed halls of Tool and Helmet, their female persuasions causing erudite vocal melodies along the lines of The Gathering, Drain STH, but mainly lost Swede sweeties Doughnuts. But the band never overdo the baby doll thing - in fact they never do it - going plain and restrained and mixed not too far forward forthe clean stuff, and sounding like vicious hardcore sirens for the throaty admonishments, a berating bray so harshly and metaphorically critical at male stupidity you can feel the greenie about to be launched at your disbelieving face. I'm most happy that the band rock the riffs hard and traditional, no electronic gunk, no patience for rap metal, only a slight nod to the Roadrunner sensation, ultimately just a rhythmic swing that is surprisingly complicated but still mosh-worthy and level-headedly produced by metal legend Gggarth Richardson. Go for it girls. Get in the door with the novelty of it all, and then just drop-kick 'em with your loud lovin' thing. See www.artemisrecords.com for more Kittie.
Rating 8

Hard Reviews Page 3