Friday, June 1, 2007

The Great Kat

Katherine Thomas is a musical virtuoso. She studied classical piano and violin before the age of ten, and by 15 she was awarded a full scholarship to attend the prestigious Juilliard School in New York. According to her website, Thomas became the Concertmaster of the Juilliard Pre-College Orchestra along with winning the "Robert Hufstader Scholarship" in Theory at Juilliard. She began her career as a classical violin soloist at Carnegie Recital Hall before soloing extensively in North America and Europe.

At some point in the mid-to-late 80s, Katherine Thomas decided classical music was "dead" and looked to expand her skills as a musician into...this:

Thomas, going by the name The Great Kat, assembled drummer Adam (The Animal) Killa and bassist Tom Von Doom to support her as she shred on guitar, violin, and vocals. She then released her first full-length metal album in 1987, which she refered to in the liner notes as "The LP of the Century," Worship Me or Die. It featured songs like "Satan Goes to Church," "Kill The Muthers," "Kat Possessed," and "Metal Messiah":

What you hear and see is bombastic, over-the-top antics and the thin line between brilliance and insanity. It's quite clear that Kat has fantastic ability, but it's lost in that screechy noodling she calls soloing. The songs on the album are simplistic in riff structure and lyrics, instead focusing on her ability to solo, but she goes way off the deep end, foresaking melody for outright speed which enters the realm of incomprehnsibility. I never watched much Star Trek, but I remember seeing an episode of Next Generation where the android Data was listening to multiple classical music compositions at once, and it was unlistenable to his human companion, Riker. This is somewhat similar here. Kat is going, "listen to me fly," and the rest of us are literally bleeding out of our ears, and not in the good way.

Aside from that shrieky guitar work that makes early Slayer sound like Stratovarius, her vocals sometimes elevate from that growl you just heard into decibals that would make a young Mark Osegueda (of Death Angel) blush, and then hide.

In the liner notes, which are very entertaining, she alerts us - "Note: this album was not sped up. It was recorded at the same speed the GREAT KAT actually plays!" Stellar. Maybe it should have been slowed down, though.

Toning it down is not what she was or is about, though, as she alludes to in her thank yous: "...and all the rest of the magazines and fanzines who know that KAT RULES! KAT RULES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!" I'm not sure if that is the exact number of exclamation points, as I refuse to count, but it's a close approximation.

Despite some of the shortcomings, Kat showed a lot of potential, and this debut could have simply been dismissed as a rough beginning, a raw approach that can be smoothed out and turned into the starting point of a great metal career. It never worked out that way, because she went further into a place few of us could audibly follow.

Her next album came out in 1990, entitled Beethoven On Speed, and was designed to further her agenda of mixing classical music and speed metal, although there isn't much of an audience for either in this MTV world. And when you listen to "Beethoven on Speed (Beethoven's 5th Symphony In C Minor)," you can see her potential really come through:

Besides the ear-splitting, toneless solos in many of her songs, Kat's second biggest problem is aptly demonstrated in the above track - songs that are far too short for metal. Punk songs can get away with being two minutes long or less, but metalheads expect a little more, especially if you're supposed to be displaying your virtuosity on the guitar.

Throughout the 90s and into this decade, she's released a string of EPs, with about five songs or so and each clocking in about or under 20 minutes in length. She's still as technically proficient as ever, but her ability is still lost by her inability to translate that into music. Here's one of her latest numbers, "Torture Chamber," from her DVD Extreme Guitar Shred:

It's basically a mess of noise with hints of music popping out. If there is a Hell and there are sounds in Hell, this is probably it. In fact, this is probably what heavy metal sounds like to old people.

The Great Kat is amazing, but many times she's amazingly bad. I think she had the talent to surpass people like Steve Vai and Yngwie Malmsteen, but instead it looks like she didn't have faith in her skills and just decided to throw it away on novelty. That can't be true, because obviously she's in love with herself and her playing, so it's just one of life's puzzles, I suppose.
The Great Kat is THE NEW BEETHOVEN of the NEW MILLENNIUM and is systematically RESURRECTING Classical Music by BRINGING it to the COMMON MASSES using SHRED SPEED METAL. THAT is the The Great Kat's MISSION!!!!!!
I don't think the common masses can take The Great Kat.

Addendum - Kat gets major bonus points for this TV appearance:


psychodevil said...

Her parents must be very proud of her.

psychodevil said...

This is also a preview on how our children are going to be. LOL.

ChrisV82 said...

I hope my children are hot, because then it means I married someone hot, because I'm certainly not.

Oh, you were talking about them being crazy and sex-obsessed. Well, like fathers, like children.