Great Kat: Extreme Guitar Shred
Thirty seconds into the first video on the Great Kat’s new DVD, I’m laughing, I’m laughing this wide-eyed, disbelieving, joyous laugh. It’s really all you can do when faced with the sensory overkill that is the Great Kat (well, you can fucking “ooh” and “ahhh” at the Nuclear Assault-meets-Flight of the Bumblebee acuity of her fretwork but that’s a no-brainer). And it’s not some hipster elitist I’m-better-than-you laugh and it’s not a loud forced laugh to show that I “get it” but I laugh because this is a gonzo Hunter S. Thompson spectacle on par with seeing the Plasmatics, hearing Repulsion for the first time, or witnessing the works of John Cage or Malcolm Arnold performed live. This is over-the-top, this is awesome.
Kat comes on visually like an unholy union of Blackie Lawless, Ozzy Osbourne, early Nikki Sixx (before the stylists got a hold of them and made them look all goofy) and an S+M leatherfreak, all in the body of, like, a model. Her performance style is every bit as over-the-top as Kiss or Alice Cooper and it’s brutally sensual (much like it was watching Led Zeppelin clips from their prime) — not overtly, but the feeling is there, and many of the camera angles confirm it. And then cover it all in, roughly, twice as much blood as was used in the climactic scene of Carrie. But, y’know, that doesn’t even come close to describing the Great Kat. Watching her — and I’m just talking visually here — is like watching the entire iconography of metal or even rock n’ roll boosted to the nth degree and turned upside down. Here a woman is the object of adoration as well as the fucking most shit-hot guitar player, as well as not afraid to beat the ass of her fans for the merest slight. It’s as if she’s a herald from a world where Jimi Hendrix, Jimmy Page, Robert Johnson, Clapton, etc. were all women and now here she is doing the over-the-top rock version of that — just as the modern male rock gods of our world are now doing. It’s incredibly subversive and refreshing. And though I’m sure Kat would probably bristle at the term, downright feminist. Okay, Kat-ist.
And interestingly, her claims of reinventing metal and classical just might be spot on. By taking classical concepts of virtuosity and composition (and certain well-known pieces and motifs) and couching them in a bed of alternately SF thrash (Exodus, Testament, Metallica) or pure death metal, she’s turning metal fans on to refined sounds (though presented with truckfuls of spectacle) they otherwise would have avoided, except for maybe Carmina Burana. And surely if Marnie Stern is going to get big doing the indie nice-girl version of Kat’s schtick, her time has to be now.
Okay, on to the videos. First up is “Zapateado.” Yes, Kat and band take on the Spanish dance classic and recast it as a violin versus guitar blur — while the video’s theme is all patriotic all the time. Not only is the video brought to you by Uncle Sam, the whole soundstage literally an American flag and Kat wearing the stars and stripes as her bikini, but there’s a bemused Minuteman watching her play guitar behind her back. Awesome? Need you ask? “Torture Chamber” is a genuinely disturbing clip of Kat and her band inflicting all manner of genuine painful nastiness on… her fans, I guess, I can’t tell. Anyway, vices, spikes, boiling water all come into play, soundtracked by solo-heavy death metal — I like Kat’s hissing vocals. “Castration” is pretty much the last track taken to its logical extreme. I almost expected to see a Tom Savini credit on this one. Kat plays a variety of female archetypes — sexy nurse, geisha, belly dancer — before stripping down and getting down to the business of castrating her prey. And dropping it in a jar. Blood everywhere. “Dominatrix” is much of the same, just more blood and Kat wears a devil costume. “Live In Chicago” is total DIY Kiss theatrics — loads of stage blood poured all over Kat, which is always a ghoulish plus — and her freaking out on guitar while a bunch of fans rush the stage and go all reverent on her. She then beats the shit out of her guitar, gets bloodier and some dude screams “Bow!” into a microphone over and over. Sounds good to me.
Finally there’s “War.” Turns out what the US Army needs is the Great Kat to head over there and show the soldiers how to kick a little ass. I knew it! Kat rallies (and berates) the troops, dons a camouflage bikini, goes on some missions, wears Patton’s helmet, and screams threats over clips of the horrors of war.
The Great Kat’s use of stage blood is way beyond what’s been used in metal before, running laps around Gene Simmons and possibly tying with Glenn Danzig’s Samhain. Nope, her use of blood — rubbing and pouring it all over herself, looking like a demented cannibal — has to be up there with greats like Ric Flair and Abdullah the Butcher. The DVD packaging is awesome — just full-color action shots of Kat giving it her all on the guitar, y’know, making Dio look like a wallflower in terms of presentation and theatrics. The extras, photo slideshow set to music, and a hilarious FAQ are slim — the DVD will speed by (literally, it might take you longer to read this), and it’s just one moment after another of you going, “Yeah, I like metal… Hey what? Where? Awesome! No! Argh! Where am I?” The DIY quality of the home video in terms of camera work and editing is enjoyable. The editing is pure sugar-fix. Quick cuts and manic action make the viewer end up looking like the old Maxell Tape Guy at the end. Everything about this is too much. Yay.