If there's an award for most-improved female death-metal band, the academy gives the satanic salute to Kittie. While 2001's Oracle fell on the unlistenable side of awkward, Until the End, the outfit's latest effort, proves this cat has landed on its feet. Built on a bottom-heavy Pantera crunch, melody seeps in like blood through a handkerchief. Morgan Lander's androgynous demonic croak still sounds like Harvey Fierstein with a crotchful of angle grinder, but her alternate persona is a strong, soaring vocalist somewhere between Stevie Nicks and Shirley Manson. Like peanut butter and cream cheese, the combination sounds odd at first, but it's surprisingly tasty. Meanwhile, Morgan's sister, Mercedes Lander, dances on the double bass with an agility most drummers can only achieve on the top of the kit. Meow.

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