Graded on a Curve:
The Great Kat,
Beethoven Shreds

Roll over Beethoven indeed. Chuck Berry may have declared poor Ludwig’s classical music passe, but he left it alone; The Great Kat, the speediest guitarist this side of Yngwie Malmsteen, puts it in a shredder. The guy should be grateful he’s deaf.

To Beethoven’s great relief, the title of the Great Kat’s 2011 compilation Beethoven Shreds is something of a misnomer. She also shreds the works of Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov, Johann Sebastian Bach, and Niccolò Paganini. She benevolently gives the likes of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Johannes Brahms, and Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky a reprieve. Which isn’t to say they should heave a sigh of relief. She’s sure to get around to them later.

The Great Kat’s affinity for classical music comes naturally. She’s a classically trained violinist and graduate of the prestigious Juilliard School of Music, and has toured with orchestras. But at some point she asked herself she why she should go through life as just another anonymous face in an orchestra pit when she could reinvent herself as a thrash guitarist basking in the limelight of dubious fame. Call it a case of cat scratch fever.

The problem with the Great Kat’s unique approach to her art form is two-fold. For one, most human beings’ idea of entertainment doesn’t encompass listening to a speed metal guitarist savage the works of history’s greatest composers. Moreover, while many lovers of a good shred find her ability to play 1,000 notes per second jaw-dropping, they understand that speed is wasted in a vacuum.

The best of the breed sublimate their skills to a larger purpose–they’re there to help great bands do great things with great songs. The Great Kat’s freakish gift serves no such purpose. She’s all sizzle and no steak, the olive in an empty martini glass, the fuse to an imaginary stick of TNT. The Great Kat shreds into the void, and void is wearing earplugs.

It would seem to be to The Great Kat’s credit that she has a sense of humor–her Cats meets dominatrix persona is pure shtick, and she knows it. And she must be joshing when she says, “I am bringing my genius to idiots who cannot go out and reach it for themselves because they are too stupid,” right? Wrong. Hyperbole aside, The Great Kat sees it as her messianic mission to bring a high-brow musical form to a low-brow audience, in much the same way the prog-rockers Emerson, Lake & Palmer did with such unfortunates as Béla Bartók, Gustav Holst, and Aaron Copland. So many great dead composers, bodies littering the highway to hell.

I will say this about The Great Kat–on Beethoven Shreds she doesn’t prolong the agony she inflicts on the classical composer she singles out for abuse. Her preferred method of execution is the guillotine, not death by a thousand cuts, hence none of the tracks on the LP exceed the 1:40 mark. Good thing too–had she seen fit to stretch “The Fight of he Bumble-Bee” to its actual length, we might be facing a world extinction event.

The LP’s two original tracks, “Torture Technique” and “Islamofascists,” point to a way out of the box The Great Kat has put herself in. Both feature hellish vocals and a rhythmic bottom, and on the prior track she even lightens her foot on the classical gas pedal. Alas, her divine mission to enlighten we idiots will forever relegate her to freak show status. If only she’d toss her Beethoven records in the trash, she might become more than a novelty act. But alas, she’s a zealot, and it ain’t gonna happen.

GRADED ON A CURVE:
F

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