KAATO: ‘Slam!’

To be released on March 27, 2019 (KAATO)

 are ostensibly an Australian band currently located in Nashville, Tennessee, USA. The two principle members, Kurt Lowney and Mika Nuutinan, met during a stint at the Australian Institute of Music, and formed a personal connection and musical bond. Back in 2016, I discovered KAATO due to a random pop up of “High Time” on YouTube and was fascinated. I ended up having a long talk with Kurt and did a review of their first release. With production and guitar lines from Mitch Malloy, it was quite impressive for such a young band.

Just for fun, last month I fired off an e-mail to the KAATO camp, asking what was up and if they were still active. Mika responded almost immediately informing me that yes, there was a new album in the works and coming out soon. Wow, cool! I had a ton of questions, and Mika was really happy to put up with me, so thanks to him for all the info.

Lots has changed since their first album. The band has added Hunter Lovan on lead guitar and Christopher Williams on drums, as well as Michael Webb on keys. Slam! sounds like a more innovative and thoughtfully written album than the band’s debut, not that I’m slighting the previous offering at all. In fact, opening track “Slam!” is a short, but really cool example of what the band is offering. Something of a reflection of country / blues hard rock. I hear some Black Crowes, but mostly Cinderella’s “Last Mile” feel. I wish this was a full song in and of itself. The way I heard the mix between “Slam!” and “Glamour Queen” didn’t work for me, but that doesn’t take away from the quality of both songs. It was probably just the awkward way Soundcloud does things. Fact is, “Glamour Queen” works as a pop-metal ’80s hit or the late 2000s equivalent. It’s a fun track all around.

Mika had mentioned to me that the band was playing around with new equipment and different sounds. I figure “Somebody, Someday” really reflects those new efforts. It reminds me of The Answer in its Revival era, using a southern blues influence with honky tonk keys and a soaring backing vocals in the chorus. It’s funny how “Addicted” shifts gears somewhat back to a darker glam rock motif reflective of their first album. In my previous review of KAATO’s debut, I recall saying something to the effect that Lowney might want to explore a lower vocal range at some points to better reflect the music. So yeah, in all good humour, I’ll accept the credit for his remarkable delivery on the track “In Passing.” It is a slower and introspective song, well written and performed. Kurt’s vocals are impressive and show that he can cover both the lower register and the high notes when appropriate for the music. This may just be the highlight of KAATO’s resume, showing quality across the board.

“Communication” is a fantastic 2000s based sleaze performance. There are elements of Crashdïet that I recognize, and I even hear a hint of Robin Zander style backing vocal on the chorus. I’ll go a step further with “Drivin Home.” This track takes some solid guitar lines and mixes it with a talented vocal. It’s a great song overall, and may be my favourite on this album. The Japanese bonus track “Boo Hoo” is a great listen as well.

KAATO are one band that I would love to see live. Every track on this album exudes a party band atmosphere and I think some of that energy does come across on the recordings. I tried hard to find something to criticize, since I am trying to be impartial and objective here… and that’s my job at Sleaze Roxx. But, I have honestly really enjoyed this album. Slam! is simply a fun listen from start to finish. I have compared this band to Devil City Angels, The Quireboys and Cinderella, but imagine Ted Poley or Mike Tramp with a harder edge. I’d put Slam! absolutely on par with all those bands, with this new release by KAATO.

The album comes out at the end of March. I urge you to look into it. KAATO doesn’t have any current videos online, and the band has changed since then, but here is a full show posted on Sleaze Roxx from December 2017. Thanks again to Mika and all his time chatting with me lately.

Track List:
01. Slam!
02. Glamour Queen
03. Somebody, Someday
04. Addicted
05. In Passing
06. Communication
07. Drivin’ Home
Japanese Bonus Track:
08. Boo Hoo

Band Members:
Kurt Lowney – vocals, guitars, drums, percussion
Mika Nuutinen – bass
Hunter Lovan – lead guitar
Christopher Williams – drums
Michael Webb – keyboards

Produced by Kurt Lowney and Mika Nuutinen
Mixed by Scott Hardin
Mastered by Richard Dodd

Band Websites:
Official Website

Reviewed by Metal Mike for Sleaze Roxx, March 2019