All bands (well, most) strive to carve a unique identity for themselves, hoping to notch an eternal scar in their little thread of history. Few succeed. Fewer still can boast that they carved their name as deeply and uniquely as Type O Negative.
New York’s premier non-prophet organization merged worlds that were previously incompatible: Towering Brooklyn hardcore and lustful romance; playful witticisms and soul-crushing epitaphs; Seals and Crofts and Black Sabbath. And they did it as self-styled icons, waving their flag across seven LPs (and countless Roadrunner cashgrabs) until frontman Peter Steele’s untimely death in 2010.
As October’s rust crunches underfoot and All Hallow’s Eve looms, it’s a perfect time to pry into Type O‘s storied catalog and highlight thirteen of the band’s greatest tracks.
BLOODY KISSES (A DEATH IN THE FAMILY)[Bloody Kisses, 1993]
Peter Steele, doing his best impression of Count Dracula on horse tranquilizers, conveys forced loss and grief at a tortoise-esque pace on the near-title track of Type O Negative’s third full-length. It’s around minute seven of this eleven-minute funeral that things get really painful, however. Steele’s wail of “Please don’t go” is accompanied by a couple of riffs that would be almost uplifting in any other song. Here, though, you’ll be reaching for your little sister’s Hello Kitty removable razors and giving the afterlife some serious thought. If you can find the bathroom through your fog of tears, that is. Moving stuff. [Chris Redar]
GRAVITATIONAL CONSTANT: G = 6.67X10-8 CM-3GM-1SEC-2[Slow, Deep and Hard, 1991]
Possibly more than any other song on Type O’s debut, the tune commonly known as “Gravity” bridged the gap between the crossover tendencies of Carnivore and the gothic/doom metal the band would become best known for. Lyrics that read like a fuck-you suicide letter were supported by Type O Negative unloading the musical vaults: a rocking punkish verse, a choral vibe in the verse and outro, some grade-A DOOM, a nice helping of killer gang vocals, and some of the best screams of Peter Steele’s career. (“Un-just-i-fi-able… EXISTENCE!!!”) And it works, somehow fusing all of that into one coherent song, giving Slow, Deep and Hard one hell of a dual-classic bookend. Crushing me? Crushing you. [Zach Duvall]
IN PRAISE OF BACCHUS[October Rust, 1996]
“In Praise of Bacchus” is smartly sequenced behind “Burnt Flowers Fallen” on Type O’s October Rust. It’s something of a secret B-side suite. “Burnt”‘s morning lament (“Yeah I think she’s falling out of love”) and final utterance (“All of the flowers / All of the flowers I gave her / She burned them / Burned them“) leads perfectly into “In Praise”‘s ballad-saturated evening after, when She is long gone. And, how does one mask the dull ache of a smashed ticker? “Hey Bacchus / She hates me.” You’ve no doubt sung the same while duetting with a pouring bottle. Later, the goosebump-erecting outro takes on an ironic lean given the context: “She said burn / We’ll burn together“. Is our heroine casting our hero into the same pit as the cremated flowers? Or, is it further down; a final, fiery eternal resting place? Given Pete’s flame fetish (“Pyretta Blaze”), is it possible it means something else entirely? Darker: Is he dousing an arsonist streak with fuel? Probably all of it and none of it. It’s how Steele shined and why he wanted to fade away. We’re just thankful he burned with us for a bit. Domine, requiem. [Ian Chainey]
TOO LATE: FROZEN[Bloody Kisses, 1993]
After the creepy swirling clouds clear from the instrumental “3.0.I.F”, an uptempo beat gallops through the green mist to sweep up and carry you away, only to be abruptly abandoned on a sludgy tundra. ‘Chilly’ is the word on this ditty. Most vocals receive heavy digital modification throughout “Too Late: Frozen” — giving a cool, robotic distance to the delivery — and have fun finding who sings where! Sure, it’s clearly Peter in the first two verses, but something about the sweetness in the chorus suggests Josh, and the two verses after the downtempo turn at 2:38 feel more like Kenny’s timbre. A more nuanced take on betrayal compared with earlier efforts, it deals equally devastating blows, and better captures the bitter sting of involuntary isolation. [Matt Longo]
THE DREAM IS DEAD[Life is Killing Me, 2003]
If Black Sabbath and Soundgarden had sex, and Soundgarden were to be impregnated (Soundgarden is the woman here; deal with it), this track’s guitar work would certainly be the offspring. ‘Big’ is the appropriate word. This is the kind of hook work that used to fill halls with goth kids looking to sway in a slightly more violent manner than their usual Bauhaus-inspired shoulder slouching. And while it’s no shocker that Mr. Steele is upset about something here, there’s just a hint of ‘I should’ve expected this’ snark to his delivery that keeps this one from lyrically sinking underneath the wave the band creates. There’s no telling what dream died exactly, but for our ears’ sake, one has to be kind of glad it did. [Chris Redar]
WE HATE EVERYONE[Bloody Kisses, 1993]
Type O‘s mournful side was often complex and subtle, but their humor was always painted in dripping swaths. From the bitter self-depreciation of “Dead Again” to the tacky mockery of “I Like Goils,” Pete never left much to the imagination. Between those extremes lies “We Hate Everyone,” a biteback at milquetoast critics and a charming reminder of a pop culture that actually cared about a band like Type O Negative. You can’t really fault the “leftist Nazis” and “right-wing commies” that levied accusations of racism and sexism at the guy that wrote “Jesus Hitler” and “Unsuccessfully Coping…”, but mostly because it triggered this impossibly-infectious middle-fingered retort. This is the Rehab Four at their cockiest; that swaggeriffic riffshift at 2:47 proves it. [Jordan Campbell]
HAUNTED[October Rust, 1996]
In so many ways, it’s hard to imagine October Rust ending with any song other than “Haunted.” After all, much of the album saw the band pairing a surprisingly mature approach to their songwriting with typically Halloweeny lyrics, and this dressed-up-dirge takes that idea to its logical conclusion. A quiet, peaceful piano intro and absolutely gorgeous verse melody should be all the listener needs to realize that “Haunted” was the sound of Type O Negative at their absolute best as musicians. But as is typically the case, the voice is the key. From his deepest depths to his soaring heights, Steele’s repetition of the line “I hate the morning” manifests the title of the song within the listener. Load this up on a rainy morning and watch the universe find balance. [Zach Duvall]
EVERYTHING DIES[World Coming Down, 1999]
“Everything Dies” is pretty blunt: Everything, well, dies. The youngest of a large family, Peter Steele was forced into the prospective role of being the last one standing. Fresh off the recent passing of another relative, Steele channelled his intense grieving — the time when we frustratingly feel more alive than any other — into one of the most honest songs you’ll ever hear. Following a hefty, sludgy opening that would tweak the back of Crowbar, the track strips down to a rather AOR-y ballad with a melody befitting the most maudlin power pop purveyor. Throughout, Steele nods at grim inevitablity. (“I’m searching for something which can’t be found / But I’m hoping / I still dream of Dad / Though he died“) Essentially, it’s a staring contest with the void. Pete narrates with the carved down immediacy of Hemingway. He tells us what we all know and what we hate to relearn: It’s a terrifyingly empty feeling considering, when it all fades to black, there might be nothing on the other side. He opens his wounds to allow us to peek inside, to let us know we’re not alone in our utter aloneness. On the surface it’s disturbing and dour. Though, as the backing music suggests, it’s relatable and morbidly beautiful. It’s so human. [Ian Chainey]
UNSUCCESSFULLY COPING WITH THE NATURAL BEAUTY OF INFIDELITY[Slow, Deep and Hard, 1991]
Like many fans, I discovered the band with Bloody Kisses and had to work my way back from there. That meant discovering this little ditty on the faux-live The Origin of the Feces under its layman’s title, “I Know You’re Fucking Someone Else.” What can I say? I was an angsty teen with my fair share of girl problems and it spoke to me. Hell, it could have just been “I know you’re fucking someone else” repeated over and over again for 12 minutes and had the same effect. But, Uncle Pete works in astute observations (“You had cocks on your mind / and cum on your breath / inserted that diaphragm before you left”), a little philosophizing (“Trust and you’ll be trusted / said the liar to the fool”), and some good old fashioned self-loathing (“You make me hate myself”) to paint this portrait of a betrayer and the full emotional spectrum experienced by the betrayed. [Dave Pirtle]
BLACK NO. 1[Bloody Kisses, 1993]
Some of you may be old carnivores who like it slow, deep and hard; others might have come in a bit rusty later; but most probably tasted Type O Negative’s bloody kisses first. And some, like me, caught initial glimpses via Beavis and Butthead. The abridged Little Miss Scare-All gets strangely condensed as a lead single compared with the full 11m15s album duration: no slow build with intro line; verse three axed; and fun extras like Peter’s superb sustained scream at 1:11 followed by the whispered “Happy halloween, baby” …all gone. The complete tune has everything that should be included in an archetypal audio love|hate letter to a goth girl — from an awesomely obvious Munsters homage to a bevy of spooky sound effects, all courtesy of anchoring keyboardist Josh Silver — and must be heard in full for the sardonic darkness to take root. [Matt Longo]
EVERYONE I LOVE IS DEAD[World Coming Down, 1999]
One of the most perfect things about World Coming Down is the guitar tone, which feels barely held together, a fuzzed-out wash of dissipation and regret that feels like it could completely disintegrate in the face of a soft breeze. That tone is so perfectly matched to early-album highlight “Everyone I Love is Dead” that it seems almost cosmically silly that any other band would ever attempt to scale Type O‘s heights of gothic doom grandeur. Peter Steele was never content for his persona to be easily pinned-down, but this album feels like it approaches a unique point of unguarded honesty in its sheer exhaustion in the face of immovable grief. When Steele shouts “Goddamnit!” over and over throughout the song, it’s difficult to give it a double or ironic reading. Type O had plenty of heavier songs, and plenty with better riffs, more elaborate arrangements, and more dynamic singing, but rarely did their songs cut so directly to the listener’s core: “I love myself for hating you.” [Danhammer Obstrkrieg]
LOVE YOU TO DEATH[October Rust, 1996]
If Peter Steele’s fascination with goth chicks were ever properly documented, this would be one of the focal chapters. Candlelight, black lipstick, red wine…what’s not to love? If he is to be believed, then it is Steele himself: begging for affection yet questioning his worthiness all while suppressing the animalistic lust burning just beneath the surface. But there’s also a touch of humor here, first with the title as the ultimate clichéd goth pick-up line, then in the underlying messages of the goth girl’s unexplainable sense of superiority and his own sense that his want is an exercise in futility. Musically, the synthetic drum beat provides a cold backbone for Josh Silver’s melancholy piano and Steele’s own droning bass. Combined, they create a powerful soundtrack for any red blooded male who has ever suffered though unrequited lust. [Dave Pirtle]
CHRISTIAN WOMAN[Bloody Kisses, 1993]
“Black No. 1” aside, “Christian Woman” is, in many ways, the Type O Negative song that most clearly encapsulated the band’s identity: big, slow riffs, lush, Beatles-descended backing vocals, Peter Steele’s delectably lustful vocals, and lyrics that delight in blasphemy by mingling religious language and iconography with a gothic sense of vampiric, nocturnal lust. (To this particular writer’s eye, it’s no mistake that the color palette of Cradle of Filth‘s Dusk…and Her Embrace and Bloody Kisses are identical.) From a broader perspective, as the first proper track on Bloody Kisses, “Christian Woman,” with its earnestly sung tongue-in-cheek lyrics, multi-section composition, and cleaner, doomier production, marked Type O‘s transition from the still slightly Carnivore-ous, shit-kicking anger of Slow, Deep, and Hard and The Origin of the Feces into the dominant image of the band: a bunch of black-haired giant mopes from Brooklyn catering to melancholy, goth-curious metalheads even as they skewered them mercilessly.
Oh, and the cowbell and church organ in “Jesus Christ Looks Like Me”? Can’t get enough of that. [Danhammer Obstkrieg]