Six years ago, we had the death of Peter Steele. For those who don’t know, Peter was the founder, voice and bassist of what I would argue is one of the best and most important bands I have ever listened to: Type O Negative. Those who know me personally understand that I have an undying love for this band. But, what makes this band so important?
With the death of Peter Steele came the death of Type O Negative. The remaining members Kenny Hickey, Josh Silver and Johnny Kelly decided not to keep the band going. They’re all fantastic musicians but with Steele being the songwriter, voice and linchpin, they figured it would be best to pursue their own careers. Hickey has been playing in Seventh Void and Danzig, Kelly is also in Danzig as well as A Pale Horse Named Death and Kill Devil Hill and finally Silver is a certified EMT.
By 1994, Sal Abruscato was no longer the drummer and was replaced by Kelly. It is often said that everyone is replaceable in a band and this is very true depending on the genre. However, Peter Steele’s writing had certain characteristics that made Type O Negative unique. The music was written in a way that made the music a combination of doom and goth metal with a little thrash if talking about the first album. As far as the lyrical content goes, Steele had a few tools: depression, self-loathing and wit.
Self-loathing and depression go very hand and hand in creating problems of poor health, addiction, anger, isolation and many others. Steele’s method of dealing with it was a combination of his hobbies, songwriting and wearing his depression to invite humor which would reduce the impact. Everyone has heard the tired idea of the depressed musician who writes cheesy, corny or sometimes dumb and overly-simplistic lyrics. You’re sad, Ivan Moody? Well, go cheer up with some more money from a sold-out concert. “The Bleeding” was a real heart-yanker, wasn’t it? No, what this article is talking about is the “I feel like shit because I listened to Peter Steele feeling like shit” kind of depression. That’s the kind of impact Steele’s work could have on someone but in a healing sort of way.
Jump back to roughly 1989. Steele is out of a relationship and having a hard time dealing with it mixed with his other personal problems at the time, he does more than create a song. He writes an entire album that almost acts as a horror opera about a character seeking revenge for his former lover that cheated on him. The album is called Slow, Deep and Hard and if you can’t tell what you’re looking at from the cover, that is definitely a weener penetrating a vagoo.
The music is about as raw as the distortion on the image for the album cover and is narrated with lyrics that you should absolutely not take seriously. It goes as far as Peter yelling “I give unto you, jackhammer rape!” which is meant to be taken literally. The listener doesn’t need to pay close attention to hear the sounds of a jackhammer and a woman crying in pain. So in 1991, RoadRunner released Slow, Deep and Hard and the average listener may be wondering how in God’s name a band like this is going to reach the mainstream?
The next album could be argued as a studio album packaged to be a live album. Recall the days of news breaking out of a live Kiss album having studio recordings edited to sound live and take that as an idea for an album. The album is called The Origin of the Feces and it is one big, enjoyable gag.
At this point, the band has been screaming at the audience not to take them seriously and each track of The Origin of the Feces is like a sketch including a point where a bomb threat is called in the middle of the “show”. This is only the beginning of fucking with the listeners. Along their career, Type O Negative turned it into an art.
1993 saw the release of one of their most popular albums, Bloody Kisses. With songs such as “Christian Woman” and the title track, the band started to finalize the familiar style of music people grew to love. Heavy, gothic and dark but also fun. The funny thing about the song “Black No. 1” was that after its release, women thought they fit the description of the song and took that as something braggable not realizing that Steele was, in fact, taking the piss out of the goth culture for being superficial which can give the lyric “Loving you is like loving the dead” a much more hilarious meaning.
For the sake of article’s length, it won’t try to sell the reader on every album but it is worth highlighting points to further explain why this band is so important. The album, Life Is Killing Me takes Steele’s depression and turns it into productive poetry. From the song titled “Less Than Zero”,
Of this man of Steele
Nothing is real
The truth be scant
Lord of idiots
Victims be clear
You’re all volunteers
This is the kind of self loathing referred to earlier. Simple and clear but not lazy.
Don’t forget about Type O Negative outright trolling the CD buyer. In the beginning of October Rust, the listener will hear nothing but an audible silence as if the CD player was too quiet. Another example is World Coming Down where as soon as the CD plays, the listener will hear what sounds like the CD skipping until the sound stops and Hickey yells “Sucker!” But then take the song from the same album, “Everything Dies” which was a song written by Steele trying to reconcile the idea of death which is something everyone will struggle to do.
The creativity has a balance of serious subject matter and humor. There isn’t too much or too little of one side and it’s all accompanied by guitar playing with a phaser effect and keyboards that know when to show its dominance at the right time and merely complimenting the rest of the band when necessary. The music is powerful. Take October Rust on a perfect Autumn day and enjoy the trip. Ever since the end of Type O Negative, these albums have done nothing but age well and I can’t name a band that I can really compare them to.
Type O Negative is important because we have so much to learn from them. A musician can absolutely experiment with different sounds and who knows, they may further evolve a genre. Beautiful work can be made with depression. It doesn’t mean the artist should force that out but, they can bleed what makes their life insufferable into something timeless. It is likely that there will never be another October Rust. There may never be another Life Is Killing Me. A special type of music can be fleeting.
I miss Peter Steele. I miss Type O Negative.