We all have bands that have influenced how we hear music. Maybe a few of them even changed our lives, if that is actually possible. Maybe an album can, under the right circumstances, alter our perception of reality and allow us to find out who we really are. For me, that band is Type O Negative. Many of their albums altered my perception of reality. Especially as their sound progressed over time becoming more introspective and mournful and less tongue-in-cheek. So today, for our retrospective, we look back at Type O Negative’s absolutely dark and beautiful album World Coming Down.
World Coming Down may not have been my favorite Type O Negative album when it was released in 1999. In fact, at the tender age of 18, transitioning from high school to college, I had other things on my mind. I missed out on the intricacies of the record. My mind was not in the right place to accept the concepts that Peter Steele was preaching. At 18 I felt immortal. Sure, I had just had yet another heart operation but, the world was my oyster. I was on a college campus that had many more women than men enrolled and I was pretty busy gawking at young women (as Kanye West says “y’all pop the trunk, I pop the hood. Ferrari. And she got the goods, and she got that ass, I got to look. Sorry.”) I wasn’t ready to face the death of my loved ones, yet alone face my own death. But as I matured, that changed. Drastically.
For me, at least at age 18, it was near impossible to top the sexual energy and orgy-like themes on Type O’s 1996 release October Rust. I was 15 when that album came out. I was full of spunk, curiosity and fervor for the female species in general. Thus, when Peter Steele sang about menstrual cunnilingus during a full moon and the potential to become a werewolf after performing such an act, my teenage mind was enthralled. Further, tracks like “My Girlfriend’s Girlfriend” sent my teenage mind on fire at the mere possibilities.
Thus, World Coming Down, with its themes of drug addiction, alcohol addiction, nicotine addiction, death of loved ones and death of the self seemed like, well, a bit of a bummer. But, as I got older, and life became more realistic, the album took hold. That was roughly 2004. Ever since then, World Coming Down has been my go to album for all things Type O Negative.
World Coming Down, was forced into perspective when Peter Steele tragically passed away April 10, 2010 and, with him, Type O Negative died. Peter Steele technically died of an aortic aneurysm, essentially his heart exploded. Which makes his work on World Coming Down that much more creepy. In fact, Peter Steele, despite producing and writing World Coming Down was unable to listen to some of the tracks because of their foreboding quality of his own demise. In particular, one of the interlude tracks, “Sinus,” which features a rapidly increasing heart rate after a line of cocaine, was on the list of no-no’s for Peter. Ironically, that song predicted nearly the exact manner in which he would eventually pass away.
On a happier note, Peter Steele and Type O Negative left behind some magical work highlighted by World Coming Down. Potentially their most complete album, both thematically and musically. Gone, at least for this album, are the days of bouncing between more punk-laden styles and more goth styles. World Coming Down is a goth album to the max, with some doom influences spiced in for effect. The songs are longer, between about six and twelve minutes. And the flow is absolutely genius. The listener is dragged through addiction and death in the most beautiful of fashions. Peter Steele’s voice is at it’s most powerful, soaring out of his diaphragm with all his baritone bravado.
Conceptually, Type O Negative took a few nice turns on World Coming Down. The vocals are heavily backmasked, mostly audible through quality headphones. The effect is not only anxiety inducing but also quite beautiful. Interestingly, despite covering both Neil Young and The Beatles, Type O Negative doesn’t share much in common sonically with either. However, recording techniques like backmasking are taken directly from the Beatles repertoire.
What makes World Coming Down so very special is that, aside from the title track which was only played on later tours, Type O Negative, in particular Peter Steele, refused to perform the songs live due to their personal nature. Thus, when Type O Negative toured to support World Coming Down they played none of the tracks contained on the album. The audience got none of Peter Steele’s choir-like, almost monk-chant, vocals like he used on the title track. That the audience, and future audiences, would never hear 90% of the album live only serves to make the recorded product so much more special.
Finally, “All Hallow’s Eve” is potentially my favorite Type O Negative song of all time (although “Everything Dies” is very close). It’s a blueprint for why the band is so consistently successful. Sparse guitars, using only harmonics, hide behind Peter Steele’s formidable bass skills and his even more formidable bass and baritone, almost whispered, vocals. His speaking voice would make the devil himself blush. The track then explodes into guitars that sound as if they are trudging through snow before Peter Steele’s anger swirls the song into a frenzied chorus. It’s a classic Type O Negative roadmap for success.
So check out the album below even if you already love it. Contextualize it. Maybe travel to Prospect Park to visit Peter Steele’s tree or sit on his memorial bench. After all, Peter Steele’s days as a park ranger in Prospect Park were, by his claim, some of the happiest days he spent on earth. And enjoy the closing medley, probably their best cover or set of covers to date, and understand where his musical ideas come from and the depth with which he understands the lyrics of others.
“Saint Lucifer hear me praying to thee.
On this eve of all saints.
High be the price but then nothing is free.
My soul I’ll gladly trade.” – Peter Steele