Into the Grave: Type O Negative

So, here we are again, looming into February/March of 2019 already.  After I had the pleasure of writing the first run of Into the Grave, I got the chance to do it again for this month.  So I had to think: ‘who else do I really want to dig into and talk about?, who else dredges up those metallic memories so deep that their discography causes confliction?’  Then, like a bolt of lightning striking that fabled clock tower in Back To the Future, it came to me:  Type O Negative

Why Type O?  They’re not really relevant to what’s going on in the modern music scene, but to yours truly, they are a band like no other.  With genuine psychosis touching every bit of the self-proclaimed ‘drab fours’ pop laden Sabbath worship, front man Peter Steele and his Brooklyn crew created some of the best depressing doom to ever get put to wax.  They managed to create a very love them or hate them sound that polarized listeners.  As it stands today, few bands can imitate their sonic brand well, but only one sounds like Type O but don’t take my word for it…Lets begin. And obviously, their placement is indication of ranking from top to bottom.

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So I want to be crystal clear on one thing, I could flip a coin and pick October Rust or World Coming Down as my favorite release from Type O Negative.  When a more romantic, pop oriented mood strikes me, I go for ‘the rust.’  When I feel like the world is an urban sprawl of filth and piss, WCD is it.  That’s the brilliant thing about Type O.  They create individual worlds with each album, creating an almost organic living environment with their rich tapestry of Beatles meets Black Sabbath, but I digress, on to the marrow of October Rust.

Barring the corny bullshit ‘joke’ opener and closer tracks, this album is a tour de force in the gloom pop realm that has no rival.  Sure, lots of bands ape this sound (I’m lookin’ at you 69 Eyes), but no one will ever rival the greatness tracks like “Love you to Death,” “In Praise of Bacchus” or the sheer brilliance of “Red Water (Christmas Mourning).”  The heavier tunes are finely balanced by the catchier numbers like “Cinnamon Girl” (a Neil Young cover) and “My Girlfriends Girlfriend.”  Then there’s weird shit like the experimental Laibach-ish industrial elements of “The Glorious Liberation of the People’s Technocratic Republic of Vinnland by the Combined Forces of the United Territories of Europa” and shoe gaze influences of “Burnt flowers fallen.”  Let’s not forget that this album closes with two of the absolute best Type O tracks ever written:  “Wolf Moon” and “Haunted.” 

It’s this absolute precise mixture of emotional metallic strum and drang that makes October Rust like no other release on this planet, and though it has a very ‘of its time of creation’ production tone (that I personally still find endearing as fuck), it captures all the unique planets of the orbit in the Type O universe.  Moving on. 

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As mentioned above, I could change World Coming Down out for October Rust, depending on my mood.  This album saw Type O operating with a full dosage of despair, hate and depression (and Cocaine).  The tracks feel like the album cover looks: bleak, devoid of humor and absolutely soul crushing.  There are literally two songs that have death in their title (“Everyone I love is Dead” and “Everything Dies”). 

 

And yes, this album begins with another fucking joke track but after that the slow, magma heavy riffs of “White Slavery” kick in and you know this ain’t the partial sun shine and cutesy smile that October Rust brought.  This is full on Type O Negative playing a dank Brooklyn warehouse to no one but themselves.  They rattle walls with the total doom on the album’s title track and pay odes to Samhain on “All Hallows Eve.”  You can even find some of the pop elements on “Pyretta Blaze” and “Who Will Save the Sane?,” with the latter being an interesting lyrical venture into Peter Steele’s interest in mathematics and physics.  The album closes with a Beatles compilation, which, in my eyes is kind of a weak ending to such a wonderfully bleak piece of art, but I’m not mad at the guys choosing to pay homage to one of their biggest influences. 

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Ah yes, Bloody Kisses, the classic album that really brought the band into the (green) lime light.  Of course there are the hits, such as “Black No. 1” and “Christian Woman” but there is so much more to this album than just those two songs.  That said, those two songs together are 20 minutes of this album’s run time. 

This is what I and many others consider the first real Type O album.  By that, it still had a bit of the NYC hardcore edge, but this was the band’s first full on dive into adding those other elements that created the blue print for every other Type O release after this.  I won’t extol the virtues of the classic album much more as it speaks for itself.  If you haven’t heard it, go out and get it now.

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So now we return to the start of the story.  The first official Type O Negative album Slow, Deep and Hard.  Obviously this is where it all began, at least under the TON moniker (the member’s history and interaction supersedes this release but that’s another story for another time).  I imagine the initial public reaction at the time of Slow, Deep and Hard‘s release was one of confusion, disgust and interest. 

Combining the hardcore leanings from the Carnivore days, Type O mix The Cure and the aforementioned/always present Beatles/Sabbath cocktail into, if nothing else, a very interesting debut unlike no other.  Just check out mind fuck “Prelude to Agony” to see what I mean, it’s all over the place.  Oh, and there’s also a penis on the cover.

 

Type O - Dead-Again-cover

Dead Again was a semi-return to the hardcore form that Pete had threatened for years to make and never did, until this album was released.  What would unfortunately be the band’s final album turned out to be one of their liveliest and most inspired albums.  Where Life Is Killing Me was a bit flaccid and by the numbers, Dead Again worked more on the fringes of the band’s patented sound.  The album begins with a punky kick which goes right into the triumphant brilliance of ‘Tripping a blind man’, ‘Prophets of Doom’ and one of the best ballads the band every pinned, ‘September Sun’.

Not only is this one of the sincerest albums the band released, it was the first to feature an actual drummer and not a drum machine (you read that correct).  Though not perfect, Dead Again is a strong addition to the band’s lineage and a fine album to call it a day on. Hail and Farewell indeed.

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Ah, Life is Killing Me.  What a brilliant title.  Too bad the album is pretty okay-ish.  Opening track “I Don’t Wanna be Me” is a fine single and was leagues faster than the band had played since the early days, but it’s from there where the album gets a bit disjointed.  Sure, there are some flat out classics on this like “Nettie” (an ode to Pete’s ailing mother) and “Anesthesia” but there are also just as many take it or leave it tracks, which is usually not the Type O norm. 

It seemed like there was a bit more emphasis on a back to basics song writing approach with Life is Killing Me and less experimentation, which is maybe why this one isn’t as dear to me.  Though far from bad, it just lacks the exploratory vision of many of the band’s other works.

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Okay, last and not totally least is The Origin of the Feces.  What can I say about this? It’s okay and didn’t have the same impact on me as Slow, Deep and Hard and didn’t dive full on into the other new wave/pop/goth sounds the band would fully explore on Bloody Kisses.  It’s a kind of a placeholder album in my eyes, as it didn’t really gain new artistic ground but it does continue the quality found on Slow, Deep and Hard

Check out “I Know You’re Fucking Someone Else” and you’ll understand.  Initially packaged as a live album, in actuality, it’s not.  This was yet another joke and an important trademark that the band would become synonymous with. 

So there you have it.  It was a difficult task to dissect and analyze one of my favorite bands of all time, but it also allowed me to view them as objectively as possible, which is something we as music fans don’t do too often, I think.  It’s easy to get caught up wearing those rose colored glasses sometimes, and even when you see the warts and all it makes you enjoy the music all the more because you see it for what it really is.  Though it’s easy to be fond of something after the fact, I think Type O Negative have left a body of work that will stand the test of time and continue to inspire and perspire for generations. Til’ next time folks.

– J. Coleman

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