This month I intend on celebrating the transgressive melancholy of gothic rock as it avalanches down the gritty bedrock of metal. The self-depreciating catchphrase “The Drab Four” befitted the patron saints of macabre, “Type O Negative” just right considering their signature molten-lava thick, draggy and sleazy guitar riffs. Easily one of my all time favorite bands but that won’t make my opinions biased or too partial. TON went on to produce some of the most sinister, out-of-the-box and demented gothic doom metal shape-shifting between nocturnally ambient themes and murderously poised goth ballads. The front-man & bass guitarist for the band Peter Thomas Steele; a beast of a vocalist possessed an inimitable, incredibly deep and a monstrous bass-baritone range voice that evoked a sense of initiation to necromantic rituals and vampiric carols, etching out some of the most unforgettable and major gothic metal albums of the 90’s.
While all the other bands in the gothic-doom vein like Paradise Lost, Tiamat, My Dying Bride, Moonspell etc were just as dark, doomy-gloomy and sensational but you could easily find similar influences within their sound engineering but Type O Negative was a different domain. Their controversial lyrical themes, satirical disposition and little pranks in their full-length albums hinted how they were not afraid at all to laugh at themselves and at the end of the day, do their job just right i.e. to produce some seriously morbid gothic anthems you’d still be humming no matter how old you get and they will still sound just as epic. Some of my favorite albums from these goth giants would be:
3, World Coming Down
Released in 1999, “World Coming Down” is one of their most depressive works to date instilled with compelling misanthropy and pessimistic notions. For some reason, whenever I give this album a listen, I always assume it’s their last album they ever recorded which is not the case (the last album being “Dead Again” released in 2007) perhaps because of the experimental sound which is varied from their earlier and subsequent offerings. It opens with one of their aforementioned pranks “Skip it” which is entirely consisting of 11 seconds of CD skipping. “Sinus”, “Liver” and “Lung” not exactly pranks but include sounds like metal scraping, heartbeat, sobbing, crying, pouring of liquor, gasping and beeping of an ECG machine all morphed into sculpting a benign sense of morbidity. The second track “White Slavery” debunks the vices of addiction and “cocaine” in particular addressed as “the summer snow but it’s not cold”. The down-tuned, heavy guitaring by Kenny Hickey is structured around Peter’s distinct bass-baritone vocals with Johnny Kelly‘s throbbing drums adding to the murky and desolate tune of the song. “Everyone I Love is Dead” is about relationships gone sour over time and incorporates more uptempo riffs with a flair of punk and doom combined, compared to the other tracks. Side-note: I absolutely love when he shrieks “Goddammit!”. “Who Will Save The Sane?” begins with keyboard notes as Peter mocks the “unsurreal world” with all its pretentiousness quoting mathematical formulas and degrading sciences meanwhile drawing attention to his bad experiences in psychotherapy. One of the strongest track on the album. “World Coming Down” has some really thoughtful verses like, “Better to live as king of beasts than as a lamb scared and weak” and “It’s better to burn quickly and bright than slowly and dull without a fight”. “Creepy Green Light”, “Pyretta Blaze” and “All Hallow’s Eve” have lethargic, rough doom melodies exhibiting occult themes like returning from the dead, pyromania and dark rituals. There’s also a take on The Beatles’ songs in a very Type O-esque way in “Day Tripper Medley”. “Everything Dies” is just phenomenal! The verse “I’m searching for something which can’t be found but I’m hoping” is delivered with such an unhinged sentiment, it’s downright heartening. The sluggish riffs, crushing metal chords, the extravagantly thick bassline and melodies rioting at the razor’s edge of funeral doom and gothic metal with a dash of blues define this sonicfest in a nutshell. The songs are lengthy and slow-paced which might contribute for a draining listening experience but Type O fans have exactly no complains about what they’re in for.
2, October Rust
Prevailing nocturnal bliss, primal instincts, erogenous desires, sensual love, dark humor, carnal yen, flaming passions and a wee bit of trolling. Yeap. That’s pretty much what “October Rust” is all about. Released in 1996, the album ought to be deemed as one of the finest gothic metal albums of all time. I’m still convinced Type O managed to blend gothic elements with the perverse propensity of metal in a way that’s highly commendable. The twisted sense of art that goes into making some of the most eyebrow raising lyrics and controversial themes sound a-okay on tape is an achievement in itself. The album commences with two back-to-back tracks where the listener is clearly being trolled while the glitched distortions of tape player last for 38 seconds followed by the band members intervening (hysterical laughters included) to introduce themselves and it kicks off with the magnificent “Love You To Death” which is a legitimate gothic serenade you’d love every minute of. It’s soulful, sensuous and bluesy. The candle-lit sultry aura is provocative enough to embody a power-ballad that refuses to shy away from human fetishes. “Be My Druidess” opens with swirls of a thrash guitar riff that I absolutely adore to death. While it’s undoubtedly grotesque and obscene, I still reckon it had its rightful place on the album committing to the deviant direction. “Green Man”, “Red Water (Christmas Mourning), “Die With Me”, “In Praise of Bacchus”, “Burnt Flowers Fallen” and “Haunted” are relentlessly dismal songs with implied storytelling orchestrated in an abhorrent atmosphere. The strategic piano sequences add beautifully to the theatricality of these goth ballads. The melody of Neil Young’s “Cinnamon Girl” is triumphed by the sensuality of electric guitars and an edgy bassline. “My Girlfriend’s Girlfriend” is dark humor galore and criminally cheesy. Still with that spooky composition and Peter’s grave vocals, everything’s acceptable and just right. “Wolf Moon”, for instance. While the musical arrangement is typically medieval and primitive, the ridiculous lyrics still take nothing away from its eccentricity. One of the strongest songs on the record, in any case. “October Rust” emphasizes the more poppy, unapologetically straightforward and barbaric side of TON. If anything, this album will definitely distort your theories about romantic idealism. Warning: Listen at your own risk.
1, Bloody Kisses
While the mere title “Bloody Kisses” is quite said enough, the plain mastery and glorious transitions packed into this single album is bewitching. Personally, it’s my favorite album because of:
- The 9 minute long “Christian Woman” with all its three parts, the mystical choir, the iconic “Jesus Christ looks like me” outro featuring an intense and thunderous guitar solo.
- The simmering punk, thrash and hardcore influences from “Carnivore” with a provoking sense of rebellion & ruckus on songs like “We Hate Everyone” and “Kill All The White People” with an effortless mockery on political warfare.
- The brooding dynamics of classic gothic metal (if that’s a term?) “Black No. 1” is richly infused with.
- The creeping sense of horror and staged melodrama contributing to the bloodthirsty aura of these gothic symphonies featuring sitars and harmonics.
- Peter’s godly bass-range vocal quality befitting Type O’s macabre and unnerving songwriting.
- The divergence from the archetypal gothic doom overtures and sludge dynamics of heavy metal making the album a pure masterpiece.
Type O Negative was one of their kind. Sometimes, perceived as a match made in hell of The Beatles and Black Sabbath. I, for one, still see no convincing evidence at all and merely cover versions of their songs wouldn’t suffice. Type O Negative is the soundtrack to your nightmares and the bare whimsical drollery only amplifies the psyched atmosphere they rejoice in. The programmed drums adjusted to avoid overpowering the downbeat tempo of guitars and the spooky keyboards is still a plus. Even though the overstretched song compositions might still be a critical affair, it’s obligatory to listen them in continuity to appreciate the psychodrama and gothic-doom driven virtuosity that remains almost impossible to replicate or excel.