Every person I know has that one “secret weapon” band in their collection. The kind of band that is so deeply personal to them yet at the same time is the band that they are so eager for the whole world to understand. In the early stages of such an obsession you can be quite protective of finding such a band and you indulge in a lack of sharing however when you connect with like-minded souls, the band at the centre of this obsession is always the first one you want to share. As your love for the “secret weapon” grows and as the musical world spews forth redundant hipster trend bands you become even more eager to dull down the hype and scream quite loudly about your “secret weapon” band and how they have been doing it for years and quite simply been doing it better. It is a natural process rooted in the part of the human condition that makes us want to both educate and compete. The end result of seeing someone get turned onto your “secret weapon” as a result of your recommendation is a sweet shine moment. It brings joy and satisfaction.
Ever since I was a teenager the “secret weapon” band I’ve always held onto has been Type O Negative. A band whose unique musical language has been a saviour to me since 1999 and a band who have influenced every inch of my creative evolution, from when I played in heavy metal bands, had a brief solo career and now with the work I do in Galapogos. Type O Negative is in my creative DNA and they are apart of a rare group of bands and artists that I admire who creatively are pure perfection.
How would I describe the sound of Type O Negative?
The simple answer is to imagine the sounds of The Beatles, Pink Floyd and Black Sabbath. Add to this the shoegazing swoons of My Bloody Valentine, dream pop of Cocteau Twins and the gothic jams of The Sisters Mercy. Bands like Joy Division, The Doors, The Cure, Echo and The Bunnymen and Black Flag also have a home inside the sound of Type O Negative. The way the band combine these influences within the framework of the heavy metal dialogue is incredibly unique. In fact it feels very restricting attaching genre to the band because they have their own sound. Sure the above mentioned artists influenced them but the band did not mimic they simply mused on the emotional power and songwriting dynamics of these artists to help weave their own sonic template. The music is dark and progressive with each Type O Negative release breaking the 70 minute mark. Whilst not a conceptual band, the mood of each release has certain themes tying them all together giving each album a certain emotional continuity. Lyrics that deal with the serious and the nonsense aspects of life. Unlike most bands who lean on progressive rock song lengths and album structures, Type O Negative don’t delve into mathematics or science aka complicated time signatures or musical wankery. The band instead lean on emotion and mood to fill the length and give the song room to grow without leaning on the science. The music is still pop music although it is so epic in length. Where other more proggy metal bands would colour a passage with guitar solos Type O Negative enter into repeated shoegaze drones that build and climax whilst dripping with emotion. I still file them as a pop band because they are still to my ears the Heavy Metal Beatles.
Type O Negative were not an easy band to get into and it took me a few months before it really hit me how amazing they were. I still remember the moment quite vividly and is one of those moments I’ll always put on a pedestal as a life changing scenario. As a fan of music, I live for those moments and in 1999 as a 15 going on 16-year-old teenager I was constantly on the hunt for new music to explode into my life. It was the June school holidays when I discovered the band. I was on holidays with my family in Brisbane at the time and as always I had some money to buy some CDs. I brought a bunch of really cool stuff that week but Type O Negative was a chance purchase. I was down to my last $10.00 and I saw the bands third album “Bloody Kisses” for sale at HMV (at the Aspley Hypermarket) for only $5.00. This was a risk purchase as I knew who they were but had no idea what kind of band they were. I just knew they were on Roadrunner Records (a famed metal label) and were a heavy metal band. I gave it a brief listen when I got home but nothing jumped out at me. I was glad I brought it but I was too invested in the other bands I had purchased. When I returned to Bundaberg I spent a bit of time with the album but I still wasn’t that attached to it. After a bunch of months had passed I dedicated a whole sunday afternoon to sitting down and doing nothing but listening to “Bloody Kisses” back to back. I wanted this album to sink in and I’m happy to say that this was the moment in which it did. I don’t know what was different that day, perhaps I was in the right emotional state to understand and have the music of Type O Negative resonate with me or maybe it was the first time I’d actually given the band the time they deserved to sink in. That was a moment in my life where I can remember feeling my whole world change. I could feel the music sinking in and reaching all of my emotions. The process of having the band finally resonate with me almost had this physical sensation attached to it. The moment that the album and Type O Negative finally hit me was during the track 10 which was the title track “Bloody Kisses (A Death In The Family).”
Have a listen for yourself:
There was something about this song that drew me in. The pace of it, the emotion and the intense nature of it just spoke to me. The song feels like it was about loss and I just connected to that straight away. The way the song never strays from the slow pace yet still adds subtle dynamics across the full 10 minutes and 56 seconds just flawed me. For a teenager this sounded like heaven and now as an adult I relate to the loss at the centre of this song even more. I credit this song and the moment it attached to my emotions as the point in time when Type O Negative became the most important band in my life.
I became heavily devoted to Type O Negative from this point and for my Birthday that year I got a brand new stereo and with money from my Nana I purchased a copy of the bands brand new album “World Coming Down” and then later in those school holidays the 1996 classic “October Rust” – to say that those holidays were full of revolution is an understatement.
“World Coming Down” was an album full of deep green sludge and muses a lot on the idea of the fact that we all die. The Journey of “World Coming Down” was full of twists and turns and the song that best explains the record to me is track eight which is called “Creepy Green Light.”
Have a listen for yourself:
The way this song creeps in and out of green sludge and pop music is flawless. It was moments like this that I was convinced that the band were the reincarnation of The Beatles only they chose the heavy metal vehicle this time round. Every other band I listened to at that point in time turned me on, but Type O Negative made the music that I’d had in my head for as long as I could remember.
“October Rust” – being the second album I brought those holidays – was the moment however when Type O Negative went from being my favourite band to a spooky obsession. I brought this album while I was staying with my good friend David Zorzan (who was also the first person I convinced what a great band they were). We didn’t listen to the album that much when we hung out that evening but we gave it a glimpse. The magic of “October Rust” infected me the evening after when I spent an evening alone at the family home. At 16 years old, to have the house to myself was always a joy and it always involved the stereo being played very loudly. The album of choice was my new purchase – “October Rust” – which I must have listened too 3 to 4 times back to back totally immersed in the spooky gothic shiver pop of it all. It was different to the other albums I’d ingested from the band. It was less heavy metal and more dream pop. So many great moments on this record.
The first highly emotional moment comes with track three “Love You To Death” which is still my favourite song from the band. A love song classic and the kind of swoon that I wish I could reach in music.
Have a listen:
The next moment on “October Rust” that blew my 16-year-old mind was the intense ode to loss “Red Water (Christmas Mourning)” – a song that sums up the feeling of watching another christmas roll round and noticing just how many people in your life are no longer there.
Have a listen:
The final two examples of the “October Rust” opus that I feel need to be shared are “Die With Me” and “Haunted” – these are songs that are in my creative DNA. When I first heard them I plotted a musical journey to try to create the kind of swoon and emotional heights that each of these songs showcase. A special mention to “Haunted” which I reckon is the kind of Shoegaze sound that more bands who claim to be shoegaze should adopt. It is a wonderful soundscape.
Have a listen:
Die With Me
If you listen to one song I’ve posted within this blog I reckon it has to be “Haunted” – I can’t praise this song enough. It contains so much shiver.
From the year 2000 until 2007 the band released another two records – “Life is Killing Me” and “Dead Again” – which helped take the direction of the band to new heights of musical evolution. I also backtracked and got the bands first two releases – “Slow Deep and Hard” and “The Origin Of The Feces” – soon after. Although I won’t post my in-depth review of each of these albums I will post a song from each album to showcase even further how amazing the music of Type O Negative is.
“Unsuccessfully Coping With The Natural Beauty of Infidelity” from Slow Deep and Hard – (the debut album from the band and although deeply rooted in the thrash / hardcore crossover sound the band still showcases the pop music they would go on to write)
“Paranoid” from The Origin Of The Feces – (the bands second album which is a mock live album they recorded in their own studio. The real gem of this album is the amazing cover of Black Sabbath’s paranoid which is a proper studio recording)
“Iydkmigthtky (Gimme That)” is from their 2003 album Life is Killing Me – (the outro of this song is a thing of beauty)
“Tripping A Blind Man” is from their 2007 album Dead Again – (the bands final album that sees them return to the heavy metal roots while still packing the songs full of pop skills, I love the changes contained within this song)
The story of Type O Negative however reaches a dull and heartbreaking crescendo when the lead singer, bass player and primary songwriter Peter Steele dies of heart failure on the 14th April 2010. This was a day of great sadness for me and I know how selfish it is for me as a fan to be as upset as I was – and still am – that Peter passed away because I never knew him personally. My sadness though was because he was an influential figure in my life both on a musical and personal level. I attribute my survival of high school and my 20’s to him, among others. His music changed my life and I felt deeply connected to it. The joy of experiencing new Type O Negative music was always a beautiful challenge and I really miss it.
This brings me to the conclusion – Type O Negative wrote meaningful and progressive pop music. They understood how to use humour and depth to communicate the pain of existence. They sonically crafted their own language and musical dynamics. They gave the world a beautiful history of noise that is dripping with all kinds of shiver. The band may not be a household name but that is a pointless argument for quality. A lot of my favourite musical institutions are not household names. Type O Negative are a band that you invest in if you believe in a long-term committed relationship. This is not a band for the casual, they require your full attention. If you pay the band that attention you will be rewarded beyond belief.
I love Type O Negative very deeply. If I die tomorrow and I needed someone to sum up the kind of music that “Dan Newton” listened too and strived to create I’d hope – and put forward – Type O Negative as the band, genre and sound of me.
Type O Negative, Please consider
Dan Newton xo