Subcultures tend to take themselves way too goddamn seriously. That’s why Type O Negative’s sarcastic take on gothic metal was and is so vital. The quartet—bassist, vocalist, and primary creative force Peter Steele; guitarist Kenny Hickey; keyboardist John Silver; and drummer Johnny Kelly—are best known for two things: the band’s often goofy take on goth metal, and Steele’s ironic humor delivered through black porcelain vocals. The band’s biting satire was often mistaken for honest expression; thus, while “I’m proud not to be PC” works as a (joking?) thesis statement, they understood absurdity and how to wield it. Unfortunately, Type O Negative only released seven albums, with Steele’s death in 2010 cutting the band’s career short. Life is short, so let’s explore the darkness while we can. Happy Halloween.
7. The Origin of the Feces (1992)
Type O’s sophomore effort is their most tongue-in-cheek record. “The Origin of the Feces” is a fake live album, complete with canned applause and Steele’s between-song banter to no one. The majority of its material is re-recorded, renamed, and rearranged songs from “Slow, Deep and Hard” (see below)—which is to say, inferior versions. The one improvement “The Origin” has over its predecessor is the musicianship, especially original drummer Sal Abruscato’s playing. It’s the heaviest Type O ever got, coming much closer to the thrash of Carnivore (Steele’s previous band), with uneven results. In this way, the record is best viewed through a what-if lens. “The Origin” ends with crickets chirping—a nice touch—which is entirely fitting: this mostly entertaining record lands with little impact relative to the others in the band’s catalog. Even if the joke is the substandard and recycled quality, it’s still substandard and recycled all the same.
Play it again: “Hey Pete” and the bonus track “Paranoid” (not a great sign that the covers are the go-to songs)
Skip it: “Kill You Tonight,” because the reprise is better
6. World Coming Down (1999)
“World Coming Down” is (mostly) a return to goth metal following “October Rust” (see below), and is the only of the band’s albums with genuine emotion. Steele suffered some tough losses in his life between “October” and “World,” so naturally he wrote about death: “Everyone I love is dead / Goddammit!” This is their heaviest record lyrically, with self-loathing and addiction being throughlines. To match the weighty subject matter and haunting melodies, Steele and Silver coat the record in a thick comatose haze, especially Hickey’s excellent playing. “World” would be ranked higher had they not decided to include (and end!) the record with a sarcastically fun but glaringly inappropriate Beatles medley. It’s more out of place than Lauren Boebert at a Mensa gathering. That’s the band’s only real fault: a pathological need to shoehorn a joke into everything.
Play it again: “Everyone I Love Is Dead” and “Creepy Green Light”
Skip it: “Day Tripper (Medley),” which shoulda been a B-side
5. Life Is Killing Me (2003)
Type O’s penultimate record finds them facetiously playing with arena goth rock. “Life Is Killing Me” is the band’s overtly mainstream album, filled with earworm choruses, satisfying melodies, neat riffing, and soaring leads. It’s the sort of crass commercialism that Disney can get behind. Meanwhile, Steele’s sense of irony has fully returned following “World,” as he pairs big dumb rock songs with gleefully resentful lyricism: “Even though I still miss your lips / You’re about as real as your tits.” Steels also takes time to explore some Weird Al-esque silliness: “Appointment made, waited three hours / Did not realize you had such power / I’d rather see a mortician.” The takeaway, though, is this: “Life is” is the best display of the band’s superb pop songwriting.
Play it again: “I Don’t Wanna Be Me” and “(We Were) Electrocute”
Skip it: “IYDKMIGTHTKY (Gimme That)”
4. Dead Again (2007)
Their seventh and final album is a sample platter of their career up to this point, which—thanks to Steele’s untimely death—turned out to be the entirety of it. “Dead Again” has the thrashy riffage of “The Origin,” the goth metal of “Slow,” the beautifully melodic balladeering of “October,” and the arena rock ambitions of “Life Is,” with many of its songs employing some combination of those. As such, it’s the most logical entry point into their catalog. (In other words, start here if you’re lazy.) Being the band’s heaviest record since “The Origin,” it’s also a helluva lotta fun. While the lyrics feature multiple winks at the end (“I can’t believe I died last night / I’m fucking dead again”), the spritely music suggests a rejuvenation: Hickey never played with more purpose, while Steele overacts vocally throughout the record, chewing scenery at every opportunity. “Dead” isn’t their most consistent work, but it’s a strong note to (unintentionally) end on.
Play it again: the title track, “The Profit of Doom,” and “Halloween in Heaven”
Skip it: “These Three Things,” a bit too self-indulgent and too self-serious
3. October Rust (1996)
As the title hints at, Type O’s fourth full-length is their bleakest. It’s also their most poetic. Steele’s sarcastically touching writing suggests decay is everywhere he looks: nature (“Winter’s breath of filthy snow / Befrosted paths to the unknown”), love (“All of the flowers I gave her / She burned them”), and Christmas (“The stockings are hung, but who cares? / Preserved for those no longer there”). He didn’t discard his biting wit, however. Here he is discussing a threesome: “They keep me warm on cold nights / We must be quite a sight / In our meat triangle.” Musically, “October Rust” is the band’s gentlest offering, composed largely of goth rock ballads with lovely melodies and pillowy arrangements. It’s their prettiest, and least metal, album for sure. The band’s debut (see below) ended with the line “Suicide is self-expression,” and “October” provides the soundtrack for it: perfect-temperature bathwater to lay in and open a vein.
Play it again: “Red Water (Christmas Mourning)” and “My Girlfriend’s Girlfriend”
Skip it: “Haunted,” a bit too self-indulgent for its own good (Might be a pattern here…)
2. Slow, Deep and Hard (1991)
Type O Negative came out fully formed and didn’t do any of that hand-holding shit on their debut LP. This is the band’s satire at its blackest—topics include racial hatred, the angry ex-boyfriend hurling misogynistic invective, and suicide being a kind of art—and features Steele’s career-best biting, sarcastic delivery. His exaggerated performance allows him to sell the album’s best joke, ending “Slow” with the lines “You think I’m insane, but I have no regrets / One more time won’t matter, no question / Suicide is self-expression.” Musically, “Slow, Deep and Hard” contains genuine hooks here, as well as several cool riffs, but Steele’s compositional skills weren’t fully developed yet. That’s OK, though, because “Slow” is still an excellent first effort. To wit: some of this material is so strong, the band would reuse it for their follow-up.
Play it again: “Unsuccessfully Coping with the Natural Beauty of Infidelity”
Skip it: “Glass Walls of Limbo”
1. Bloody Kisses (1993)
Type O’s third and best album is both a classic of gothic metal and its best parody. Steele’s writing and singing is so tongue-in-cheek that there musta been a hole in his face after recording. His smug-drenched condescension, combined with the band expertly providing space for him to perform, is a thing of beauty. “Bloody Kisses” is a CD-capacity sarcastic song cycle, and also probably the funniest gothic metal record ever. The song lengths and the overlong fadeouts seem sarcastic. Even the sarcasm feels sarcastic. So when Steele sneers, “We don’t care what you think,” it’s both a fuck-you to any criticism of goths and to goths themselves. His succinct crotch kick to the absurdity of fake identity posturing within and without goth culture—“You wanna go out ’cause it’s raining and blowing / You can’t go out ’cause your roots are showing”—remains incisive, funny, and relevant 30 years later.
Play it again: “Black No. 1 (Little Miss Scare-All)” and “We Hate Everyone”
Skip it: “Blood & Fire” and “Can’t Lose You”