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Type O Negative Life Is Killing Me

By Mick Stingley, Contributor
Monday, June 16, 2003 @ 11:48 AM


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Like the paintings of Manet, and Velazquez, Type O Negative’s music is always beautiful, often poignant, but notably awash in black: it’s a dichotomy of vibrant color and infinite darkness that characterizes the masterpieces of the painters, and the band collectively known as Type O Negative.

The latest CD, their first collection of new material in four years, Life Is Killing Me, is another richly textured canvas of sublime sonic beauty that defies categorization. For the uninitiated, they are “new wave goth-metal doom-pop”; or perhaps, “Black Sabbath meets The Sisters Of Mercy at Beatlemania vs. Lenny Bruce and The Cocteau Twins featuring Midge Ure”. Got that?

However they will be classified in music history, Type O Negative rock, and Life Is Killing Me surpasses the far-reaching boundaries they established for themselves on their first four records (1991’s Slow, Deep And Hard, 1993’s Bloody Kisses, 1996’s October Rust and 1999’s World Coming Down).

“LIKM” begins with a slow, Sabbath-y dirge that segues into the whallop-packing “I Don’t Wanna Be Me” that is surely Type O’s “Paranoid.” Not the slow-simmering thunder they usually open their records with, this is a “Kick Out The Jams, Motherfuckers!”-kind of song that finally unleashes Kenny Hickey to deliver his most smoldering guitar playing ever – guitar work that fans of TON’s live shows have long been acquainted with. Peter Steele’s lyrics and vocal gristle are evocative of some serious pain, but the results are strictly for the headbangers.

Whatever is going on in singer/bassist/lyricist Steele’s life, this disc is colored with his angst and rage and pain – there simply isn’t a pharmaceutical mood-elevator strong-enough to quell this man’s ire. Be that as it may, songs like the superb “Life Is Killing Me,” “Anesthesia,” “The Dream Is Dead” and “Less Than Zero (<0)” would only resonate as homage to poems from Sylvia Plath’s “The Bell Jar” if not for the velvety- plush piano-keyboards of a certain Josh Silver, whose contributions to this band are forever humble and unsung… and who, coupled with Hickey’s guitar slashing out riff after riff and Johnny Kelly’s technical understated brilliance “behind the kit,” (he does so much more than just keep a beat), conjure a storm of mesmerizing Pixar-like animation.

The lost-love mourned in “Electro-cute” must have been some kind of spectacular woman for Steele and his cohorts-in-grime to create the Beatles-esque aural-sex of this incredible song, with it’s lilting “la, la, la’s” and “Sgt. Pepper” keyboard-cum-orchestra. The pretty “your cold eyes/of Coney Island sand” married to the grim banality of “you were about as real as your tits” lyrics – drenched in Josh Silver’s and Kenny Hickey’s haunting raining keyboards and guitar with Johnny Kelly’s steady marching drums – would make everyone from Paul McCartney to Varg Vikernes shed a tear.

Type O’s ability to create beautiful pop notwithstanding, their penchant for being clever is ever-present on “I Like Goils” (which features former drummer and Life Of Agony skins-beater Sal Abruscato on backing vox). “Goils” is Steele’s personal response, a rollicking and funny temper-tantrum about being hounded by “men who love men” --shall we say -- but rocks no matter what your sexual preference is (and Steele states his, plainly: “My tattooed ass/reads ‘Exit Only.’) “How Could She” continues his affinity for women of the televised sort in a roll call of both animated and Technicolor flesh-and-blood (he name-checks ‘Penelope Pitstop’ AND ‘Samantha Stevens’ among others.) And if that doesn’t whet your appetite, for what outshines their earlier interest in covers, the ironically-chosen fast-crunching and brutally executed “Angry Inch” (from the musical and film Hedwig And The Angry Inch) about a post-op trans-sexual grimly assessing his/her botched post-surgery nightmare…. Well, then wrap your ears around the anthemic “If You Don’t Kill Me I’m Going To Have To Kill You (Gimme That).”

With Life Is Killing Me, Type O Negative manage to stay within their dark medium of contrasting color and bleakness, yet they have also created some sensational songs that are both elegant and pounding. Fans of Bloody Kisses and October Rust will find this a welcome compliment to those compositions. And, most importantly, Type O demonstrate that some of the most beautiful works of art are created amidst despair and extreme suffering. Life may be killing Type O Negative, but the legacy they are creating is museum-quality.

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