Rock stars die. Let’s face it, other than making music it’s what they’re good at. Many die before their time (Hendrix) many die waaaay after their time (Clapton? Sting? They walk the Earth but Bonham and Jerry Fuchs, to name a few, die young. Thanks for that). But they die like everyone else. Unlike everyone else though many of these iconic figures touch millions of people with their music, so their absence is felt suddenly and severely. In my lifetime, or at least in the time of my life that I have been following music quite a few have died. None of them have effected me the way the news today that Type O Negative Bass player and vocalist PETER STEELE has died at age 48.
You might say I am terribly saddened by this.
Is Steele’s death a surprise? No, or at least not a massive surprise as someone as Jerry Fuchs was. Hardly a year ago I watched a video interview with the man – recently released from stints in a psyche ward and what I believe was Ryker’s Island – and I was pretty freaked out to see Steele looking kind of skinny and, well, a bit freaked out. Having seen the band live many, many times I was always very taken by the stoic and dare I say personable manner in which Steele carried himself in spite of the often volatile persona that came across in his music. The man in the video footage was borderline ragged, no doubt from his recent incarcerations and issues of family trouble he alluded to in the interview. That image has stayed with me since, and every couple of months when I cruise Type O’s website looking for updates on an album I anticipated an announcement for any time now my mind would juxtapose the image of him with the ‘gag’ the band played in 2005 where they replaced their opening page with a giant tombstone that read R.I.P. Peter Steele.
It’s not a joke this time.
Bloody Kisses, the digipak version, was the first thing I ever heard by Type O and it remains to this day one of my top ten (if not five) albums of all time. Note use and emphasis of the word ‘album’ – while the regular Bloody Kisses is good the later-released digipak version is, start to finish a work of staggering musical beauty; lush, dark and atmospheric beyond anything the ‘goths’ I knew were listening to at the time. The album is one that early on played on my synesthesia* and within its dark and cavernous walls I found an entire visual and emotional world – one I can still visit if I put the disc on, close my eyes and let it carry me away. Regardless of his or any of the other guys in the bands problems or politics this earned them my eternal respect and gratitude – a lasting relationship that has paid out dividends for me as a fan, as over the years Type O became one of the only truly reliable bands that existed within the fringe of the ‘metal’ genre who I could ALWAYS rely on to put out a good, start-to-finish album every single time.
Every. Single. Album.
I went back and bought Slow Deep and Hard and Origin of the Feces and was blown away at not only the immense song structure but the toxic emotional content. I was going through a lot of shitty female trouble at the time and I could tell Steele had been there and then some. He captured and conveyed his anger at being fucked over by a woman in ways that were equally horrific, hysterical and at times maybe even appalling and within his own coping with tragedy I found myself a nice little niche of piss and vinegar from which to win my own battles. And every time a woman stepped on my feelings after that I would find myself singing lines from that album with a smile on my face in spite of how bad it felt.
Each successive album Type O put out was awesome, but finally they matched (maybe even topped) Bloody Kisses with 2003’s Life is Killing Me. I’d always observed a kinship between Type O and The Cure and here it was more apparent than ever. The metal elements remained but became further refined to play within the context of 80’s era darkness that so personified The Cure in their early days. Add to this the rampant use of Beatlesque harmony techniques and pop sensibilities (tambourine anybody?) and Life Is Killing Me is not only the band’s most accomplished album but their most integrated, the lush ambient goth-metal of Bloody Kisses finally interwoven perfectly with the more pop-sensible, classic rock side the band often loved to explore with live covers and studio experimentation.
In the end this is a sad day, and one I will remember my entire life. It is the day I found out I will never again receive another ‘Audio Post Card from Hell’ from a band I have loved since I first met.
R.I.P. Peter Steele – I don’t know about you, but I need a fucking drink…