Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Type O Negative: The Origin of the Feces

This is one of the most interesting, funniest albums I have heard. Type O Negative has always had a strange and twisted sense of humor. Nowhere is this more obvious than on this album. They have given us some strange liner notes at times, but this album really is the go-to point if you want to tell someone how weird this band is.

Let's start with the cover. This is allegedly a picture of vocalist Peter Steele's anus. Thankfully, people were angry and the cover was censored eventually. We do not need to really see Peter Steele's anus, thank you very much.

Now, the craziest part about this album is that it is supposed to be a live album. I say supposed to be because the band's label Roadrunner had it written in the contract that Type O Negative was to record a live album. However, the band allegedly took the money they were supposed to spend on producing the live album on cheap vodka instead. Realizing they needed to fulfill their contractual obligations, the band simply re-recorded their debut album Slow Deep and Hard, added a couple of songs and retitled some of the other songs and then added fake crowd noise.

But they did not stop there. It would be too easy to simply add in crowd noise. No, Type O Negative added in chants of "You Suck!" and improvised a fight between Steele and the fans with Steele yelling "You suck too" at one point in the album and then making fun of the crowd because he's getting paid to play and the crowd had to pay to get in. At about the midway point, the band claimed it had to stop playing because there was a bomb threat in the concert hall. After a few seconds of silence, they began playing again.

Beyond the insanity of the fake crowd, the music is very impressive and it does sound as if they are playing live. The first seven tracks are the fake concert and then the band adds in a very interesting cover of the Black Sabbath classic "Paranoid" for the final track. The musicianship is tight and is held together well despite the often changing tempos.

Type O Negative will never be mistaken for an incredibly musically talented act. But that is okay, because the band plays just well enough to sound fine playing the style of music they play. They have always been able to write long, multi-part epic songs and this has been their best musical quality. Here, for example, we have the fifteen minute opener "I Know You're Fucking Someone Else", which lays the groundwork for the rest of the album. The band's style is a form of gothic metal incorporating various influences such as Black Sabbath and The Beatles. They take those influences and slow them down and twist them to form a sound that is unlike any other band.

As for the instrumentation itself, the band has always relied quite a bit on the keyboards and vocals to drive the melodies home, in particular in the softer parts of the songs, of which there are many. This is true of this album as well. There is the occasional guitar solo and the riffs are plentiful, but they do not typically constitute the main melody of the song. The bass and guitar parts mostly lumber their way through the slower songs in a doom-laden dirge but are there to provide main support in the faster songs. The riffs drive the song forward, but it's the additional flourishes that shine through.

The major focus is on the vocals. Peter Steele has an extremely deep voice and it adds a haunting quality to the songs. Occasionally, Kenny Hickey or Josh Silver provide backing vocals to further emphasize the deepness of Steele's voice.

The songs themselves are mostly typical of Type O Negative: gloomy, dirge-like exercises in self-deprecation and depression. The songs deal with the betrayal of a cheating girlfriend and fantasies about killing her, and then actually going through with it. There are some other subjects too, but for the most part it details a relationship gone very wrong. The lyrics are often somewhat humorous despite the dark nature of the subject matter. This has become a well-known trait of the band that was in its infancy at the time of the release of this album.

Two songs are covers. The track "Hey Peter" is a rearranging of the Jimi Hendrix song "Hey Joe" about a jealous lover ready to kill his cheating girlfriend. Here Peter Steele replaces the gun with an axe. The last track is a morosely slow adaptation of the Black Sabbath classic "Paranoid". Somehow the band stretches it out more than twice as long as the original.

The production on the album is crisp and clean. It's the first real sign that this was not actually a live album. Most live recordings are not as clear as this album. That's fine though as it allows the music to be heard very well.

Overall, this is a very fun listen. The humor involved keeps things light and interesting, despite the very dark subject matter. Type O Negative never did record a real live album.

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