Type O Negative
with Coal Chamber
Roseland Ballroom, NYC • 10.29.97
Gail Worley (with David Lee Beowulf)
Halloween arrived early this year, when Brooklyn’s Type O Negative brought their unique brand of gothic metal to midtown. Would-be Draculas and Druidesses packed Roseland Ballroom by the time L.A.’s Coal Chamber arrived to warm up the crowd with a dose of aggressive rock from their self-titled debut on Roadrunner. Live, Coal Chamber have a theatrical presence that reminded me of a cross between White Zombie and a toned-down Marilyn Manson. They created the perfect preamble to the roaring thunder of Type O.
Bela Lugosi meets Lord Byron in the 6’7″ body of Type O Negative’s lead singer and bassist, Peter Steele. Outside of the band, Steele is best known for his marvelous Playgirl centerfold spread (August 1995). With his flowing mane of black hair and muscular, tattooed frame, Steele is the chivalrous suitor who pens lyrics like “I am your servant, may I light your cigarette?,” paints romantic images of dying in the arms of your lover, and keeps a straight face while singing “She’s got a date at Midnight with Nosferatu/Oh baby, Lily Munster ain’t got nothing on you.” All the women want to bed him; all the men want to be him. But Type O Negative isn’t all about Peter Steele’s rock god sex appeal: Kenny Hickey’s orchestral guitars and relentless power chords, Josh Silver’s signature keyboards and Johnny Kelly’s drumming provided a sonic saturation which permeated the venue. Type O Negative are a force to be reckoned with.
Accenting the strong visual presence of Type O themselves was a stage setting inspired by their 1996 release, October Rust: a forest of bare trees back-lit in dark green. Halloween Jack-O-Lanterns accented the stage, which was also strewn with fallen leaves — the perfect atmosphere for an evening that included a selection of favorites taken mostly from October Rust and its predecessor, Bloody Kisses.
The boys’ showed their dark and playful sense of humor to be alive and kicking (and horny) by opening with “My Girlfriend’s Girlfriend” a gothic go-go song about every man’s fantasy. The full-on erotic assault of “Love You To Death” followed, with Steele’s combination Transylvanian growl/lupine howl showing off a vocal prowess that is nearly unmatched in the rock arena.
According to Josh Silver, whom I had the pleasure of interviewing last year, the songs they cover tend to be Peter’s childhood favorites. “You know, things with riffs that could be made heavy,” he told me. Thus we find them revamping Neil Young’s “Cinnamon Girl,” a classic song of sensual obsession, into their own dark anthem. The Doors’ “Light My Fire” was presented in it’s “radio edit” length, surprising since one would figure Silver’s keyboard mastery could easily allow him to replicate and even improve on Ray Manzerek’s extended keyboard jam. A snow machine sprinkled the band with downy white flakes for “Too Late Frozen,” punctuating the message of the song, that seasons of a relationship have changed and “it’s too late for apologies.”
The band’s first album, Slow, Deep, and Hard, which was quoted by one former Roadrunner executive in 1991 as being “the most radio-unfriendly album ever recorded,” was represented by the dark, suicidal lament, “Gravitational Constant: G = 6.67 x 10-8 cm3 gm-1 sec-2.” It’s difficult to imagine that someone like Pete Steele, who certainly has everything now, could seriously want to end his life; nonetheless, he charged-up the crowd with the song’s self-abusive intro: “One-two-three-four: I don’t wanna live no more… ” It was encouraging to hear the sold-out crowd sing along to an obscure song from the band’s formative years.
Type O’s radio hit from a couple of years back, “Black #1,” was offered mid-set. This three part anthem, the title of which cryptically refers to a shade of hair dye rather than some evil conjuring, ignited the crowd to chant along with the alternating choruses “Black number one” and “Loving you was like loving the dead” as if they were singing “I wanna rock and roll all night.” Steele introduced the speed metal romp, “Kill All the White People” by dedicating it to “My friend Al Sharpton, who has done nothing positive for the race relations in this city,” before they finished with “Wolf Moon” and the tongue-in-cheek blasphemy of “Christian Woman.” As the fully sated audience milled out onto 52nd Street, there seemed to be no room to doubt that Type O Negative stand guard at the forefront of a whole new genre of heavy metal.