I spent most of my youth as a Goth (with a capital G), and for those of you who remember that time (or those of you who are still there), the music you listened to more or less defined who you were. In many of my hopeless and black moods, of course, there was nowhere to turn to than the wonderful misery of My Dying Bride, or the gloom-laden ballads of Sentenced. For the anger and fury, there was nothing else but Metallica and Slayer. When it was time to absolutely, once and for all I’m-really-doing-it-this-time slit my wrists, it could only be Marilyn Manson.
But, among all of these, there was one band that defined Goth more than any other I could think of, and this was the music I turned to when I simply wanted to dress in black, don the crosses and the black eyeliner, and sit moping in the back of a pub, pitying the fools who thought they were having a good time. That band was, of course, Type O Negative.
Type O Negative had a long and painful birth. As far back as 1976, four kids from Brooklyn were already gathering together in basements and garages, throwing together punk covers and goth rock. Like any young band, they went through endless lineup changes, finishing off in the eights with basically the same members as they had started out with. However, it took until nearly 1990 for their subversive music to be noticed, and their debut, Slow Deep and Hard to be released.
Ever mocking in their misery, Slow Deep and Hard featured extremely long, totally un-radio-friendly heavy metal doom, with bizarre (yet ultimately comprehensible) titles such as Unsuccessfully Coping with the Natural Beauty of Infidelity, a rather graphic song about being cheated on, to Gravitational Constant: G = 6.67 × 10^8 cm^-3 gm^-1 sec^-2, about suicide. While popular, it wasn’t until 1993 that the band truly broke through with Bloody Kisses.
A gothic masterpiece, Bloody Kisses is ultimately most famous for the title song, and the miserably humorous Black No. 1 (Little Miss Scare-All). The album extends for a full 73 minutes, passing from dark religious cynicism on Christian Woman to the bizarrely drudging cover of Seals and Crofts’ Summer Breeze, to genuine, suicidal misery on Bloody Kisses (A Death in the Family).
In hindsight (hind-hearing?), every song on this album is excellent, including the disturbing interludes such as Fay Wray Come Out and Play and Dark Side of the Womb, but at the time, the songs that truly spoke to me were those drenched in gloom and blackness. Black No. 1, so titled after the popular hair dye, references everything stereotypically goth from vampires to Halloween to the Munsters, and even a nod to Ministry‘s 1984 hit, Every Day is Halloween. Christian Woman, with its rather explicit lyrics of religious control and sexual repression, spoke deeply to the sexually-desperate teenage boy in me.
The one song, however, that truly got to me, that empathized with my own misery and formed the soundtrack for the trips to the darkest places in my mind, was the title track, Bloody Kisses. A depressingly morose song about a girlfriend who had committed suicide, it speaks of the strength it takes to kill oneself, the misery of being left behind, and challenges the dogma regarding suicide as a cry for help, or for attention. Surrounded by darkness, hopelessly depressed, and hopelessly attracted to a girl who was just as hopelessly depressed as I was, the lyrics spoke my own thoughts through the song.
A pair of souls become undone
Where were two now one
Divided by this wall of death
I soon will join you yet
With my blood I’ll find your love
You found the strength to end you life
As you did so shall I
Bloody Kisses – Type O Negative, 1993
Though my mind is (sometimes) in a better place now, this song continues to hold a special place in my heart, as a reminder of just how dark the world can be. Type O Negative continue to be a favorite band of mine, and their music of darkness and depression are all the more poignant now – Peter Steele, founding member and singer, died in 2010 from heart failure, at the peak of his abilities. He was only forty-eight years old. Needless to say, there will be no further Type O Negative, but the seven albums they left us are a memory unto themselves – a biography of the misery, depression and black humor of the man who created them.