The Controversial Artistry Of Type O Negative
Type O Negative was an American gothic metal band that was formed in Brooklyn, New York, in 1989. The band gained a cult following in the 1990s and early 2000s and was known for their dark, brooding music and controversial lyrics.
Peter Steele, Type O Negative's lead vocalist and bassist, founded the band in 1989. The band was originally formed under the name Repulsion, but they later changed the name to Type O Negative.
Steele had previously been the lead vocalist and bassist of the band Carnivore, which had formed in the early 80s and gained a small cult following with their aggressive and politically charged music. After Carnivore disbanded, Steele started a new band that focused on creating a unique and distinctive sound rather than making political statements.
Steele recruited Kenny Hickey (guitar, backing vocals), Josh Silver (keyboards, backing vocals), and Sal Abruscato (drums, percussion) as band members, and together they began writing and recording music under the name Repulsion. They released their debut album, "Slow, Deep and Hard," in 1991. The album showcased the band's unique sound, combining heavy metal, gothic rock, and darkwave elements.
However, the band soon changed its name to Type O Negative, as there was already a grindcore band called Repulsion, and they did not want to be associated with them. The name "Type O Negative" was chosen because it referred to Peter Steele's blood type and the band's negative and dark themes.
The band's debut album, "Slow, Deep and Hard," was released in 1991 and received mixed reviews. The album showcased the band's unique sound, which combined elements of heavy metal, gothic rock, and darkwave. It featured a raw, dark, and brooding sound that Black Sabbath and Judas Priest heavily influenced.
In 1993, the band released their second album, "The Origin of the Feces," a re-recorded version of their debut album with a few additional tracks.
The album received better reviews than its predecessor and helped to establish the band's reputation as a unique and powerful force in the world of metal music.
Type O Negative's third album, "Bloody Kisses," was released in 1993 and was their commercial breakthrough. The album was a critical and commercial success, and it featured the band's most popular and enduring songs, including "Black No. 1 (Little Miss Scare-All)" and "Christian Woman." The album showcased a more polished and refined sound that was heavily influenced by gothic rock and darkwave bands such as Bauhaus and The Sisters of Mercy but also retained the band's heavy metal roots.
Following the success of "Bloody Kisses," the band released several more albums, including "October Rust" (1996) and "World Coming Down" (1999), both of which received positive reviews and solidified the band's reputation as one of the leading bands in the gothic metal genre.
Many bands and artists influenced Type O Negative throughout their career, mainly Black Sabbath, Judas Priest, Bauhaus, and The Sisters of Mercy. They also drew inspiration from classic horror films, literature, and other forms of popular culture, which helped to create their unique and distinctive sound.
However, despite their popularity, the band was also the subject of much controversy.
One of the main sources of controversy surrounding Type O Negative was their lyrics, which often touched on themes such as death, sex, depression, and drug use. Some critics at the time argued that the band's lyrics glorified negative and unhealthy behaviors and were promoting a negative message to their young and impressionable fans.
Another source of controversy for the band was their vocalist and frontman, Peter Steele. Steele was known for his outspoken personality, and he often made contentious statements in interviews and on stage. In addition, Steele was arrested several times for various offenses, including drug possession and public intoxication.
There were also rumors that Type O Negative sympathized with racist and fascist ideas. Type O's singer, Peter Steele, had formerly been the leader of Carnivore and used to sing unintelligible lyrics on the third and fourth world Wars.
For example, the song "Der Untermensch" titled after the term used by the Nazis for those they considered unworthy of reproducing, has lyrics that can be perceived as offensive towards black and immigrant women, describing them as "welfare queens". The song attacks those who cheat on welfare and drug dealers, containing such provocative lyrics as, "If you don't pay taxes, you shouldn't vote, so get in line and get back on the boat" and "Spike in your arm, no money for food, yet there's plenty of gas in your BMW.".
The part about "Poor Tawana gets born with a birth defect" refers to Tawana Vicenia Brawley, an African-American woman from New York who gained notoriety in November 1987 at age 15 when she accused four white men of kidnapping and raping her over 4 days. On November 28, 1987, Brawley was found in a trash bag after having been missing from her home in Wappingers Falls, New York, for four days. It appeared she had racial slurs written on her body and was covered in feces. Brawley accused four white men of having raped her. The charges received widespread national attention partly because of the appalling condition she had been left in, her young age, and the professional status of the persons she accused of the crime (including police officers and a prosecuting attorney). Brawley's advisers—Al Sharpton, Alton H. Maddox, and C. Vernon Mason—also helped bring the case to national prominence.
After hearing evidence, a grand jury concluded in October 1988 that Brawley had not been the victim of a forcible sexual assault and that she may have created the appearance of such an attack.
These lyrics can't be taken as a joke, and this is one of their more opinionated songs, as it reflects their political and social views.
Steele, the band's lead vocalist, defended the song as a satire of how some white men objectify and fetishize black women rather than as a racist statement.
In any case, the band members never publicly acknowledged or apologized for any racist behavior, though they did address the criticism in some interviews, denying the accusations.
"Kill All the White People" is a song by Type O Negative, included in their third album, Bloody Kisses, released in 1993. Together with the theme "We Hate Everyone," it was written as a response to the controversy over the bands' alleged racist sentiments that were born after a tour in Europe and due to Peter Steele's previous band Carnivore. The lyrics are considered tongue-in-cheek satire about the constant blame for the ills of the world projected toward white people by some media.
This is why sometimes, artists should separate their music and political views.
It's important to note that the band faced these allegations during the 90s and 2000s, and the social and cultural context and understanding of racism differed. While some people saw the band's imagery and lyrics as racist or offensive, others unfortunately saw it as a form of satire or social commentary.
Despite the controversy, Type O Negative kept a devoted fan base and a successful career.
It may be because of Peter Steele's larger-than-life figure or because he was an incredibly talented musician; his deep, distinctive voice was a defining characteristic of the band's music, and he had a powerful stage presence that captivated audiences.
In addition to his musical talents, Steele's struggles and vulnerability made him relatable and endearing to fans. He was open about his struggles with depression, addiction, heartbreak and personal demons, and his lyrics often reflected these struggles. Many fans found comfort in his music and related to the raw emotion and vulnerability that he conveyed.
Lastly, his death in 2010 shocked many fans and friends, adding a mythological quality to his legacy, as if he was a martyr for his art and struggles. He was widely mourned, and his death is still considered a tragic loss to the music industry.