The sky is cloudy and a dreary gray with sprinkles of cold rain. Colored leaves are falling on the damp ground, and the wind has regained that hint of wintry chill. The atmosphere and setting seem more desolate, and there is an ominous aura in the air. There’s a level of unpredictably, mystery, sexuality and barrels of fun waiting to be had by all. And of course, there’s a shitload of candy.
It’s hard to put in words the feelings of thistime of the season, but there’s no better metal record to do that than Type O Negative’s 1993 goth metal classic, Bloody Kisses. Years before Twilight and the nationwide vampire obsession, Type O Negative made vampires cool back when it wasn’t cool to be vampires. If only the teens of today would check this record out, maybe it would take on another life.
Led by the imposing, 6-foot-6-inch vocalist/bassist, Peter Steele, Brooklyn, N.Y., band Type O Negative was all but unknown, even after the release of its debut album, Slow, Deep and Hard(Roadrunner Records, 1991). Formerly of the hardcore thrash band Carnivore, Steele had already made a small name for himself through his controversial lyrics as frontman of that band. This continued with Type O Negative’s debut. The album, said to be written by Steele in four hours, was a pissed-off, violent, revenge-fueled, women-hating album, centering on a relationship of Steele’s that went terribly bad. He wanted to kill, and violently kill, everyone involved. The album’s downtuned hardcore and 10-minute-plus, multi-faceted gloom-metal songs were unlike anything I had heard. Steele was sarcastically humorous, disturbing and downright menacing. But we’re not talking about that album here, are we? For whatever reason, the novelty soon wore off and Slow, Deep and Hard didn’t have a lasting effect on me at the time.
Then in 1993, Bloody Kisses (Roadrunner Records) came out of nowhere. Type O Negative had reappeared and done almost a complete 180. When the single and video for “Christian Woman” hit the airwaves, the only reason I knew it was Type O Negative was because of the presence of Steele; everything else was different. Steele’s vocals were now a drastic baritone, the lowest, deepest voice I had ever heard in a rock band—almost to the point that it was unbelievable. The band—completed by guitarist Kenny Hickey, keyboardist Josh Silver and drummer Sal Abruscato—now had a gothic, vampiric image. All of them had long, jet-black hair, pale skin and a medieval, deathly look about them. They were either part of some kind of a cult or they slept in coffins full of Brooklyn soil—probably both.
But that wasn’t all that was different. Musically,Type O Negative now had its trademark sound ofBlack Sabbath meets the Beatles (the band’s two self-proclaimed main influences), but with gothic themes and overtones unlike any metal band that came before them. The guitar riffs were even more drastically downtuned, with distortion to maximum levels—a buzzsaw-laden fuzz, which became the benchmark of all albums to follow. Silver’s keyboards and special effects ranged from choirs to creepy, melancholic church organs, all the way to cheesy fluttering bat wings and satanic rituals.
Steele’s vocals weren’t limited to his inhuman baritone. As it turned out, this dude can actually sing. When he wasn’t getting lower than low, he could softly but convincingly carry extremely catchy melodies. It sounded like he was singing in church choir but in a pop band, hence the Beatles reference. Over time, I may have learned to like this style even more than his signature vocals.
With popularity comes controversy, and Bloody Kisses gave Type O Negative just as much negative publicity as positive. Due to their lyrical content and live performances, the band was labeled as racist, fascist, sexist, suicidal and anything else you could think of. Steele later had to defend and explain himself and the band for years to come.
Lyrically, Bloody Kisses was about as goth as you could get—depressing, unique and at times, very comical. Steele was said to have suffered from chronic depression, and although this must have been hell for him, it’s also what made the band what it was. The album carried a tone full of tongue-in-cheek, sarcastic humor, but also painted vivid imagery, like something out of a horror movie or ancient tale.
The first single, “Christian Woman,” was a three-part epic (cut and censored for video and radio play) centered on a haunting melody, an ultra-heavy, rhythmic guitar riff and Steele’s passionate vocals. The subject matter seemed innocent on the outside but was actually quite obscene. When studying the lyrics, the song seems to be about a young Christian woman that becomes lustful toward Jesus Christ and God, and maybe even masturbates while fantasizing about God:
She’d like to know God
Ooh love God
Feel her God
Inside of her—deep inside of her
In the end, the guilt overcomes her and because of her sins, she’ll ultimately go to hell, “her soul done medium well.”
It’s the third part of the song, “J.C. Looks Like Me,” that Steele’s sarcastic humor comes strongly into play, when he repeatedly sings “Jesus Christ looks like me, Jesus Christ.” It’s almost like he’s tapping the girl on the shoulder saying, “Psst. Hey, if you can’t have Jesus, then I’m the next best thing.” Classic.
The 11-minute-plus “Black No.1 (Little Miss Scare-All)” is an ode to all things in goth culture, poking fun at it all, but it’s mainly based on a goth girl that Steele formerly dated. Apparently, she was very full of herself. Oh, and in case you didn’t know, “Black No. 1” is hair dye.
She’s in love with herself
She likes the dark
On her milk white neck
The Devil’s mark
Little wolf skin boots
And clove cigarettes
An erotic funeral
For witch she’s dressed
Her perfume smells like
Every day is Halloween
The song’s chorus chants of “Black, black, black, No.1!”and “Loving you was like loving the dead!” are the catchiest and most recognizable pieces Type O Negative ever recorded.
This was also the song and video in which the band broke out the vampire theme in realistic fashion—so realistic, in fact, that I remember people questioning if they really were creatures of the night.
An evil, brooding cover of Seals and Croft’s “Summer Breeze” is done here in true Type O fashion. Only this band could’ve taken this song and made it heavier than sin and cool as all hell. The ultra-slowed-down tempo is the key here, and of course, Steele’s menacing baritone. Remarkably, the essence of the original song remains intact, just spun in a totally different way. The song was used in the opening of the 1997 slasher I Know What You Did Last Summer.
The title track, “Bloody Kisses (A Death in the Family),” is a vivid tale, something along the lines of Romeo and Juliet. The stormy sound effects and uber-slow, chugging riff makes this one downright scary. Silver’s keyboards are the backbone of this depressing, enthralling tale, with a cold piano break being a highlight. Steele’s lyrics bring this one to life, or death, if you will. While listening, I literally can picture a scene from a movie: a young girl donning one of those wide, fancy, old-time dresses plunges off a steep cliff into icy waters on a stormy night. In the background is an ominous castle, its walls crumbling above a rocky landscape.
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 your life
As you did so shall I
Some of Steele’s early hardcore influence reared its head on Bloody Kisses in “Kill All the White People” and “We Hate Everyone,” both stirring controversy at the time. They are faster, hardcore anthems, but musically proficient and lyrically clever and sarcastic. And funny as shit. They were written in response to the band being alleged as racists, some of this dating back to Steel’s time in Carnivore.
From “We Hate Everyone”:
Want it clearer?
Check the mirror
We don’t care what you think
Lies and slander in vain try to shame us
Riots, protests, violence just makes us famous
TV interviews, free publicity
Increase record sales dramatically
There was also a sentimental and soft side of Bloody Kisses in songs like “Set Me on Fire,” “Blood & Fire” and “Can’t Lose You.” Musically, they’re the most straightforward and pop-structured material of the album, with lyrics centering on love, obsession and desire.
Bloody Kisses also included several skits, or interludes, like the disturbing intro “Machine Screw,” the ritualistic “Fay WrayCome Out and Play” and “Dark Side of the Womb.” These worked well in completing an already complete album, full of variety, tricks and treats, giving it devilish charm.
A digipack re-release of the album was later put out that featured an even hotter lesbian album cover with the two lovely girls locking lips, but a different track order, omitting songs and with the interludes removed. An additional song, “Suspended in Dusk,” was included, as well. Yeah, the cover was awesome, but overall, it just wasn’t the same.
I was fortunate enough to see Type O Negative twice during the touring cycle for Bloody Kisses; once at Michael’s Eighth Avenue in Glen Burnie, Md. (Nov. 29, 1994), opening for Danzig, and in Salisbury, Md., opening for the almighty Pantera(Far Beyond Driven tour). Surprising or not, I walked away from both shows remembering their performance just as much as the high-profile headliners. I later caught Type O Negative during the October Rust tour on Ozzfest ’97, but it wasn’t the same. Because of the early hardcore days, this band was custom-built for small clubs, and at both of those shows they delivered a set that commanded attention, participation and even a little violence. (I caught a flying elbow in the chest during the Michael’s Eighth Avenue show just as they were opening with “Too Late:Frozen,” which rendered me unconscious twice in a five-minute span.)
So if Bloody Kisses was released today, would it have the same success? Wouldn’t it be perfect for the teenage vampire craze? You would think so, but without the help of MTV playing the eye-catching videos in heavy rotation, I don’t know. I’d like to think it would be huge, though.
There’s been nothing quite like Bloody Kisses before or after its release. The album pushed the boundaries of what metal was thought or was supposed to be. With all the music and lyrics written by Peter Steele, this is his landmark piece of work and Type O Negative’s most successful release, eventually being certified platinum for sales of one million units.
On April 14, 2010, Peter Steele suddenly passed away due to heart failure. I had just started a sunny Florida vacation when I read the news on Facebook via my mobile phone. I was shocked, saddened and practically devastated and I had never even met the guy. That’s how important the band, and particularly, Bloody Kisses, was to me—it was a staple of my late teenage years and I still listen to it frequently today. And I’ll always remember “Christian Woman” for my friend Keith, who passed away a couple years ago. He wasn’t necessarily a metal fan, yet it was one of his favorite songs.
Steele’s death was sudden and sent a shock through metal fans all across the world. Sure, his lyrical content and nature of the band’s music was often based on death, depression and loss, yet the ending to this band’s saga just didn’t seem right.
In case no one has caught on, this article on revisiting Bloody Kisses is our tribute to Peter Steele, something we’ve been trying to do for quite some time.
So on this Hallow’s Eve, when the moon is full, raise a glass of red wine in remembrance of Steele. And if you have it, let Bloody Kisses play out for your party-goers. After all, it’s the perfect Halloween metal record, and indeed, for Type O, every day was Halloween.