Type O Negative

Bloody Kisses (Roadrunner 93) Rating: A-
Led by hulking 6'7" singer Peter Steele (ex-Carnivore), Type O Negative were one of the best heavy metal bands around during their 1990-2010 existence (that I've heard, anyway), and Bloody Kisses was their commercial and critical peak, though if you like this album you'd do well to pick up the also-great October Rust (1996; their other albums are worthwhile but not quite as good). The band's gothic metal sound is atmospheric, heavy, hooky (which is what distinguishes them from the vast majority of modern metal bands), and at times even lovely, and Steele's vocals, which more often then not are delivered via a vampiric croon or a (Jim) Morrison-ian bellow, are extremely distinctive and at times emotionally affecting. As for the rest of the band, including guitarist Kenny Hickey, keyboardist Josh Silver, and drummer Sal Abruscato (soon to be replaced by Johnny Kelly), the pieces fit, simple as that, with Silver's keyboards playing an integral part in coloring the album's rich overall sound. Steele's lyrics about death, loneliness, love (love lost mostly), and lust are interesting as well, and I also appreciate his tongue in cheek humor on songs such as "Kill All The White People" (wow, I can only imagine how much critics like Dave Marsh and Robert Christgau must hate this band since they not only play metal but aren't ashamed to be white) and "We Hate Everyone" (lest any fools brand them as rascists). This album isn't perfect, as there are several pointless interludes and several of the songs are overly long, but then again I'm generally enjoying said songs too much to complain about them. "Christian Woman" and "Black No. 1 (Little Miss Scare-All)" got some radio airplay back in the day when edited down as singles, but these epic renditions (8:58 and 11:15, respectively) are where it's at. The former song delivers moody but melodic gothic metal along with controversial lines like "Jesus cries just like me," while the latter multi-sectioned masterpiece piles hooks upon hooks. Speaking of hooks, "Set Me On Fire" is a poppy hook-fest that delivers dreamy keyboard-led psychedelia that recalls "Madchester," while "Too Late" expertly combines thrashy shouts with dreamy pop melodies. These tracks showed that Type O Negative weren't just a delectably gloomy goth metal band but that they could also be a first class pop band whose influences included The Beatles, Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple, Black Sabbath, The Doors...along with Bauhaus, Bowie, The Cure, Joy Division, and even Depeche Mode! The band's oddly effective reinterpretation of Seals and Crofts' "Summer Breeze" showed that these guys weren't afraid to be different (that they were!), and when they stick to their moody strengths on songs such as the suicide dirge title track (possibly the quintessential Type O song) the end results are unforgettable. Again, not every track here works (like most joke songs, "Kill All The White People" is much less interesting the second time around), and the album suffers some from cd-era bloat, but it's easy enough to skip the pointless filler segues and the couple of other lesser tracks. The actual serious songs here are mostly terrific, and I for one was greatly saddened when I heard that Steele, one of metal's most interesting characters, died suddenly from a heart attack on April 14, 2010. R.I.P. Peter, you were one of a kind.

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