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Concert Review: A Pale Horse Named Death at Webster Hall Studio, Manhattan, NY, 12/9/11

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When the leader of Brooklyn goth-metal luminaries Type O Negative, Peter Steele, passed away in 2010, he left a giant hole in the hearts of those for whom Type O’s singular blend of black humor, dark eroticism and melodic yet crunching heavy metal was musical lifeblood.

In 2011, however, those same sorrowful fans have found a reason to rejoice, as original Type O drummer Sal Abruscato has stepped out from behind the kit — a move that he described on this night as not just taking balls, but “fucking melons” — to lead his own dark metal outfit, A Pale Horse Named Death (APHND).

Johnny Kelly, who replaced Abruscato in Type O, now mans the skins for APHND — a band comprised of two of his former drummers must have the wisecracking Steele in stitches up there in rock and roll heaven. Wisely, however, APHND doesn’t attempt to merely mimic Type O, but instead uses it as an influence, along with other luminaries of musical heaviosity like grunge superstars Alice In Chains and industrialists Ministry.

A Pale Horse Named Death (Live)

On this night, fired up by Revolver magazine’s pick of their debut album, And Hell Will Follow Me, as one of the top releases of 2011, Abruscato, sporting Alice Cooper-style ghoulish face paint, took to the stage with his cohorts in Manhattan and faced up to the challenge of Type O’s legacy. It soon became clear that this is a labor of love for all involved: I can’t remember the last time I saw a band having this much fun on stage — strange, considering rock music is supposed to be about having a good time.

Heavy, grinding numbers like “To Die In Your Arms” and “Devil In The Closet” satisfied the crowd’s need for headbanging, while “Cracks In The Walls” had atmospheric, gothic touches that brought to mind the aforementioned Alice Cooper circa the Killer era. Live as on record, Abruscato’s material is impressively strong in the melody department — APHND songs tend to stick in the mind long after you’ve heard them. And while Abruscato doesn’t possess as distinctive a voice as his fallen comrade, he sings on key and gets the job done.

Type O’s influence was perhaps most evident in the songs’ irony and black humor: “Heroin Train” is a blunt examination of a junkie who didn’t notice what was happening to him until it was too late; “Meet The Wolf” rewrites the Red Riding Hood saga in a lusty fashion that recalls Steele’s “Wolf Moon.” An impressive crowd-pleaser on this night was “Pill Head,” the existential lament of a pill popper who spends his days isolated in a pharmaceutical bubble, “drifting through the universe,” presumably with Major Tom and the Rocket Man for company.

“This song I want to put out to a dear friend – I hope he approves, he was pretty particular and meticulous when it came to writing music.”

Those heartfelt words from Abruscato led into perhaps the highlight of the selections from And Hell Will Follow Me, “Die Alone,” a slow, heavy, bluesy grind that is a virtual homage to the late and lamented Steele. As the waves of blackened metallic sound poured forth from the stage, anchored by Kelly’s distinctive drumming, the song became transporting: “My life has fallen apart so many times I’ve lost count,” Abruscato sang. “One thing is guaranteed, you always die alone.”

No worries on the quality front, Sal. Your old friend was definitely smiling on this night.

Setlist

1. “To Die In Your Arms”
2. “Devil In The Closet”
3. “Cracks In The Walls”
4. “Heroin Train”
5. “Meet The Wolf”
6. “As Black As My Heart”
7. “Pill Head”
8. “Die Alone”
9. “Bath In My Blood (Schizophrenia In Me)”

–Johnny “Gutter” Walker

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  • Randy

    I was present at this show, and your review is spot on. Especially resonant for me is the line about Pete’s death and the demise of Type O leaving “a giant hole in the hearts of those for whom Type O’s singular blend of black humor, dark eroticism and melodic yet crunching heavy metal was musical lifeblood,” as I’ve often described APHND as the first band I’ve come across that can fill that very hole. It’s all two fitting that 1/2 the band used to be in Type O.

  • Randy

    Clearly, I meant “too fitting.”