Type O Negative is a hard band to label. They have never been mainstream, or terribly popular in the traditional sense, yet they have one of the most dedicated fanbases in all of music. That is a fact I have witnessed when I have been able to see them live.
The last time I saw them was while on tour for their last album, 2003's Life is Killing Me, and at the time Peter Steele seemed to indicate that Type O Negative may be coming to an end. Fortunately that has not happened and The Drab Four are set to return to the road with the impending release of their seventh studio album, Dead Again.
Dead Again has been a long time coming. I had sadly given up hope of a new collection of dark dirges from my favorite purveyor of gothic doom. Then there was the disappearance of Peter Steele and his rumored demise, fueled by the image of a tombstone on their official website in October of 2005 which had "Peter Steele 1962-2005." That turned out to be a joke, as Peter resurfaced with the band as they signed a new deal with German label SPV/Steamhammer. The first result of that union was the release of the concert disk Symphony for the Devil, a show that was filmed in the late 1990s. Now, while that is all well and good, it is not what I wanted.
This new collection of doom and gloom features a new sound from the band. Dead Again harkens back to the Peter's pre-Type O Negative days with the post-nuclear hardcore band Carnivore, and even Type O's debut Slow, Deep, and Hard release from 1991. There is an injection of punk speed and aggression into the slow chugging excursions into the gloom that had become their trademark. I have to admit, I cannot say that the album grabbed me the first time through, I was not prepared for the speedy qualities that wind their way throughout.
As I have sat with the album, digesting this new sound, I have discovered that while not quite at the level of some of their earlier releases, it is a distinctly Type O Negative album and indicative of a band that is rediscovering its roots. Rather than rehash their prior formula, they stripped everything back to basics and built from there, using elements of the past to work towards forming a new future.
There is a certain beauty to the flow of sound created by the doom crew. The escalating speed reigned back into the dirge-like gloom melting into Beatles-esque harmonies, layering in sonic depth not unlike Pink Floyd or The Cure, all while never losing just what makes this a Type O Negative album.
The album starts off with the title track, "Dead Again," opening with their trademark slow burn before kicking into a more speed infused goth-punk style instantly letting you know that this is a new and different band. I cannot say it is a great track, but it does prepare you for the blend that is to come. "Tripping a Blind Man" brings the tempo back down, if only temporarily. Track three is the first excellent song to rear its ugly head. "Profits of Doom," which had been the working title prior to selecting Dead Again, brings some interesting guitar work and a style that is reminiscent of a blending of cuts on Slow, Deep, and Hard and Bloody Kisses.
Not one to shy away from controversy, there have been rumors of Peter Steele rediscovering his Christian roots. He was raised Catholic, but if you listen to any of Carnivore's or Type O's music, you will find much evidence to show that he left that part of him behind. In recent years he has lost loved ones, done a stint in jail, and been to rehab. Perhaps seeking solace in spirituality, he returned to those roots.
Of course, none of this has been substantiated by anything I have found, however there is a song which may point to his return to faith and belief in life. The epic "These Three Things" is an anti-abortion song which begins with the words "A child is torn from the womb un-baptized/there's no quesiton it's infantacide," is sure to stir up some controversy. It is an excellent song, with subject matter I would not expect from the group.
Moving along, "She Burned Me Down" is an excellent example of a Type O Negative track, from Peter's deep throated singing to Kenny Hickey's guitar work, it is one of the best songs here. The ten song collection comes to a close with "Hail and Farewell to Britain" which has some very nice riffing, with a strong 1970s feel.
Dead Again is not my favorite Type O Negative album, but like I have found in the past, I suspect that this will grow on me over time. Their albums tend to age well, multiple listenings allow the music to dig itself into your gray matter where it will resonate well after you have pressed the stop button. This is an interesting return for the group, some different lyrical content, and I still haven't heard a band that has anything composed like this. Type O Negative is a true original. They pull from a variety of influences and mold into something that is wholly their own.