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Reflecting: Peter Steele – Dead at 48

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This past Thursday morning I turned on my computer to find some saddening news. My Twitter feed has a link to a story at Bloody Disgusting that said Peter Steele had died. At the time, it was still something of a rumor, although there was word that bandmate Kenny Hickey had confirmed that Peter Steele, 48, had indeed died of heart failure on April 13, 2010. I hoped it was a rumor, I prayed that it was a hoax, similar to the one in 2005 when Steele's death had been rumored but was ultimately (and obviously) not true. Sadly, it became apparent this was no hoax and that Peter Steele would no longer provide the world with his music.

The 6'7" Peter Steele was born Petrus T. Ratajczyk January 4, 1962 in Brooklyn, New York. He came to form a number of bands including Fallout, Carnivore, and the more famous Type O Negative where he served as vocalist and bassist. It has been reported that Steele suffered from clinical depression for which he received treatment, including a stint in a mental hospital. This goes along with periods of heavy substance abuse, which led to a stint in Riker's Island and a probationary period.

It was through Type O Negative that I came to be a fan of Steele. The gothic metal-band provided a distinctive voice on the musical landscape from their debut Slow, Deep, and Hard in 1991 through Dead Again in 2007. I did not become a fan right away, I was not even aware of them until their third album had been released. However, since that moment, I have loved their music, their sound, everything.

I was working in a mall electronics store in the mid-1990s, it must have been 1994 or 1995. One of my friends, although for the life of me I cannot remember her name told me about this group that I had to check out. She then lent me her copy of 1993's Bloody Kisses, which she had originally bought based on the cover art alone. I took it home, gave it one listen and bought myself a copy the next day. The dark, somber songs, gloomy catchiness, Steele's impossibly deep voice, and the freshness of the sound (at least to me at the time) held me in awe.

I went back and picked up the first two Type O Negative albums and then every one since. Each album brought its own surprises. The slow heavy churn of the music always familiar, yet always different with each release. Peter's lyrics always playing out like some sort of therapy session for whatever issues ailed him during the writing. To this day I find them mesmerizing. The world has lost a unique voice.

As if the albums were not enough, I was lucky enough to witness Type O Negative live on a few occasions. They never failed to deliver a solid show. The crowd was always into it just as Peter always had a bottle of red wine on stage. They were loud, heavy, and precise without exactly duplicating the album. I recall one particular night, my then girlfriend was making her way through the crowd when she bumped into a living wall. That wall turned out to be Peter Steele. She looked so small next to his 6'7" frame, seeing as she was not quite 5' tall. She looked up, speechless, he smiled and went along his way. It was just a moment, but it was a memorable one. The closest I got was catching half a roll of toilet paper that was among the handfuls the band was using to TP the audience at a late October show.

Peter Steele was only 48 years old, died of heart failure, and left a legacy that will be long remembered. I cannot claim to know all that much about the man, but what I have read is pretty interesting. I am not sure if he ever found genuine happiness, although I suspect the search or lack thereof aided in his ability to write. Beyond that, his belief system went through drastic changes late in his life. The professed atheist began identifying with the Roman Catholic Church. It was noticeable in some of the lyrics on Dead Again that something had changed. Whatever it was that spurred him on, I hope he found solace.

Type O Negative will always have a place on my shelf. I am just sad that we will not get anymore new music or have the opportunity to attend a live performance. Peter Steele was taken away too soon and my thoughts go out to his friends and family.

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  • Robin Kavanagh

    Very nice tribute to Pete Steele. A love for Type O’s music was one of the few things that came out of my first marriage. The others were my oldest daughter and a black-and-white cat (which my friends call my familiar) named Oktober Rust.

    It’s hard to think about who Steele was as a man vs. the image he put out there. Kenny Hickey commented that it was all for real, but who knows. Whether the paranormal romance novel facade was the real him or the man behind closed doors who penned some of the blackest, sexiest, and downright angry music around, it doesn’t really matter. He made his impression on the world and will be missed.

    I do hope he’s finally found some measure of peace in what seemed to be a life of struggle.

  • stephanie volpe

    He died Wed April 14th not 13th. Nice tribute ) Pete will surely be missed. Way way way too soon! You suck Pete! ;*)

  • MaidenMarie

    I am extremely bummed by this news, and angered that none of the Entertainment News Websites announced it. When a fellow member of a Rock Chatroom mentioned it, I guffawed “4 Real this time?” having been upset by the R.I.P. Gravestone image on the band’s Website years ago. He was beautiful, talented, humourous and can never be replaced, much like Layne Staley. …I wonder if any tracks were laid down for the Profit$ of Doom album he’d alluded to in a recent interview. ~I need to get the latest DVD and some Type O tees! ROCK ON, DARQUE BROTHER

  • Leelee

    R.I.P. Peter Steele You Won’t be forgotten.

  • Pauly Bass

    Who would’ve thought that the dude named peter steele that helped me get over so many deaths in my life is helping me get throught his own death through his music… He is and always will be an icon that should be celebrated as much, if not more than any other songwriter…I will miss him as though he was my best friend…he knew life and what others went through…I now question my own mortality because I never thought he would be gone. Love you Peter…be good in Heaven…

  • Kimberly (Sybil Kestrel Starwitch)

    Peter Steele was sweet, extremely romantic man. He made me laugh so hard I could’ve busted a gut. I’ll never forget the night of passion we shared together. Terrific lover. We had a lot in common. I’m in tears. I’ll never forget you Peter, my love. Kimberly XXOO

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