There are a couple bands I will always associate with October, because they will almost always tour for the “holiday” season. The Misfits are one. Part of me is convinced they will tour every fall for eternity so long as they can find new punkers who are willing to sport a devilock (a sort of punk-rock Menudo, if you will). There’s also GWAR, whose very existence should make you ashamed of your latest Halloween costume, because it simply cannot measure up to what they do every night on stage. Lastly, and in some ways quintessentially, there is Type O Negative. Sadly, of course, Peter Steele, he of the giant frame, chain-link bass, and subterranean voice, is no longer with us to take a show on the road this time of year, but nevertheless, there may not be a band more suited to the season.
A big part of this comes from the band’s sound. Sure, the nods to the occult, the gothic, and the supernatural are all around in the lyrics and song titles, but Type O always made a point of sounding the part, not just writing it. As such, the average track sounds like the crunch of leaves at night in a graveyard, or the drip of water in a vampire’s cave. It can easily be argued that Type O’s best songs all sound the same, but part of that is the distinctive, deep fuzz tone on the guitars and bass, the throb and tremble of Steele’s voice, and the fact that their studio was probably the abandoned catacombs of a cathedral long since fallen to disrepair and disrepute.
I was introduced to the band via their album October Rust, which is still how I know them best. It was easy to be struck by the sound of “Love You to Death,” which immediately conjures up the sort of expansive gothic abode you’d find Dracula or Meatloaf living in. The vocals overflow with unnecessary flourishes… lots of rolled Rs and odd inflections. Steele wasn’t subtle, and every second of this sprawling track is awash in sexuality. Consider the rhythmic chug of the guitars, the build-up to a breathy bass ending. This is subtle for these guys, but it’s pretty obvious nonetheless: Peter Steele is Marvin Gaye for goths, metalheads and hard rockers. And he’s damn good at it.
It is perhaps this, er, let’s call it “humidity” to the music itself that makes it inextricably cave music. There’s the echo of stone in it, reverberating off those surfaces. Sometimes maybe you’re in the heath by Stonehenge, but there’s always a coldness to the sound, the feeling that there is something large and looming and inanimate, that it’s dark and echo-y. The implied deviance of the song conjures up the illicit and off-limits. In this case, “her place” must be an abandoned mansion, an old coal mine, somewhere you shouldn’t go but which tempts you into it, somewhere where “100 candles” makes total sense as a light source. It’s pretty amazing how the two sides, the intentional erotic and the unavoidable cold and empty, only seem to strengthen the other.
This is, in many ways, the allure of autumn. The world is literally dying, to be reborn in spring, and yet those last gasps of life manifest vibrantly and powerfully. The air is crisp and invigorating before the long sleep of winter. The leaves blaze brightly before abandoning their branches. Animals work at gathering food, wildly storing up prior to hibernation, a sort of suspended animation for the coldest season. It’s a primal season in this way. Perhaps it is not as warm, but our blood pumps more strongly than ever. Type O Negative would be quick to point out the unintentional innuendo here.
Perhaps this is why Type O feels so quintessentially autumnal. Sure, there’s the “spooky” horror vibe, but there’s also the urgency of desire, as though it is of the utmost importance in the decay of the season. There are the bursts of beauty in the surrounding cave-like chill, the shimmering guitar fills crying out brightly out from the deep dark crunch of the bass like red and gold leaves about to brown and fall. Autumn, like everything Peter Steele stood for, is its own little death. In that looming barrenness of winter, however, there is the passion of the natural world instinctively knowing it has one last hurrah before the end. We are not immune to this either: we are enthralled by the change of the seasons, just as we crave stories with tension over stories where everything goes smoothly, and just as, deep down, Gothic cave lovin’ sounds way better than the more circumspect sort. Maybe this is why the end of October is associated with demons and hauntings, despite also being a month of harvests. There’s something in the air leading us to instinctively shed a bit of our propriety and revel in the interminable cycle of nature. Go for it, before it gets too cold.
Comments are closed.