Today for Far Out’s musical Fear Club, we’re revisiting the ultimate Halloween album, goth-metal legends, Type O Negative’s fourth album, 1996’s October Rust. Although it was released in August, there has never been an album that has captured the spirit of Halloween quite like it.
Gothic to a tee, campy, serious, romantic and hilarious, lyrically and musically, it touches on every essential facet of the goth condition. It sprinkles it with some of the band’s ice-cool metal. Undoubtedly, this is the late frontman, Peter Steele’s magnum opus.
Featuring some of the typical mockeries from New York’s ‘Drab Four’, the record starts with a “joke intro”, the track ‘Bad Ground’. It is 38 seconds of low-level buzzing, meant to emulate the sound of the listener’s speakers being plugged in incorrectly. It works. Upon first listen, you’re perplexed, wondering if your listening device has just gone kaput.
It then seamlessly fades into track 2, ‘Untitled’, where the band are laughing, and Steele asks, “We hope you enjoyed our little joke there?”. Each of the quartet then introduces themselves and thank the listener for picking up their new record, and explain how they spent a “couple of months” getting high when recording it. Guitarist Kenny Hickey finishes by saying, “We hope you enjoy it.”
Then we’re on. Track three, ‘Love You To Death’ was a statement of intent from the band. The first piece of music the listener gets is a swooning yet crushing masterpiece of gothic metal. Featuring Hickey and Steele’s chugging guitar and bass, we get some of Steele’s best ever lyrics on the track.
If we take a quick look at the lyrics of verse one, you’ll heed our point about the record’s inherent goth: “In her place one hundred candles burning / As salty sweat drips from her breast / Her hips move, and I can feel what they’re saying, swaying / They say the beast inside of me is gonna get ya”.
Romantic, sinister and dealing with the supernatural, the essence of the song and band are compounded by Steele’s almost vampiric vocal style. Interestingly, the track has a psychedelic edge to it, possibly owing to the band getting high in production. It builds up to a hazy crescendo, and it is undoubtedly one of the band’s most ethereal.
The winning streak then continues; track four is the upbeat anthem ‘Be My Druidess’, continuing on the band’s unwavering gothic run, Steele’s lyrics are again an expert blend of B-movie horror cheese and the velvety lust that underpins gothic literature.
He sings: “Around the pyre, A circle of thirteen / Throughout these woods, ecstatic screams / I look deeply into your eyes / I smell your hair, caress your thighs / Now we’ll make love by firelight”.
Musically, we get one of the band’s most anthemic tracks on the record and in their back catalogue. It’s one of the clearest examples of Steele’s penchant for fusing the anthemic with the metallic. His meaty, chorus-driven bass drives the track along, instilling it with that constant push feel that it has.
The lyrical motif “I’ll do anything to make you come” is also hilariously Type O Negative. A ridiculous lyric by all accounts, it is underpinned by the faux-doom of the breakdown and is consequently one of the most subtle moments in the band’s career.
This would put many off the band, but when you realise there’s a certain level of jest that comes as a prerequisite with any Type O Negative song, you realise just how brilliant they were at drawing the ire of those who were too quick to judge or those without a keen ear for black comedy.
Other highlights include the Misommar paean ‘Green Man’, the atmospheric ‘My Girlfriend’s Girlfriend’, the sludgy ‘Wolf Moon’ and of course, the band’s classic cover of Neil Young‘s iconic ‘Cinnamon Girl’.
The oppressive sounding spoof, ‘The Glorious Liberation of the People’s Technocratic Republic of Vinnland by the Combined Forces of the United Territories of Europa’ is also a total classic. In truth, there’s not a downside to the record.
Another standout element of the record is the use of abrupt song endings and segues between songs that can be heard in moments such as ‘Green Man’, ‘Red Water’ and ‘Haunted’.
It was Steele and keyboardist Josh Silver who produced the record. Although they had helmed every of the band’s previous records, October Rust has to be taken as their definitive opus, more so than its predecessor, Bloody Kisses. The aforementioned recording techniques showed that they had indeed reached their zenith as producers.
No discussion of October Rust would be complete without the last musical track on the record, the atmospheric closer, ‘Haunted’. Starting with that high pitched synth note and then Silver’s moody piano, when the rest of the band kicks in, it’s like a slow-motion punch in the face. Doom fused with shoegaze; this is the band at their ethereal peak.
It sounds simply huge. Steele’s reverb-drenched vocals are incredible, as is the melodic bridge; if Tennyson’s Lady of Shallot had a sonic representation, it would be ‘Haunted’. Ten minutes of romantic darkness, one would argue that ‘Haunted’ is the best song in the whole of the band’s back catalogue.
Furthermore, Steele goes full Gregorian chant when he bursts into “I hate the morning (light)”, it sounds so demonic; it’s pure genius. Invoking the medieval sense of evil and its implications, the discussions of “green mist” and eerie, beckoning voices to make ‘Haunted’ the most gothic song ever recorded.
The song ends abruptly, and then the album closes with another ‘Untitled’, track 15. Steele says, “Well, that’s about it, that’s all we have; I hope it wasn’t too disappointing. We will see you on tour. Until then, take it easy.” Finishing as the album started, with some of the band’s famously dour humour, you could argue that October Rust is also a gothic concept album.
Hearing Steele’s unmistakable Brooklyn accent is both a brilliant and a touching way to close the album. His larger than life spirit continues to live on through the descriptive and uniquely sarcastic lyrics he penned and the pulp of the band’s music. There will never be anyone quite like Type O Negative or a record like October Rust.
Listen to October Rust in full.