Review Summary: A haunting, melodic, somber, gorgeous opus from a group that severely overachieved on this album.
It’s often hard to find beauty in metal, probably because in most cases it is not supposed to be present. The purpose of a metal album is to kick your ass for the majority of its length while usually incorporating a requisite ballad/quasi-ballad either to show off an introspective side or more likely, to sell more records. Aside from the occasional dabble in sensitivity, we all know that metal is designed to pump fists and crush skulls. Whether the majority of bands achieve this is debatable, but we know a metal album is not supposed to RELAX you.
The 1996 release October Rust from Type O Negative does just that. To put it more clear, if the lyrical content didn’t involve blood thirsty werewolves, odes to druidic orgies, haunting demons, suicide, murder suicide, and arson, I would put half of this CD on a iPod playlist for my 3 year old daughter to fall asleep to. Normally, I would argue that if a metal album could put a child to sleep instead of scaring the living crap out of them, it wouldn’t be effective. This is not the case here.
So how is this album classified? Genre classifications and phrases like goth metal, power synth, pop goth, have been thrown around, and none of these accurately describe the whirlwind of melodic sounds found on this record. The guitars are made of sludge, and the drums are programmed. There are no double bass drums, no face-melting solos, epic vocal wails, death growls, or grunts, and there are barely even audible or memorable riffs. Piano and Synthesizer are incorporated more than the power trio of instruments you would find on a metal release. After much debate, there are two words that can classify this record accurately: haunting and gorgeous.
There are two primary methods here. Half are songs that attempt to be straightforward and heavy while being strongly melodic. The other half are sweeping, haunting, melodic epics, usually clocking in the 7-9 minute range. There are also three complete throw away tracks, or jokes if you will, that have always made me wonder what the hell they were thinking putting waste on this. If you throw away the three joke songs (amazingly, two of them are tracks one and two), the worst song on here is average, and there are very few that carry that distinction.
The opening song, “Love You To Death,” is a perfect microcosm of what this record is about. Piano, haunting synth sounds, and a soaring end structure comprise a masterful track about psychotic love. This is one of those songs that I remember exactly when and where I was the first time I heard it, and is the reason I bought the disc. “Be My Druidess” follows, and while it is lyrically laughable, complete with Peter Steele’s insightful repeated chants of “I’ll do anything to make you come” at the end of a song about filthy sex, it is one of the more musically straightforward songs on the release. “Green Man” was a single, although not a well known one. The synth is almost overpowering here, complete with humming and seriously melodic vocals. In the middle we start to see more haunting epics, like “Red Water” and “Die with Me,” both depressing songs about death and loss that front an almost classical feel. “Red Water” is a somber number about Peter Steele’s father dying on Christmas. “Die With Me” is the only song where acoustic guitar is featured, and Josh Silver goes especially heavy on the piano, driving one of the stronger tracks on the album.
The two aforementioned epics are bookended by the more straight forward aspects of “My Girlfriends Girlfriend,” and “Cinnamon Girl.” “Girlfriend” was arguably the most successful single and probably the worst song on the album, with the Neil Young cover coming in second. Both are decidedly average, and Neil Young being covered by a goth metal band doesn’t seem right and is steadily out of place here. “Burnt Flowers Fallen” is nothing special until the end, where again the listener is greeted with an infectious melodic outro.
The album closes with three of the last four tracks being of the haunted epic variety. “In Praise of Bacchus,” “Wolf Moon,” and “Haunted” are all like a shot of lithium mixed with a sprinkle of amphetamines and a heavy dose of valium. In short, these three tracks that include gorgeous piano, Latin chants, horror-infused lyrical subject matter, and time changes that leave the listener soothed, satisfied, and at times horrified.
This is one of those albums that I have bragged about owning for years. While I remain severely disappointed with most of their catalogue and do not consider myself a fan of their entire body of work, TOE must have done enough drugs to stumble into a masterpiece on “October Rust.”
Love You to Death
Die With Me
In Praise of Bacchus