Review Summary: It's what it sounds like. And a bit more.
Back in the late eighties a crossover-thrash act “Carnivore” had fallen apart, leaving its leader Peter Ratajczyk (also known as Peter Steele) legally bonded by a contract with now well-known Roadrunner Records and with no band to handle it. Steele recruited a couple of old friends along with some brand new faces and named the band “Repulsion”. That name was dropped not to be confused with an eponymous death-metal band and the four members picked up the moniker “Sub-Zero”. Ironically, that name was also already taken which left the guys slightly embarrassed, all of them having perfectly round zero signs with a “-“ inside tattooed on their bodies. There is no historical mentioning of who exactly proposed “Type O Negative” (turning the “sub-zero” signs to “o-negative” blood type sign) but the name was nevertheless settled.
After recording the demo that received some attention from Roadrunner (actually named “Roadracer Records” back in the day, those name-stories just never end), the band got a five-album contract. As we all know, that would later lead to their rise to prominence as world’s most famous gothic metal act and the establishment of the genre itself. But this – this is how it all began.
And it began with pain. Lots of it. Boiled in anger, drowned in despair and stomped upon with a 100-ton rusty bulldozer. Musically, the album is somewhat of a link between “Carnivore” and future “ToN” records: it combines the raw blood drenched malice of the first with gloomy sound landscapes of the latter. The production is far from perfect and it’s meant to be – Peter’s vocals are mostly shouted and they have that weird echo that sounds like it was recorded in a huge workshop. Peter also played most of his bass parts with a fuzz pedal (not sure what exactly did he use, if someone knows that please correct), diminishing the natural “bass” sound in favor of it sounding like a really low-tuned guitar. Combined with the crunchy guitar sound of Kenny Hickey and the loud, pounding drums by Sal Abruscato it provides for an almost tribal phonation. It’s surely not as heavy as, say, Slayer but it gives a very honest feel to the music. You don’t have to sound smooth to be cool. It’s often the other way around.
As mentioned above, most of the vocal work on the record is just Pete ranting, balancing on the edges of being mean and comical. However, occasionally he goes down to the much-anticipated deep “vampirical” baritone singing and it is present in two forms: first being part of the lead vocal line and second being the church choir-stylized multi-tracked wordless singing (more on that later).
But it would not be a Type O record if it was not for the stuff above the traditional rock kit. And I think that is what makes “Slow, Deep and Hard” a really enjoyable listen. Keyboard and sample work in this is just plain smart and 100 % into place. When synthesizer is not playing a melody harmonizing with the rest of the band it provides grim industrial sounds that sometimes make you feel like watching a horror movie. The two great examples of that are the beginning of track 3 “Xero Tolerance” and the ending of track 4 “Prelude To Agony”.
“Xero Tolerance” starts off with a high-pitched atonal string-like line (a bit reminiscent of Bernard Herrmann’s work on Hitchcock’s “Psycho”), then the sound of a knife being sharpened on a grinder comes in along with a disturbing guitar riff and Peter says “For you, my love”, chuckles quietly and then breaks into a maniacal scream as the band breaks loose. In the end of “Prelude To Agony”, the dirge-like riffing (accompanied by Peter’s tortured delivery of the word “pain” several times) after him exclaiming “I hope you enjoy this” is interrupted with the sound of… of something I’m not sure I can describe, but it’s definitely a basic-level mechanical device that’s been built to inflict serious injury to incapacitated victims. A distant female scream that follows serves as conclusive proof to my last statement.
So, as you can see, the atmosphere of that record is not really friendly or optimistic, it’s quite the opposite. That’s what keeps a newcomer to Type O from realizing it’s quality: it’s nasty to the ear. Well, what would you expect? It’s an example of a perfect break-up rock record: angry, thrashy, bitter, darkly humorous and angry again. The main lyrical theme here is a story of a broken romance and a cheating lover taken really hard by a guy who’s mentally unstable and has an axe in a trunk of his car.
There is also a stand-alone ambient-like track that serves as the intermission, which is track 5 – “Glass Walls Of Limbo (Dance Mix)”. Someone with autism would probably dance to this but usual guys like me just stare at the ceiling as a sound of a bag with broken glass falling on the metal floor repeats numerously over church-like chanting, sometimes interrupted by a raspy shriek. And it lasts for six minutes. One hell of a trip.
Summing up the other tracks: the opener (The Natural Beauty Of Just Look At The Title It’s Bloody Long) is basically representing everything contained on the album. It has a thrashy part, a doomy part, a quiet part, a hard-rocking part and overall it’s a fun track with a catchy refrain. Track 2 (Der Untermensch) is following the idea okay, although there’s not much to say about it. Tracks 3 and 4 are partially mentioned above and they are great; track 5 is like a drug and will probably repulse as many people as it may attract. Track 6 is a moment of silence that tricks you into thinking the album’s over. That’s when track 7 kicks in, with the band shouting a heart-warming counting-out rhyme: “One, two, three, four, I don’t wanna live no more!”, marking the beginning of this album’s grand ending: “Gravitational Constant G = ---------------(I dare you to remember it)”. This song is a masterpiece of it’s own kind, combining everything done on previous songs and ending in a triumphant choir chant raising over the instruments.
Now, why 3.5 of 5 if this album is so incredibly awesome? Well, yes, it is awesome: but it also a monster of a different breed. Not many people would enjoy it, I believe: it’s darker and dirtier than any Type O further work. And compared to what most people call “high-quality music” it has it’s flaws: the punky-thrash parts are really simple and could be considered immature. But it fits the style of the album which is definitely not for everyone.
If you’ve heard enough of the more mainstream ToN material, it’s probably time to get it Slow, Deep and Hard.