Type O Negative – Bloody Kisses (1993)
“You know, there was a time when that picture would have been considered racy,” someone expressed their disapproval of this album cover to me. “Not anymore.”
The cover of 1993’s Bloody Kisses depicts two black-lipsticked women going cheek to cheek in a sickly shade of green. I’m sure Howard Stern at least got a kick out of it. For such an album to become the first gold record in Roadrunner Records’ history (and eventually platinum!) is an achievement in and of itself. For vocalist, bassist and songwriter Peter Steele, it was a rewarding effort that finally allowed him to express his views, anguish, and sadness in a musical language that spoke to him in the Brooklyn family basement where he created.
The man had one of the most diverse music tastes in all of metal–at any point in time, you were just as likely to find him jamming out to his Sabbath and Beatles records, New Wave, psychedelic pop, or hardcore punk. With so many favorite ingredients available for construction, it makes sense that Bloody Kisses transcends the gothic metal label with which it is correctly associated.
Twin anthems “Christian Woman” and “Black No. 1,” clocking in at about 9 minutes apiece, should be familiar to fans of doom metal already. That being said, the more popular four-minute single edits just don’t have the same impact as the full versions. There is no comparison. I love the grand, three-movement suite of “Christian Woman” and wish more metal bands would embrace this “pop epic” style. “Black No. 1” is probably the band’s most popular song, but even it spreads its power further in its full twelve-minute version, adding riffs, solos and drum spots that are not included in the quicker single edit. “She has a date at midnight with Nosferatu,” Peter croons. You aren’t sure whether you want to be creeped out or laugh.
Both feature strong riffs, spooky cathedral organ, and Steele’s deep bass vocals for a biting satire of religious girls and gothic girls, respectively. The listener is free to fill in the story of each character, and their relationship to Peter Steele in real life, for themselves.
1. Machine Screw
2. Christian Woman
3. Black No. 1
4. Fay Wray Come Out and Play
5. Kill All the White People
6. Summer Breeze
7. Set Me On Fire
8. Dark Side of the Womb
9. We Hate Everyone
10. Bloody Kisses (A Death In The Family)
12. Too Late: Frozen
13. Blood and Fire
14. Can’t Lose You
But you’d be mistaken if those two anthems lead you to assume that rest of Bloody Kisses is an all-out gothic doom fest; far from it. “Kill All the White People” and “We Hate Everyone” satirizes racists of all stripes with the raw, underground-punk, NYHC vibe that the band members all knew so well from their old days. They also knew of Seals & Crofts, well enough to give their song “Summer Breeze” the Type O treatment that would become my personal favorite hallmark of this band.
The most pleasant surprise is the bold use of the sitar on “Can’t Lose You,” yet another well-executed trick that shows off the quality of Peter’s creative vision. The instrument’s distinctive and tasteful wanderings uplift this final song into suitable encore territory.
What meshes this entire album together is a unifying, lush production job that features numerous layers to every instrument. The production notes from the book “Soul On Fire” also describe the use of “fur”–a production layering technique that “coated” the original input note in plenty of reverb that is tuned a few steps both higher and lower. This production job makes the mood shifts that much more seamless. Theoretically not a short listen at over 70 minutes long, Bloody Kisses is a rewarding endeavor because you get to experience it like a dark metal movie…set in Brooklyn.
You have moments of devout, forbidden erotica and fist-raising anger, but you also have slow, plodding funeral march (the title track), melodic hard rock (“Blood and Fire”), and breezy, fond, romantic quasi-pop (“Sets Me On Fire”). Judging from his message in the CD booklet, Peter Steele thought of it that way as well:
“This entire opus is respectfully dedicated to all those who have loved unconditionally only to have their hearts unaesthetically ripped out: base not your joy upon the deeds of others, for what is given can be taken away.”
Public service announcement from me to you: there is also a Digipak version of Bloody Kisses released a year or so after the original. It removes a few of the songs and rearranges the list order of the rest of the tracks. Do yourself a favor and ignore that one. Feast upon this original album instead, for it is the piece of work that made Type O Negative truly arrive as a full-time force rather than a part-time hobby, in the hearts of its members as well as the hearts of many fans yet to come.
Contrary to Peter Steele’s dedication above, this album is one of those cases where what is given cannot ever be taken away, even if its visionary has been. And that, at least, is cause for joy.
Peter Steele (RIP)
Written by Matt P