Type O Negative – October Rust (1996)
1996 was one of the weakest all-time years for rock and metal releases. Luckily, Peter Steele and Type O Negative did not get the memo. “Topics for the next album will include paganism, lycanthropy, nature worship, Promethean gifts, social Darwinism, totalitarianism, and global acquisition,” the band’s frontman promised in the buildup to October Rust’s release.
Good humor abounds at the very start of October Rust. You get to begin with an in-studio prank of white noise–thrown in there to trick people into thinking something was wrong with their stereo, before you hear the four band members laughing into an answering machine as they thank you for buying their music and wishing you happy listening. It’s like attending a movie screening with a special message from the director as the lights dim. October Rust is not a “happy” album, but the songs sound happier, and they are more accessible and melodic. Dare I call it the “lightest” of the Type O discography? The most “gothic rock sounding?”
The first two proper songs are love songs, naturally: “Love You To Death” and “Be My Druidess.” They each evoke sensual erotic imagery; the former is a hot bedroom illumined by black candles, the latter a darkened, pulsating dance floor full of black dresses and long hair. Women and romance were very much on the minds of Peter Steele and keyboardist Josh Silver in real life–Joshy had just gotten engaged, and Pete was also in a loving relationship with his girlfriend. Musically, this tenderness is expressed through shimmering suspended chords, moody piano, and the ethereal green melodic haze of the choruses.
“I think our music is a combination of romance and anger,” Josh Silver mentioned at the time. The keyboardist would prove to be a key force in shaping October Rust’s flavor of production and melody–his best playing and composing out of the entire discography, in my opinion.
1. Bad Ground
2. [“Hope you enjoyed our little joke there”]
3. Love You to Death
4. Be My Druidess
5. Green Man
6. Red Water (Red Mourning)
7. My Girlfriend’s Girlfriend
8. Die With Me
9. Burnt Flowers Fallen
10. In Praise of Bacchus
11. Cinnamon Girl
12. The Glorious Liberation of the People’s Technocratic Republic of Vinnland By the Combined Forces of the United Territories of Europa
13. Wolf Moon
15. [“Take it easy”]
I initially thought the characters in Type O Negative songs were largely invented. But after reading Jeff Wagner’s book, “Soul on Fire” about Peter Steele, I’ve come to realize October Rust is an album full of real-life people. “Green Man” is about Peter himself–it was his nickname when he worked for the New York City Parks Department, a job he left after eight years to take Type O Negative big time. The tender “Die With Me” is about Peter’s girlfriend flying away to England to go to school, with criminally-pretty piano touches on the outro chorus. “Red Water (Christmas Mourning)” was about the recent death of his father, leaving behind another empty seat at the family table and a habit of turning to the wine to cope. The song comes wrapped in a heavy dirge, laced up with samplings of “Carol of the Bells” and “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen.”
Even the menage a trois depicted in “My Girlfriend’s Girlfriend,” a hit with its keyboard-stoked New Wave inspiration, was “based on a few true-life experiences, some of which were quite pleasant.” No doubt it was Peter’s fondness for all these people that fits the turn of the 1970s style of pop that shoots through so many of the songs, the kind of music he loved growing up. And a cover of one of those standards is the song that made me a Type O Negative fan in the first place…
Neil Young is one my all time favorite musicians–right there when I first started hearing music, in fact the first song I ever remember hearing when I was a toddler was one of his. Imagine my shock when I hear a cover version of my favorite Neil Young song, “Cinnamon Girl,” jacked up with thunderous drums, a slightly modified main riff, and a bridge featuring a demonically deep voice! I could not believe it. I remember asking, “Who just smoked Neil Young on his own song? Who are these guys? Type O Negative, hmm…what else did they do…”
And “Wolf Moon,” finally, is one of the band’s finest moments, a mini-horror-story of werewolves and vampires in suite form. I wish the final triumphant section of this song lasted longer, as man becomes beast and takes off into the moonlight in the glory of the hunt: “Beware the moors at night…”
October Rust went gold even faster than Bloody Kisses, but stopped there–truly insane. If any of Type O Negative’s albums deserved to go diamond, this surely should have been the one. These are meaningful, richly-produced songs from a life lived among lovers, family and friends, celebratory and at the same time hiding a deep anger and restlessness, in search of peace.
Peter Steele (RIP)
Written by Matt P