Archives For doom metal

“A brilliant piece of work. I love it…I think it’s the darkest thing Type O has ever done…it’s blacker than black. None bleaker. The songs were really from the heart…I’m very proud of that volume of work.” – Josh Silver, discussing this album

The Type O Negative keyboardist is right of course, from a lyrical perspective. Yet World Coming Down’s reputation as a nonstop dirge of doom and gloom is a bit overstated.

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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.

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“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.

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Today, doom is more popular now than it ever has been, across all fronts.

There are over forty years of legendary bands and songs to jam out on, and there will always be musicians who love to write a killer riff. There will likely always be an audience for that too, as long as mainstream music continues to fail at satisfying this need. But life in a doom metal band can be quite hard. Many of these musicians work second jobs to keep a roof overhead and the lights on, producing their work independently due to lack of mainstream label interest. Even a successful doom musician like Scott Weinrich has an arrangement with his wife to be a stay-at-home dad with his kids when he isn’t on tour.

This has fostered a DIY ethos traditionally associated with punk rock and a small, though strong and knowledgeable community of fans. Many bands these days are embracing old technology anew with the organic warmth of tube amps and other traditional methods of recording. You could call it “retro” or “vintage” if you wanted, or even cynically suggest that they are only fetishizing analog methods to play to the disenfranchisement with the new. But if they want to create this music, do they really have much choice?

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It’s now the 1990s.

Parts 1 and 2 of this series on doom metal have been largely about traditional doom, or “trad doom” for short. It’s a style still practiced today by many bands, and an important kickoff point for new fans of the genre. Here in Part 3 though, we’re going to step off the trad track set up by St. Vitus, Pentagram and others. Here, you’re likely to find music that appeals just as much to fans of extreme metal as to fans of 70s hard rock and classic rock. Though still a young subgenre in the early 90s, doom was already evolving, taking on the different shades of darkness inherent in the worlds different regions.

Like New Orleans, for example.

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Last time in Part 1, we introduced the proverbial Big Four of doom metal. Though “big” is a word that certainly applies to their elite stature among the subgenre, it did not apply to their sales figures. Even Epicus Doomicus Metallicus, the Candlemass debut record that is often considered doom metal’s finest hour, was a commercial flop upon its 1986 release. Though it’s a phrase that originally applied to the Velvet Underground, I think it’s fair to say that “not many people heard those early albums, but everyone who did went out and started a band.”

One of those copies of Epicus reached Messiah Marcolin, who sang for a band called Mercy with a booming, intense, opera-like voice. He called Leif Edling in the middle of the night, sang him “Solitude” over the phone, and offered to sing for Candlemass. While dressed as a medieval monk.

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It was late on a freezing winter night, and I wanted to listen to some metal.

But I was in the mood for something a little different. My usual go-tos like Judas Priest, Iron Maiden, and anything involving Ronnie James Dio were all in heavy rotation already, and I had also been listening to a lot of death metal and black metal so I wasn’t really feeling those either.

Into that need for something a little different stepped Candlemass, my first true experience with what we call “doom metal.”

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Brooklyn band Type O Negative was emblematic of the gothic/doom metal subgenre and culture, and the face of that band was Peter Steele (real last name Ratajczyk). Standing a menacing 6’8”, Steele was an intense character who, as many musicians do, channeled his personal problems into his music as a means of overcoming–an overcoming that he shared with his fans. Throughout his life, Steele showed up onstage with a smile, a sense of self-deprecating humor, and his glass of red wine despite suffering from depression, suicidal tendencies, and even at one point being involuntarily committed by his own family.

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