Friday, February 5, 2010

February 5: Type O Negative, "Love You To Death"

Artist: Type O Negative
Song: "Love You To Death"
Album: October Rust
Year: 1996

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Perhaps the most daunting task when playing darker, heavier music is that of not coming off as cliché. In an overwhelming number of cases, the band in question goes too far with the music, the presentation of the music, or their own image, and they end up being more funny than they are musically important. Finding this balance between creating the proper mood and not being overly theatrical, when done correctly, is easily one of the most powerful styles of music, and success is often found when the band in question adheres to a few simple rules. Perhaps the most important is that the band music not take themselves too seriously, and this has rarely been as perfectly proven as in the case of New York City based metal legends, Type O Negative. Often making songs that were purposefully "over the top" to simply make fun of other bands, Type O Negative were also responsible for creating what is commonly referred to as the "pop goth" sound. As the band progressed over the years, they have proven that they can do it all, from powerful thrash-metal to industrial rock to some of the most impressive melodic-metal that has ever been recorded. The is perhaps no finer example of the latter of these musical approached than one will find on Type O Negative's legendary metal masterpiece, 1996's "Love You To Death."

In many ways, "Love You To Death" perfectly encapsulates everything that makes Type O Negative more than your "average" metal band, as the song features a wide range of musical approaches, as well as some of the finest musical progressions in the history of the genre. From the moody piano opening to the crushing guitar riffs, the range of musical approach on the song remains largely unrivaled, and the fact that the band was able to seamlessly fuse together such wide ranging sounds serves as a testament to their talents as musicians. The pairing of Josh Silver's piano alongside Kenny Hickey's guitar on this song is nothing short of stunning, as they play in great juxtaposition to one another sonically, yet it is this combination that gives the song much of its amazing mood. This interplay is highlighted during the bridge sections of the song, as the reverb'ed piano rings out above the crunching guitars, making for a truly unique musical sound. The basswork of Peter Steele is equally as impressive, and as it does throughout a majority of Type O Negative's catalog, it is his playing that drives the song, as well as giving it the unexpected groove that is present in nearly all of their songs. Truth be told, the drumming on the album is a point of contention within the band. Though Johnny Kelley is credited with playing drums on October Rust, in recent years, it has come to light that the drums were in fact programmed, and this use of programmed drums would continue on the bands' records until 2007. Regardless, the overall impact of the music is like nothing else ever recorded, as the band perfectly balances sound and mood to create a true musical masterpiece.

Giving the perfect finishing touch to the amazing mood created on "Love You To Death" is the absolutely unmistakable voice of Peter Steele. With his Barry White-esque low, almost growling voice, Steele remains one of the most distinctive and overall greatest vocalists of his generation, and his delivery on this song stand among his finest. From the almost crooning sound of the verses to his majestic, soaring work in the chorus to what is almost a lamenting sound in the bridge sections, Steele shows an amazing amount of vocal diversity on the song, and this only adds to the overall impact of the song. The way in which Steele's voice plays against the piano parts is really what gives the song its dark, gothic feel, and one can easily make a case as "Love You To Death" being the finest "dark ballad" ever recorded. Alongside the fantastic music and vocals, Peter Steele also brings one of his finest lyrics to "Love You To Death," and they can be interpreted in a number of different ways. From images of sadomasochism to a testament to truly passionate love, the level to which the words are taken are up for debate, but the emotion and sincerity ring clear, regardless of which direction one takes the lyrics. Throughout the entire Type O Negative catalog, Steele has shown that he has a rather unique talent for turning subtly beautiful phrases, and he drops one of his finest here as one can almost sense a smirk when he sings the stunningly sensual lines, "...her hips move and I can feel what they're sayin', swayin'...they say the beast inside of me's gonna get ya, get ya..." From the words he is singing to the fantastic way in which he delivers the lyrics, Peter Steele has rarely sounded as amazing or as intriguing as he does on "Love You To Death."

While playing dark, heavy music without being "over the top" or cliché is difficult enough in its own right, attempting to do this whilst playing a ballad is nearly impossible. Songs of this nature almost always go "too far" and end up losing their possible impact when the band gets too theatrical, or simply tries too hard to be "deep" with the music and words. As a band that loved little more than poking fun at the silliness of "goth rock" bands, Type O Negative proved that not only could they point out the flaws in other bands, but they themselves were able to find great success where others failed miserably. Proving that there was a place for the ballad style of music within dark, industrial metal, the band gained a good amount of notoriety, as 1996's "Love You To Death" was one of the more unlikely hits of the decade. Combining absolutely fantastic musical compositions with a perfectly crafted lyric, the song displays everything that makes Type O Negative a great band, both in terms of musical style presented on the song, as well as their ability to create an amazing mood. Finished off with the truly unique vocal sound and approach of Peter Steele, the song has withstood the test of time and remains one of the finest dark metal songs in history. Proving that one could accentuate the melodic qualities of heavy metal without compromising the sound or mood, there are very few songs that can even remotely compare to Type O Negative's iconic 1996 song, the magnificent goth-ballad, "Love You To Death."

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