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Type O Negative’s ‘Dead Again’ Turns 10

Dead-Again-cover

Type O Negative’s final album, Dead Again, is a decade old today.

It would be easy to overlook Dead Again in the the band’s discography. Not many of its songs are still remembered among the band’s “classic” catalog — on Spotify, the song “September Sun” is ranked 21st as of this writing, while on Last.Fm the title track is listed as only the band’s ninth most popular song (My vote for best track goes to “The Profit of Doom,” for those keeping score). But Dead Again is a remarkably singular record within the Type O canon, and one well worth discovering or rediscovering one decade since.

Ten years on, Dead Again signals what could have been. For the first time since Bloody Kisses, drums were actually recorded, rather than the band utilizing a drum machine and crediting the drummer later, as had been the trend. This, in turn, means that Dead Again is the only Type O album where you can actually hear Johnny Kelly’s playing on record. I might be stretching here, but to me this makes the record more organic than previous Type O releases. Songs meander and shift, but in a more natural way than before; rather than the “fast-slow-stop-start-thrash-doom” dynamic shifts of Bloody Kisses, we get those elements but with more gradual, effortless progression, particularly on tracks like “September Sun” and “Tripping a Dead Man.” It’s more like Black Sabbath than ever before, which given Type O’s stated debt to Iommi and co. is about the highest accolade you could give this record stylistically.

Most importantly, it is an album about Peter Steele growing old and rediscovering himself in the process. Dead Again trades in religious mysticism and iconography: Rasputin’s cryptic glare on the front evokes an atmosphere of both paranoia and parousia (though Steele joked that this was simply because “I am a huge dick and [Rasputin] had a huge dick”). A prevailing trend emerges of Steele’s attempts to reconcile his newfound Catholicism with his ongoing problems with drinking and cocaine abuse and the steady deterioration of his personal life. “September Sun” is a beautiful, almost upbeat ode to Steele’s then-recently failed marriage, the one that got him sent to Riker’s for a period of time. The cynicism of what Type O had been before meets a Catholic sense of joy through suffering, and the results sound almost triumphant.

In many ways, Dead Again seems remarkably prescient in light of Steele’s subsequent death in 2010. Death hangs over the record from a resigned, almost joyful perspective — it’s hardly as depressing as the incessant dirge of World Coming Down. “Dead Again” addresses relapse, but does so in a carefree way, as if Steele is saying “well shit, that didn’t work and now I’m about to die. Oh well.” It’s a beautiful sort of depression, the sort of grand resignation to death and the ravages of time that you can see in movies like Melancholia. “Halloween in Heaven” cements this sense of passing as it pays homage to Dimebag Darrell, a friend of Steele’s whose 2004 death remained a fresh wound during the recording sessions in 2006. On that song, Steele offhandedly comments “If only I’d known how cool death is, I’d have killed myself sooner,” which I think is probably the best synecdoche for the attitude on Dead Again. Suicide is painless, after all.

Of course, to every notable record there’s invariably a personal connection, and for me it’s simply that this was the first exposure to Type O Negative I and others of my generation had. The first time I ever heard Type O was on “Headbanger’s Ball” in summer 2007, when the videos for “The Profit of Doom” and “September Sun” were in heavy rotation. Some have noted in recent years an increased citation of Type O Negative in heavy music, in hardcore (see: Twitching Tongues) as well as trendy doom (Pallbearer), and is it coincidence that most musicians of this stylistic shift probably came of age around 2007? It’s debatable, but personally I don’t think it is. Sure, we moved on to Bloody Kisses, World Coming Down, and October Rust, but Dead Again was the point of entry for those of us born too late. It’s a shame I never got to see Type O live, but at least I got to hear them while Steele still lived and was still producing some of the most iconic metal of his time.

I don’t think Dead Again is a Type O masterpiece in the same way as Bloody Kisses or World Coming Down. However, it takes risks in sound, aesthetic, and overall zeitgeist that make it compelling ten years down the road, and there are both true classic songs (“Profit”) and hidden gems (“These Three Things”) throughout. If life is killing you, why not just try being Dead Again?

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