(I wrote this when I was only 21)
Released on August 20th, 1996, through Roadrunner Records, the self-produced October Rust by Type O Negative is without a doubt my favorite album of all-time. Although it has been reviewed hundreds of times over the past thirteen years, I felt an overwhelming desire to compose the most elaborate and comprehensive one yet, one that would most accurately convey the deep level of passion I have for this work of sonic art.
I would go so far as to consider this the album to my heart, the way I want to be treated and thought of in a romantic relationship. I am a traditionalist and have a true appreciation for chivalry, gallantry, and respect. It also helps that autumn is my favorite season; a time of year I wouldn’t mind spending in on a regular basis.
The frontman for Type O Negative, Peter Steele, had claimed to have written nearly 80% of the material while in the back of their tour bus, using a Yamaha keyboard. He had also mentioned that “some parts of the album were written when [he] was thirteen or fourteen years old, and there are some parts that were written while the recording light was on and went right to tape.”
Though it’s the first album to feature their drumming replacement for Sal Abruscato, Johnny Kelly, it was much later confessed that the drum parts were programmed; this could possibly have been due to inconvenient timing but that is merely my own guess. In any case, it’s hard to tell the difference.
With its atmospheric, autumnal aura, this is, in my opinion, the quintessential album to listen to during rainy or stormy weather. It certainly captures the manner in which the breeze shuffles the foliage somewhere deep in the woods. Growing up in the city and not having had the opportunity to take nature for granted, there remains a certain novelty about it for the unfamiliar. One should feel free to shut off the lights and turn on the candles because this is the type of music to “stir, not shake” one’s hips to.
The overwhelming theme of romance within the album surely wouldn’t put a bottle of massage oil to waste either. While October Rust is admittedly the most commercial in their discography, as they were pressured by their label to release something more radio compatible, the explicit sexual and paganesque themes prevent it from dwelling among the mainstream.
Nevertheless, Steele had confessed that it’s the only album he’d be likely to listen to even if he wasn’t a member of the band. The ambiance the keyboard produces is definitely at the forefront, making it the focal instrument throughout each of their albums. The heavily distorted, down-tuned guitars create monolithic, gothic soundscapes behind romantically raw songwriting. In fact, Steele’s lyrics have always had the uncanny ability to evoke such vivid imagery with such little use of words.
Steele had noted that the lowered tunings were a result of listening to Black Sabbath’s Master of Reality throughout his youth. Though such tuning is unhealthy for instruments, the intention is to produce heavier, more droning sounds to reflect the subject matter, not necessarily to match or harmonize with his vocal range. The low bass vocals from Peter Steele portray a tortured, morose disposition with a thick, Brooklyn touch. Drawing similarities to Danzig and Jim Morrison, there is also a hint of 1930’s horror king, Bela Lugosi, for good measure.
Steele’s response to being broken-hearted had shifted dramatically from sheer wrath to pitiful sorrow, albeit always laced in dark, tongue-in-cheek humor. The self-deprecating nature of the band is seen as their defense mechanism against unrequited love or love’s lost. Though borderline hypersexual, the lyrics are still executed in a respectful, adoring manner; they are often laced with vulnerability and insecurity.
Having been raised around five older sisters, Steele likely picked up a thing or two about how to properly treat the opposite sex. In fact, he fully recognized the advancement and independence women have come to earn and almost finds the male redundant. However, those who’ve suspected they’d lost their confrontational attitude should fear not, as it reappears, albeit subtly, on their subsequent albums.
My only complaint would have to be the habit of ending their tracks abruptly; however, they are still organized in a more consistent manner than that of its predecessor, Bloody Kisses, an album that became their label’s first Gold record. The arrangements are more cohesive this time around and there is, to some early fans’ chagrin, less use of outright sarcasm.
It is also remarkable that even at over an hour in length, the album manages to keep your attention for the entire duration. The evident improvement in October Rust’s production is the result of having had a larger budget than before. Touring scheduling interfered with the process but, fortunately, the amount of time they dedicated to the album prevented it from appearing rushed in the end.
No other album has served as effectively a muse for me as October Rust. The hurricane season back in 2005 was the most active in recorded history and many hours were spent without electricity, leaving only the flicker of candlelight to see. Laying in the dark with a limited amount of things to do, I found myself experiencing this album with only a pair of headphones and a notebook in my lap. I was instantly inspired to compose, what I consider to be, my best work of poetry yet.
Not since I was seventeen have I been able to reach that level of creativity again, to catch that prolific spark. In fact, the poetry is so similar in subject matter and choice of imagery that it could have very well been extra tracks on the album, though I shouldn’t be so audacious as to compare my lyricism to Steele’s; he was certainly more refined. Perhaps a day will come when I can share my compositions with him and thank him for writing such a flattering tribute to females. (Sadly, Peter Steele passed away in April of 2010.)
The album is initiated with a practical joke, a tactic first employed on their previous release. At forty seconds in length, the low-level buzzing is intended to confuse the listener as to whether their speakers are installed properly or not; in fact, there have been some whom have fallen for the prank and gone through the trouble of returning it for an “unbroken” copy. 😂
This is basically the twenty seconds the band decided to use to laugh at what they had pulled, sometimes successfully, and to thank the listener for investing in the album, anyway.
LOVE YOU TO DEATH
Opening with the delicate touch of piano keys, this is about female dominance, about the admission of women’s upper hand in a sexual relationship. “I beg to serve, your wish is my law” displays just how much respect and adoration Steele really has for his woman, though it contradicts the sentiments he had when the band was in its infancy.
At the age of eighteen on Halloween, part of a last-minute decision, I decided to dress up as the woman featured in the music video, complete with a basket of leaves in tow. It was later confirmed that she was indeed Peter Steele’s ex-girlfriend at the time, whom the song was dedicated to. And yes, I did burn the leaves at the end of the night; my way of paying homage to the band.
“Black lipstick stains on her glass of red wine
I am your servant, may I light your cigarette?”
BE MY DRUIDESS
The most overtly sexual of them all, it’s about the lust he feels for a woman in the woods. Again confessing his inferiority, he will do anything to please and satisfy her. The chorus, however, is possibly the most noncontinuous of them all; it doesn’t seem to belong naturally. The song manages to survive despite it, though.
“I feel you shake so deep inside
Scream my name and hold me tight”
Said Steele, “When I first wrote the song, I wrote it about the Celtic embodiment of nature . . . but the thought occurred to me that when I worked for the Parks Department (in New York City), these little kids at the playground used to call me The Green Man . . .” The uniform he wore as a sanitation worker was green in color. Besides the sounds of birds chirping in the morning, it is possible to hear the sample of Steele’s old garbage truck loading up and then driving away as the song is introduced.
Inspired chiefly by the beliefs and practices of the Wiccan religion, Green Man describes the rebirth of nature in the spring after having lain dormant in the winter. The lyrics “To struggle to be freed from hard ground” describes the urge to push up through the earth to feed and fertilize the land during this time. “Life is coming to an end,” speaking of the winter, entails the loss of energy and power that was used to nurture nature throughout the year. Nature “coming full circle” is intended to be a positive thing, a sign of hope.
“Sol in prime sweet summertime
Casts shadows of doubt on my face”
RED WATER (CHRISTMAS MOURNING)
It is hard to misinterpret the theme of the song, having the chime of holiday bells at the forefront. Having been born to older than average parents and being the youngest of six, Steele was used to watching his family members pass away; notably, his father, who had died in early 1995. Naturally, the Christmas later that year was very difficult for Steele to deal with, seeing those ghosts occupy the seats at the dinner table.
In the lyrics “Red water, chase them away,” he was implying the act of getting drunk on wine to dull or mask the pain. Still, it is often misconstrued to be talking about blood. A disturbing interlude emits the sound of glass being thrown and shattered by a weeping, bereaved young girl. Due to the subject manner, Steele had vowed to never perform the song in concert.
“The stockings are hung but who cares?
Reserved for those no longer there”
MY GIRLFRIEND’S GIRLFRIEND
Written in only fifteen minutes, this campy tune is probably the least representative of the Type O aesthetic. It’s certainly the most tongue-in-cheek of all the tracks on the album.
“They keep me warm on cold nights
We must be quite a sight”
DIE WITH ME
This is about the pain and yearning felt when a lover leaves for other pursuits, whether it be a career move or change in environment, and that person never reconnecting. As far as the lyrics are concerned, KLM represents an airline, meaning she never came back; AT&T represents a phone company, implying she never called; and the UK Post System represents a mailing service, indicating she never wrote.
“Since this time is the last time
Can I hold you all night long?”
BURNT FLOWERS FALLEN
Self-explanatory, this is about a bitter girlfriend leaving him and burning the flowers he had given to her.
“Yeah, I think she’s falling out of love
Yeah, I know she’s fallen out of love”
IN PRAISE OF BACCHUS
This is an homage to the Roman God of wine and loves long lost; he endorses becoming intoxicated in order to enjoy life more. Just like “Red Water,” copious amounts of wine are used to cope with the struggles, or losses, we deal with. Steele was clearly a fan of the alcoholic beverage, as he was seen in several interviews holding a glass and was seen performing live with a bottle frequently chugged from.
“Now, don’t believe she’ll never leave again
I can’t forget the words she said back when”
This is simply a heavier, chunkier version of the Neil Young classic.
THE GLORIOUS LIBERATION OF THE PEOPLE’S TECHNOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF VINNLAND BY THE COMBINED FORCES OF THE UNITED TERRITORIES OF EUROPA
A track that is shorter to play than to actually pronounce. Well, sort of. Unfortunately, the uninitiated will have trouble “getting it.”
WOLF MOON [INCLUDING ZOANTHROPIC PARANOIA]
While this track might be too uncomfortably graphic for some, it was still natural for Type O to be poetically descriptive about their sexuality, or at least Steele’s. Beneath the moonlight, a menstruating woman is begged to be “known” down there so that the consequential pain of her “curse” may be alleviated by a werewolf’s tongue.
“No silver bullets
A last blood benediction”
As per the lyric “Invades my sleep with tumescent intentions,” this is about having intercourse with a succubus in the middle of the night. Succubi are the feminine version of the demons that, during dreams, draw energy from the opposite sex in order to sustain themselves. As the “eastern sky hints of dawning,” he doesn’t want her to leave.
“Invades my sleep with tumescent intentions
Hades, I’m sure, must be missing a demon”
From the panes a green mist swirls
Is it a shadow of reflection?
This apparition in moon beams bathed
A voice like wind through trees beckons
Cool rain on hot summer stone
The odor fills my presence
Of freshly dug grave and death and night
These things are her essence
Nocturnal mistress, spirit lover
Your mouth of wine and wood-smoke taste
My goddess of the violet twilight
You are lust incarnate
In the sweat of my bed
The eastern sky hints of dawning
Alone and awake but exhausted I lie
Oh how I hate the morning
Peter Steele hoped that your listening experience wasn’t “too disappointing,” and that they, as consolation, will see you on tour.
Thank you for reading and I hope you might enjoy the album half as much as I do. 🥀🍂🍃