Nick Wallwork is bassist in UK Black Metal heroes, Winterfylleth. The band have recently announced a tour in support of their forthcoming new album in 2020.
Here, Nick writes at length as he shares his love for one of the greatest heavy metal bands ever…The Drab Four…Type O Negative.
It’s hard to put my finger on exactly why Type O Negative has stood head and shoulders above most other acts for me. They have become this Godlike, almost mythical act that just stood apart from all others. This is of course amplified by the untimely passing of the band’s irreplaceable front man Peter Steele in 2010.
If there had to be one factor, I would say it was the “uniqueness” of ToN. There really isn’t another band that sounds like them – not at the time and never since. Sure, they were an amalgamation of some very obvious influences – namely Black Sabbath and The Beatles – but they brought everything together in such a way that was absolutely their own. At the time, my teenage listening was dictated by underground extreme death and black metal – and they stood leagues apart from all of that. A lot more “mainstream” a prospect – but they truly were a melting point of so many different styles, from crossover, New York Hardcore to crushing Funeral Doom Metal and everything in between.
I remember first encountering ToN via a one page article in the first issue of Thrash n Burn magazine, which was a short lived offshoot of Metal Forces back in the early 90s. This would have been to promote the debut “Slow, Deep and Hard” but at the time, I had no interest in it. Death Metal ruled the roost for me and I just thought this looked like another NYC Hardcore / Crossover act. Not for me!
Next was of course the video for “Black No. 1” on MTV which got a fair hammering in 1993. Still – I had no interest. This was a mainstream act in my eyes, aligned with the alternative metal sound that was forming the trend back then. If it wasn’t Death or Black Metal, I wasn’t interested.
The moment in all clicked for me with ToN boils down to two things: I had purchased the “Nativity in Black” tribute to Black Sabbath compilation which featured Type O’s version of “Black Sabbath”. Absolutely HUGE! Completely and utterly morbid, deconstructed, their own stamp all over it. This was much more like it – not an MTV friendly ditty like Black No. 1 was.
I then caught an interview with Pete and Josh on Headbanger’s Ball conducted by Gregor Mackintosh of Paradise Lost (a band whom I respected greatly at the time). Apparently they were one of Greg’s big influences so I sat up and listened. It is one of the most hilarious and engaging interviews I had ever seen. The deadpan delivery, the absolutely nihilistic outlook. It was interspersed with clips of them playing live at Camden Underworld and that was it. “Bloody Kisses” was in my collection the following week.
In terms of favourite songs, that’s a very difficult one to answer when it comes to your favourite artist, but I have always veered towards the doomier, more grandiose side of ToN. So all the big funeral dirges score highly with me – “Bloody Kisses (A Death In the Family)” – which was actually inspired by the passing of one of Peter’s cats, “Haunted” (incidentally check out the “Per Version” if you haven’t heard it – amazing!), “Suspended In Dusk”, “White Slavery”, “World Coming Down” – all at the top of the tree. “October Rust” is my favourite album of all time anyway – so elsewhere I love the ethereal nature of tracks such as “Love You to Death”, “Green Man” and “Wolf Moon”.
If I had to pick one above all it might have to be “Christian Woman” in it’s full 9 minute form. An obvious choice, yes, but it definitely has it all. The mid section “To Love God” is absolutely sublime. I had fallen in love with the album already by the point I heard that for the first time.
I think quite in keeping with the downtrodden nature of ToN, their legacy has not been felt across the mainstream quite as it could have – or should have done. They peaked commercially around the time of “October Rust” and wouldn’t go on to become the megastars they could potentially have done. Of course there are a lot of “Goth Metal” acts out there that might cite them as an influence but in all honesty, I wouldn’t listen to any of them. As I said – they were a totally unique entity for me.
Their influence on me? Well they have made me skint with their vinyl boxsets and what not. But musically I wouldn’t say there was anything that has passed on directly. Other than a desire to make emotionally stirring music that can bring to mind images of nature and has a certain “atmosphere” to it.
The visual aesthetic of Type O was always very well thought out right from the beginning – what with the angled fonts on album covers, the trademark green etc. I think you’ve got to say the “Bloody Kisses” cover is the most iconic of the lot. Or is that just because I was pubescent teenager when I got it? Who knows? It’s a great evocative image however you view it and something that you just would not see on another band’s album art. In your face and suggestive but in a tasteful way – unlike so many other shock tactics of bands in the 90s.
Other than that – I love the World Coming Down image. After the total forest bound escapism of October Rust – this is back to the urban sprawl of Brooklyn – that dark green gloom, the Brooklyn Bridge shrouded in mist – it’s a great image.
Less said about the Origin of the Feces cover the better…….(you can look that one up yourself!)
Below are my favourite records, rated in preference order…
October Rust (1996)
No surprises here from me. This is my ultimate desert island disc and almost everything about it is perfect. It is the sound of walking in the woods and being at one with nature. There will never be a more evocative record for me. I also love how the guitars take on a more ethereal quality on this record – more akin to the Cocteau Twins in places to a lot of metal. 10 / 10 album.
Favourite tracks: Love You To Death / Green Man / Haunted
Bloody Kisses (1993)
Trailing OR just by a whisker – this is a much more eclectic affair than the album above. Here we have ToN truly finding their sound after the Hardcore infused debut – but still with a good dollop of that smattered throughout. It’s telling that Pete viewed the digipack as a more definitive version, erasing as it does the Hardcore tracks and intermissions and replacing them with the mammoth dirge “Suspended In Dusk”.
Favourite tracks – Suspended In Dusk, Christian Woman, Bloody Kisses (A Death in the Family), Can’t Lose You.
World Coming Down (1999)
An interesting place for them to go after the more ear friendly October Rust. Obviously – the success had taken its toll on Pete here and what we have is a down trodden ode to drink and drug addiction. The guitars are back – much fatter this time and it has a very doomy edge. A lot of people say this is Type O’s darkest record – and in places they may be right – but it also has its fair share of Goth Pop Rock in the form of “Pyretta Blaze” and “All Hallow’s Eve”. Let’s not forget The Beatles Medley also.
Favourite tracks – White Slavery, World Coming Down, Creepy Green Light, Everything Dies.
Slow, Deep and Hard (1991)
ToN’s debut and a bone of contention for some people due to it still having one foot in the Carnivore camp. Personally, I love every bit of embittered spite on this album and the pure anger of a man clearly scorned. Sure, it’s got its NYC Hardcore, Pete is “shouting” the lyrics at most points, but it switches to industrialised dirges at the drop of a hat – and his deep baritone comes through. Misogynistic and right-wing cried some – clearly some people just cannot get tongue in cheek.
Favourite tracks – “Unsuccessfully Coping with the Natural Beauty of Infidelity”, “Prelude to Agony”, “Gravitational Constant: G = 6.67 x 10⁻⁸ cm⁻³ gm⁻¹ sec⁻²”
Life Is Killing Me (2003)
Offering a little more light relief after the heavy nature of World Coming Down, LIKM injects a little more humour back into the proceedings (“Angry Inch” and the LGBT anthem “I Like Goils”) but it is really a focus on more single-orientated song writing that makes this album and gave them a late career video hit with “I Don’t Wanna Be Me”. However, for me the true highlights are the two odes to Peter’s parents in “Todd’s Ship Gods” which oozes with lush melody and nostalgic childhood memory (“falling from my bike, scraping my knee”) and the beautiful “Nettie” which I think may contain his very deepest vocal delivery on the intro.
Favourite tracks – Nettie, Todd’s Ship Gods, Anesthesia
Dead Again (2007)
Last but not least in the ToN canon we have their final parting shot to the world in “Dead Again” (and I’m not including “Origin of the Feces” here being as it is essentially a re-recording of the debut album). Their long term relationship with Roadrunner Records was over and this marked the supposed start of a new era for the band. It’s definitely a rawer sounding and more in your face record than it’s predecessor – due to a much more “live band” focussed direction (it’s actually the only ToN album that Johnny Kelly actually performs live drums on). Not a bad album by any stretch but lacks the unique appeal of the rest of their discography for me. However, they have a latter day classic in the form of “September Sun” which sounds like it could have come straight from the October Rust sessions.
Favourite tracks – September Sun, The Profit of Doom, Dead Again.
Many thanks to Nick for taking the time to profess his love of one of his favourite bands. We have also been lucky to have Wolcensmen (Winterfylleth’s Dan Capp) write for our Why I Love column.
Winterfylleth released their first ever live album in 2019. You can read our review of The Siege Of Murcia here.
Winterfylleth’s new tour dates are here. They will be joined by Norwegian’s Mork on the tour.