It is with incredible sadness that I try to wrap my head around the loss of Type O Negative’s Peter Steele who passed away last night 4/14/2010 at around 6pm. The news broke rather quickly thanks to the likes of Twitter, Facebook & MySpace, but in the early stages of the information there was a strong belief that the rumors of his death were highly exaggerated. This mindset was initially in place based on the fact that the singer had been reported dead back in 2005 but after a few days the world realized that they had been punked. Sadly there would be no sigh of relief this time around and when very reliable sources in his camp confirmed it all to be true we would learn the brutal fact that in the end it was heart failure that took this giant of the Metal scene away from us. He was 48 years old.
Believe it or not, he was not always the Man named Steele and was actually born Petrus T. Ratajcyk and while he would have likely laughed off the title, he was one of Heavy Metal’s most important and legendary front men. His imposing 6’7″ stature and booming voice combined with the level of prolific song-writing he offered up made him a force not only to be reckoned with, but to be respected most of all. Historically speaking Peter Steele first performed with a band called Fallout, who I only ever heard two songs from and then assembled a ravaging beast of Thrash Metal called Carnivore. I originally felt that what Carnivore was up to in their heyday was too much for me but over the years they would eventually win me over. They released two albums on Roadrunner Records before disbanding and with their dissolution, the world received Repulsion. The band changed their name to Sub-Zero before eventually swapping that for Type O Negative. The rest is history. With Peter’s death I wanted to reflect on some of my own memories about his music so I hope you will indulge me a little bit. Read on.
Long before I walked around with the title of “Metal Music Journalist” on my name, I was and still am a proud fan of the genre. For many years I was also a very ardent fan of Type O Negative and would find myself counting the days before an album was to be issued or a show was to be attended. For whatever reason, the music of Type O Negative was just something that did it for me and when they did shows in our region I would do whatever possible to make sure I would be in the venue enjoying their gig. In my mind this was always going to be a great night since it was home territory to these Lords Of Flatbush. I remember seeing them a number of times at the now shuttered L’Amour’s and my journey’s to their shows began around the time of the “Bloody Kisses” album. I went with an army of friends and we left the show battered, bruised and woke up with hangovers that lasted for days. At one show I remember they had a smoking cauldron that two girls dressed as nuns handed out a sinister brew from. I had the chance to sample some of the concoction and to this day I didn’t know what it even was. I know your smiling at that because you likely found the same case scenario being something experienced by you and your own friends if you saw them way back in the day. I am a little depressed about not having any images from this time period but I am sure others do somewhere. The above shot was taken by me when the band was performing at New York’s Irving Plaza towards the end of 2007. They call the place The Fillmore NY now, and at this show the band was performing with Finland’s Lordi as their opener. When Type O took to the stage they dominated the night and this was well to be expected. Many were amused at the singer’s choice of priestly collar for this show and any who balked at this dared not open their mouths about it.
I recall being at another gig and when the chants of “You Suck” began, a young girl next to me asked why I was here if I was going to yell such a thing at the band before they even played. I smiled and said “first time?”, and she replied “yes”. It really was an amusing way to find the band entering the stage but if this worked out for them then who were we to argue. When the shot above was taken it was another Irving Plaza gig and only a handful of months prior to the one with Lordi. This show was nothing less than crushing and found the legendary Celtic Frost as their opening band. I know some people feel the order should have been reversed but I was not one of them based on TON’s continued dominance of the scene and the fact that Frost was once again on the rise. The next shot finds Peter performing at Nokia Theatre in Times Square. It was around the time of Halloween in 2009 and I never would have thought that this would be his last NYC performance with the band.
Since I had only begun by adventuring as music journalist in late 2003, there were a lot of shows that while attended, were not covered for the larger public to learn about. In total I think I caught something like twenty of the bands appearances around town and while I would have loved to catch more of them, the finances didn’t always allow for that and I know each of you has experienced this from time to time. Despite missing some shows that I would have loved to add to my personal achievements in show attending I had been a fan of Type O Negative’s music since I first heard the “Slow, Deep and Hard” album back when it was released in 1991. This album was a brutal and intense effort and would have a lot of the Carnivore vibe to it. Years later we would learn how this featured material that was planned for the third Carnivore album, but that never came to be. The album “Bloody Kisses” was my clear favorite and it was one that put these guys on the map. The song writing was solid and the tunes resonated with power. Clearly, Steele had a vision and was taking the band straight on into success with it. They spent a majority of their career on Roadrunner Records and eventually moved on to SPV Records and with each and every album their legions picked up steam and ran alongside them. When I launched PiercingMetal.com I covered the band’s live appearances when they hit our region and also reviewed material that had come out as new releases. I also made sure to include some of their legacy stuff for good measure and the eventual plan is to have all of the catalog reviewed on the website. The stuff is just too good to not have this be the case.
I never really knew Peter Steele as a person but did meet him once at a local bar in Coney Island. The singer was there to see his drummer Johnny performing with his Led Zeppelin band and when he noticed my Type O insignia button (the one with the little minus sign – green on black), he smirked and said “wow that’s an old one”. We only chatted for a few minutes as he was not feeling too well that night and I don’t think he expected the kind of attention he was finding himself getting and was feeling a little claustrophobic. Of course many people I consider allies in my Metal adventuring did know him well and proudly called him friend. It was clear that based on the stories that they tell us that Peter never saw what all the fuss was about for him and just considered himself a regular guy who played music. His sense of humor was dark but intelligent and while imposing based on his size, he was really a very kind human being who they had nothing but good to say about. Given all of these positive factors it is clear that the Metal world lost one of the good ones without any question.
I found it interesting that when all of the news became clear about his passing how one friend commented on Facebook and said how she hated the fact about how now everyone is going to jump on the bandwagon and all of a sudden be “fans” of the band. While I can see where she is coming from in one sense, I like to think of it like this; I am OK with those who are just getting with the program as a result of Peter’s death calling his music to their attention but those individuals are called upon to keep his memory and his Metal strong by spreading the word to others even more. Doing so will help it live on and on and earn you the respect of the longer time fans. I never fault the newbies because we all cannot follow a group “from the beginning”, but I do chide them about their needing some research to catch up to the rest of us who have been with the program but either way welcome to the fold.
As a fan of his music I shall miss Peter Steele terribly and wonder what could ever be next for the band Type O Negative. How could they possibly go on without their key member? I have my memories of their past music and shows and hope that some of the older video tapes that used to be traded find their way to official release so the fans can enjoy what he brought to the table again and again. As a music scribe I will miss the chance to hear new Type O music and see their new shows with him at the helm. On behalf of my role here on PiercingMetal.com, I wish Peter’s family and all his friends the most heartfelt condolences on this truly tragic loss. Peter’s memory and magic will resonate forever upon the Metal scene and he will be missed by all.
I’ve written a number of articles about Type O Negative’s shows and releases and I invite you to check them out HERE. My hope is that they bring some smiles to you in this sad time.
I also mentioned how Peter Steele was the founder of the seminal Thrashcore band Carnivore. The band released two full albums on Roadrunner Records and then found them remastered by the same company and featuring bonus demo tracks. Eventually these remasters were re-issued by Metal Mind Productions as limited editions. They were exactly the same with the exception of some liner notes. In 2006 Steele fronted a rebuilt Carnivore and did a bunch of US and European shows which were met with positive result.
We heard that recordings of these shows and video was filmed so let’s hope that this stuff sees the light of day considering the circumstances. As I said when the first incarnation of the band walked the Musical Geography of our world it was not my thing, but I got into them later and was glad to be on point when they played the venerated B.B. King Blues Club. We also reviewed their two albums and you can enjoy those articles by clicking HERE.
Rest In Peace Mister Steele – Thank you for everything you gave us, you ruled.