“If you like Black Sabbath,” said the security guy at the mall, “then you have to hear Type O Negative. They are one of my favourite bands right now. Do you have it?”
We checked the racks, and we did — Bloody Kisses, the recent re-release in a smart looking cardboard digipack.
There were two security guys at the mall. There was Trevor Atkinson, the laziest guard in the world, who I knew from highschool. The other guy had more the look of the cop-wanna-be, the way you picture the cliche of mall security guards in your head. He was the Type O fan.
The year was 1995, still early in the winter, and fresh working at the Record Store (for about six months). I had been collecting Black Sabbath for years, and in 1995 I was still mad for them, trying to acquire the rare stuff on CD like Born Again and Seventh Star. Knowing my infatuation with Black Sabbath, the cop-looking guard recommended Bloody Kisses. I was also about five months since my first big breakup, and I was still bitter and angry. It clicked.
I mean, read this dedication in the inner booklet.
I wouldn’t recommend Type O Negative to any old Sabbath fan like he did. In fact a few months later, I saw Type O Negative with a bunch of Sabbath fans, and they couldn’t have given a shit. But I got why he did. The gothic imagery, the heavy guitars, the keyboard accents. Certainly, the comically deep vocals of Peter Steele were nothing like any of the higher-pitched crooners that Sabbath have ever had in their ranks. But Type O did sooth my angry, heartbroken soul when I hit “play” on my brand new copy of Bloody Kisses. I didn’t know, but I had bought a recent reissue featuring a new song called “Suspended In Dusk”, while losing a lot of the instrumental bits and novelty songs on the first edition. The reissue, with only nine tracks instead of 14, is an overall better listening experience. (There is also a deluxe edition with all the material from both, plus remixes, and their cover of “Black Sabbath” from Nativity in Black.)
Both versions open with the same song – “Christian Woman” – although the original makes you wait through 40 seconds of metal machine music and moaning called “Machine Screw”. Cutting to the chase is better. Soft, subtle keyboards welcome you in. The nine minute track is laid out in three parts in the booklet. A: “Body of Christ (Corpus Christi)”, B: “To Love God”, and C: “J.C. Looks Like Me”. Each is a distinct section with its own riff and hooks, with “To Love God” being a soft interlude between two harder parts. If anything is Sabbathy here (besides the title), it’s the varied arrangement, the keys, and the Appice-like drums of Sal Abruscato. Guitarist Johnny Hickey sings the higher vocals in contrast to Steele’s ridiculously low baritone. This is a truly great song, though the naughty lyrics aren’t poetry. It’s solid all the way through, which you can’t say for every long song on this album. The track was pointlessly edited down to four and a half minutes for single release, losing all its grandeur.
The reissue and original differ drastically in running order here, but the more concise reissue blends seamless into “Bloody Kisses”, a very slow dirge that goes on for 10:56. A bit of a slog, with highlights here and there, but get to the point, right? In the booklet it is subtitled “A Death in the Family” and that’s exactly what it sounds like. In the quiet parts of the song are sounds which create the image of a gothic castle during a storm, so you have to give Type O credit for caring about their craft. “Too Late: Frozen” is another long one, distinguished by it’s goofy “too late for a-pol-o-gies-ah!” chant. It has a lo-fi punk vibe and is quite enjoyable for all its disperate ingredients. Of course one of those parts is a big dark dirge-y gothic breakdown. It’s really two songs in one, with “Frozen” bookended by “Too Late”.
Type O goes for straighter riffing on “Blood & Fire”. This is about as conventional as songs get on Bloody Kisses. Some of the lyrics resonated with my sad-sack-of-shit broken-hearted persona that I found myself projecting.
I always thought we’d be together,
And that our love could not be better,
Well, with no warning you were gone,
I still don’t know what went wrong.
It sounds as if a natural side break was inserted after “Blood & Fire”, because there is a respite before the bizarre sitar-inflected “Can’t Lose You”. It’s a very long buildup, but this sets up their version of Seals & Crofts’ “Summer Breeze” on the reissue. (We’ll get to what they do on the original running order in a bit.) “Can’t Lose You” sounds like a gothic parody of the Beatles’ “India period”, but “Summer Breeze” is more like Ozzy’s cover of “Purple Haze”! Guitars distorted to the max, Pete croons about the jasmine in his mind. On both versions of the CD, “Summer Breeze” is paired with “Set Me On Fire” as a sort of high-octane organ-centric outro. Dig that backwards flute. (Flautist: uncredited.)
A sudden break here leads to a dark cave where Peter Steele can be found breathing heavily and taking a deep drink from a bottle. “Damn me father,” he says, “for I must sin.” It’s the reissue bonus track “Suspended in Dusk”, a frankly dull song about a vampiric creature. The slower-than-slow approach, paired with the spoken word vocal style does not hasten the blood. Some clear chordal homages to Black Sabbath catch the ear. That said, the lyrics are cool. “Four centuries of this damned immortality. Yet I did not ask to be made. Why?” Too long, too long, goes on forever. Shame.
Closing the reissue is the other big single, “Black No. 1 (Little Miss Scare-All)”, a tribute to the goth girls of the 90s. This is a great tune, and it’s hard to believe this hit is an 11 minute tune. Granted, it was shaved down under five for its single release, which is a shame since you miss great hooks.
“I went looking for trouble,” begins Pete. “And boy…I found her.”
It’s all Hallow’s Eve, and she’s got a date at midnight with Nosferatu. Peter taps into everything sexy and cool about Halloween on “Black No. 1”, named for the hair dye colour. “You wanna go out ’cause it’s raining and blowing, she can’t go out ’cause her roots are showing. Dye ’em black.”
Terrific ending to the reissued album. Hit ’em hard with a single on the way out. Epic, fun, hook-laden and conclusive. So why did they re-arrange the tracklist and cut so many from the original? “Sacrebleu!”
The band were fully involved with the reissue, which also featured an alternative cover photo. One has to assume they saw the potential of a better listening experience in the revised tracklist, and they were correct. If Bloody Kisses has a primary flaw, it’s that too many songs take a while to get to the point (if they get there at all). With all the original additional material, the album is too uneven in tone and quality.
“Machine Screw” doesn’t take long to get out of the way, but the jokey opener isn’t necessary. The original tracklist then gets the two biggest tunes out of the way right at the start, albeit a combined 20 minute start, “Christian Woman” and “Black No. 1”. It then segues into “Fay Wray Come Out and Play” a minute of what sounds like a woman being sacrificed by some kind of jungle tribe. It’s a sonic filler that doesn’t enhance enjoyment of the album, just contributes to a jokey novelty quality. As does the next track, a punk thrasher called “Kill all the White People”. The lyrics are pretty simple — “Kill all the white people, then we be free!” Is that why they wanted to sacrifice Fay Wray? I’m getting confused here. In an abrupt change of pace, “Summer Breeze”/ “Set Me On Fire” follows. It’s a very different setup from “Can’t Lose You” on the reissue.
Back to “Set Me On Fire”, (which ends abruptly on both versions). On the original set, the next track is the birthing noises of “Dark Side of the Womb” followed by “We Hate Everyone”. This is a cool tune, but perhaps the lyrics were considered too jokey for the reissue. Who does Type O Negative hate, for example? “Right wing commies, leftist Nazis”, and most importantly “We don’t care what you think!” The punky tempo and melody are at odds with the majority of the album, but this is one track worth having the original version for. The song straightens out into a mid-tempo rocker by the middle, before reverting back to its punk origins. It’s the one they shouldn’t have cut.
The final piece of exclusive music on the original album is “3.0.I.F.” which bridges “Bloody Kisses” with “Too Late: Frozen”. It’s a bizarre sonic collage of chanting, engine noises, whispering, and the word “negative” repeated before the crash of a highway accident. While it does serve as an interesting intro to “Too Late”, you don’t miss much by not having it in there. The original running order goes out on the ballad “Can’t Lose You” which is cool. And just to avoid any sort of flow or outro, it ends abruptly as the sitar peaks. When the same thing happens on the reissued version, it sounds more like a setup into “Summer Breeze” than a sudden end.
Get both, or get the deluxe with the bonus CD, or don’t get it at all. It’s almost like they never wanted you to buy it in the first place. On the back of the original CD, instead of a tracklist, is just a warning: “DON’T MISTAKE LACK OF TALENT FOR GENIUS”.
Original: 3.5/5 stars
Reissue: 3.75/5 stars
1. “Machine Screw” 0:39
2. “Christian Woman” 8:57
3. “Black No. 1 (Little Miss Scare-All)” 11:14
4. “Fay Wray Come Out and Play” 1:02
5. “Kill All the White People” 3:23
6. “Summer Breeze” 4:49
7. “Set Me on Fire” 3:29
8. “Dark Side of the Womb” 0:27
9. “We Hate Everyone” 6:50
10. “Bloody Kisses (A Death in the Family)” 10:55
11. “3.0.I.F.” 2:05
12. “Too Late: Frozen” 7:50
13. “Blood & Fire” 5:32
14. “Can’t Lose You” 6:05