Autumn in the Midwest is typically dark and chilly, a time of introspection. The sweltering heat and humidity of Summer dissipates, September’s cool, wet mornings and brown leaf vertigo eventually ushering in October, and with it Halloween, all cardboard skeletons and freshly carved jack-o-lanterns. Over the years, Type O Negative’s October Rust has more often than not served as my soundtrack to this drearily beautiful, eerily haunting season, and what a soundtrack it is.
I seem to remember reading interviews with dearly departed Type O frontman Peter Steele in which he proclaimed October Rust as his masterpiece, and it’s damn hard to argue with him. This is a truly excellent album, conceived by a musician who wrote as if he held The Beatles and Black Sabbath (and possibly Bauhaus) in equal regard. In actuality, the lushly layered pop sensibilities of October Rust recall the work of Beach Boys mastermind Brian Wilson moreso than The Beatles. If Wilson had been obsessed with death, lost love, substance abuse and folklore, this might have been the album he made instead of Pet Sounds. Indeed, there is an atmosphere of dark psychedelia lurking below October Rust‘s surface, adding yet another shade of grey haze to its funereal gloom.
From a song standpoint, the album’s highlights are many. Opening epic dirge “Love You to Death” and electro/pop/goth/metal lead-off single “My Girlfriend’s Girlfriend” are probably the two most well known tracks here, and while they’re certainly worthy of their infamy, October Rust is a veritable treasure trove of deep cuts. “Green Man” is an otherworldly ode to nature, touching upon pagan and Wiccan themes. “Red Water (Christmas Mourning)” is a drunken carol of lost loved ones that even manages to quote “Carol of the Bells”. “Wolf Moon” is my favorite track on October Rust, the very definition of a perfect song; it’s heavy, catchy, melodic and totally original in both concept and execution. I’m pretty sure it’s about a werewolf (or perhaps a man who thinks he’s a werewolf) performing cunnilingus on a menstruating woman (“Don’t spill a drop, dear / let me kiss the curse away / yourself in my mouth / will you leave me with your taste?”); it serves as the culmination of the morose, surreal sexuality that permeates the album. On an earlier track, the lusty “Be My Druidess”, Steele declares “I’ll do anything / to make you come” and I’ve often wondered if the two songs are related, with the “anything” in question being the bloody, lupine muff diving session detailed on “Wolf Moon”. Then again, maybe I’m just a weird pervert.
The component parts of the songs on October Rust are just as interesting as the songs themselves. The down-tuned, electric ultra-fuzz of Kenny Hickey’s guitar tone is total Tony Iommi worship, but the myriad influences at work within October Rust‘s aural confines keep it from being a mere Sabbath rip-off; it’s more like Hickey studied Iommi closely and then applied what he learned in support of Steele’s eclectic writing style, creating something totally unique in the process. Steele’s affinity for crafting great songs peaked with October Rust, and his vampiric baritone vocals are also at the height of their powers throughout the recording, securing the late frontman an eternal place among metal’s greatest and most recognizable singers and songwriters. Josh Silver’s nuanced keyboards and production work completes the album’s rich sonic tapestry, which seamlessly encompasses doom metal, gothic and psychedelic rock. If you’re wondering why I didn’t mention the drums, well… according to an interview Silver gave in 2007, the drums on October Rust are canned.
October Rust is many things. It’s Summer dying fast. It’s November coming fire. It’s the Green Man, the Wolfman and Bacchus. It’s love, death and depression. It’s booze and drugs and cigarettes and fucking. In case it hasn’t already been made abundantly clear, I’ll just come right out and say it: October Rust is a perfect metal album.
THKD’s Top 100 Metal Albums
1. Celestial Season – Solar Lovers
2. Type O Negative – October Rust