A haunting portrait of Grigori Rasputin — the Siberian mystic who was influential in the later days of Russia's Romanov dynasty — graces the cover of Type O Negative's Dead Again, the Brooklyn metallers' first collection of fresh material since 2003's Life Is Killing Me. For frontman Peter Steele, going with Rasputin's image as the LP's art was a no-brainer, for several reasons.
"He's, like, probably the best-looking Type O Negative member," Steele joked. "He really puts us to shame. Also, I feel a kind of special affinity with him. The guy was an Orthodox Russian, and I'm a Roman Catholic. He was an alcoholic, a drug addict, a womanizer. ... He got into fights after Mass, and the communists couldn't kill him. The Bolsheviks tried to assassinate him a whole bunch of times and failed, and I thought, 'Man, this guy gets away with it. He dodges a bullet with everything he f---ing does, and so do I.' Plus, Rasputin was able to cure hemophilia, and that comes into the blood theme — you know, Type O Negative. And he looks like one of us — he hasn't bathed in two months, he's unshaven and he hated the world."
The bigger question, though, is what took Type O so long to churn out some new tunes. For three years, little was heard from the band, beyond unconfirmed reports that Steele had died (he hadn't, by the way). The delay, Steele explained, was partly fueled by the bandmembers' escalating ages and personal responsibilities. According to Steele, "Life happened," and sometimes life can make being in a rock band damn near impossible.
"There was also a period there where we were in renegotiations with Roadrunner Records, and that kind of fell through," he offered. "I was in a psychiatric institute for a while, too, and I went through rehab [for cocaine, alcohol and 'Burger King']. As the band has gotten older, you have wives and kids and house payments and divorces and separations and all this other f---ing sh-- that goes on, so when we'd schedule rehearsals, they'd start revolving around, 'Well, can we find a babysitter?' It just becomes more and more complicated."
Steele said he was also grappling with the deaths of several people who were close to him, including his mother and late Pantera/Damageplan guitarist "Dimebag" Darrell Abbott (see "Dimebag Darrell, Four Others Killed In Ohio Concert Shooting"). "It was like a slap in the face with a frozen hand," he said of his losses. And, of course, there was that brief stint at Riker's Island that kept him, um, tied up. (While Steele wouldn't discuss his incarceration in detail, he did say that he'd been arrested for "accidentally punching someone in the face 50 times.")
His mother's death, Steele said, was a major eye-opener for him, and it made him "realize my own mortality. That's why this forthcoming album has more of a punky, hardcore edge, because I'm pissed off at life 'cause I know I'm going to f---ing die. I just want to beat up the reaper." Still, the singer said, Dead Again — which is set for a March 13 release — is perhaps Type O's "least negative" work to date.
"I believe that this forthcoming album is more about revelation in one's life and dealing with frustration," he said. "It's about leaving the past behind and trying to move on — trying to grow up. I'm 45, but my motto has always been, 'Act your shoe size,' " which, for Steele, is 15.
Dead Again clocks in at more than 77 minutes and boasts 10 tracks, including "Tripping a Blind Man," "These Three Things" and "An Ode to Locksmiths." The most difficult part of making the record, Steele said, was coming up with the lyrical content.
"After writing almost 100 songs, I have to think of other subjects to write about," he said. "It's like, 'OK, women, fire, wolves, ghosts, Dracula, Frankenstein, swamp things — what the f--- else is there, you know?' It was hard to come up with subject matter."
The one song Steele struggled with the most was "Halloween in Heaven," which features Lycia's Tara VanFlower. The song, he said, was written for Dimebag but doesn't explicitly name the slain axeman. "Dimebag was a very close friend of Type O, but I didn't want to exploit his name because it was so soon after his death," Steele said. "I didn't want people to think I was making money off of this man's tragic death, but he's in a much better f---ing place, there's no doubt. It was out of love for him that this song was written."
Type O began recording the effort back in August, and Steele said this time around, it was a completely different process for his band.
"This album was done quite differently from the past two or three," he said. "The last album we'd done with live drums was [1993's] Bloody Kisses. Everything after that was a drum machine. I've always felt that that sounded a little — even though most people didn't realize it was programmed drums — but just to me, it sounded synthetic. I'd have to write all the songs and then come down to the band, rehearse them, and the drums would be programmed. With this new album, I went in clean. I didn't have any ideas. We just let the tape roll, and we'd start jamming. I'd write a part and ask if the guys liked it. There was band input this time, and this album has a more live and — dare I say — positive attitude to it. It sounds like you've got four guys playing together at once. That's kind of refreshing after 17 years, even though it feels like 17 centuries."