Since settling on a sound with 1993's 'Bloody Kisses,' Type O Negative has often faced charges of writing the same material again and again. They most certainly fix that with 'Dead Again,' a thoroughly listenable, slightly underproduced record combining punk and Black Sabbath influences.
The thing is, there was a reason most Type O Negative tracks sounded similar. Peter Steele's dour, deep voice – especially when combined with Kenny Hickey's bassy, thick and instantly recognizable guitar tone – lent itself to slow, gothic metal. Lighthearted moments cropped up from time to time (who could forget "My Girlfriend's Girlfriend," "I Like Goils" or "Kill All the White People"?), but on 'Dead Again' the upbeat tracks are more common and less funny.
The most important question a band should ask itself is, "What can we do that no one else can?" This time around, TON asked itself, "What can we do that we've never been compelled to before?" As a result, the record achieves little beyond simple adequacy.
Take the title track; it's catchy, upbeat and heavy, but it lacks the special something of "Christian Woman," "Love You to Death" or "All Hallow's Eve." Same with "Halloween in Heaven," though the lyrics amuse.
"She Burned Me Down" adds a little doom, but the endlessly repeated bridge section wears out in a hurry. One can only hear "Every time I see her start a fire / I get higher" so many times in a row. "Some Stupid Tomorrow" shows off a strong chorus but forces disposable thrash verses on the listener. The band would have seen fit to include neither on 'World Coming Down' or 'October Rust.'
A few sparks fly, though, for sure. There's "These Three Things," the album's masterpiece, with epic guitar and vocal melodies. It touches on the abortion debate: "The child is torn from the womb unbaptised / There's no question it's infanticide." Toward the end, the guitar solo rips the "nah-nah-nah" melody from "Hey Jude." "Hail and Farewell to Britain" ranks a solid second.
The beautiful piano ballad "September Sun" succeeds despite its fake-sounding keyboards, and "Tripping a Blind Man" and "An Ode to Locksmiths" take the Black Sabbath influence about as far as it will go. Even "The Profit of Doom" has its moments.
All told, 'Dead Again' is an ambitious, 10-track, 77-minute undertaking that confidently asserts Type O Negative's versatility. If only fans liked Type O Negative for versatility in the first place.
Robert VerBruggen (http://www.therationale.com) is Assistant Book Editor at The Washington Times.