Type O Negative – Life Is Killing Me

A fun old time

In common with every Type O Negative album, Life is Killing Me represents a major departure from what precedes it; a total 180 in fact. World Coming Down truly is depression captured flawlessly in auditory form, with it being comprised of nothing but dirge after dirge of sheer despair. It is also their most complex and most difficult to digest album, with a lot of the material being elaborate, wilfully ugly, and nightmarish. This meanwhile is a considerably more scaled back album, and while TON’s distinct personality and musical talent does shine through most of the time – admittedly very brightly at some points – what results is easily their weakest album (The Origin of the Feces is a joke, not an album.)

What brings this album down several notches is that as stated the material here is scaled back in every way imaginable; the scope, musical and lyrical depth, atmosphere and presentation of these songs are all toned down considerably. There is very little approaching outright doom metal here like World Coming Down, rather nearly all the material is very straightforward goth flavoured rock songs with some strong pop leanings like some of the tracks off Bloody Kisses or perhaps October Rust, though they typically do end up sounding a bit heavier than the latter album as they lack the same highly spacey, lush, reverb-laden production or as much of a keyboard presence. There are even a few tracks here (most notably ‘I Don’t Wanna Be Me’ and ‘I Like Goils’) that are remarkably punky and fast, these represent the most uniformly speedy songs the band would ever write barring the likes of ‘Kill All the White People’. These songs are altogether much more straightforward, shallow and predictable musically. The music isn’t particularly heavy or complex or atmospheric, it doesn’t challenge the listener and it doesn’t deliver anything too unique beyond Pete’s distinctive bass-baritone voice.

In general the entire album is very easy to listen to and digest; you can’t get lost in its atmosphere and it doesn’t throw many curveballs at the listener. All of the material here is perfectly good; this is about as fun and upbeat as the band’s music would get, even more so than ‘My Girlfriend’s Girlfriend’. This is a good pop metal album for sure, with something like ‘I Don’t Wanna Be Me’ or ‘Less than Zero (<0)’ being excellent examples of making this inferior formula work by simply being entertaining and exciting. There are a few songs here that do stand up to their older works however; absolutely massive songs like the very lush, keyboard-heavy and agonising ‘Anesthesia’ (a top 5 TON song), the moody and downtempo ‘Nettie’ or the doomy ‘The Dream is Dead’ are loaded with atmosphere and excellent riffs. They feature the best arrangement and usage of keyboards on the album, as well as deepest and most heartfelt lyrics here, which all goes a long way to giving them the atmosphere that is so lacking here. Sadly however, songs like these and the nostalgic ‘(We Were) Electrocute’ are the minority.

The issue is that for most of the album’s tracks, even compared to the most rocking or pop-leaning moments of past albums, there is a lack of the larger than life atmosphere and grand presentation of something like ‘Can’t Lose You’, let alone a ‘Black No. 1’ or ‘Love You to Death’. This is a first in TON’s discography; every album prior was dripping in atmosphere and genuinely sounded massive. Tracks here like ‘How Could She?’ or the title track are all fun and good while on, like everything else here thanks to the songwriting talent of the band and their ability to write a good hook, but as soon as they leave you find they don’t leave much of an impression. World Coming Down is a hammer blow to the heart, October Rust is enchanting and hauntingly beautiful, while this isn’t anything approaching that. The shallowness of the lyrics don’t help; not that the topics here can’t be relatable or poignant but instead of sensual romance or 11 minute dirges about self-loathing and suicide, it’s all fairly simple matters or otherwise not-that-serious takes on what could be deep topics (revenge, not wanting to be yourself, Pete’s deceased father.) A big part of TON’s music has been the lyrics, they are critical to setting the mood and atmosphere of the album and so with simple and shallow lyrics this album doesn’t have much emotional depth to it.

As a piece of entertainment, this is very good. In some ways it’s like Metallica; a restrained, less ambitious album that is mostly missing the spark of the classics that preceded it, but one that gets by on simple entertainment value of well-written, catchy songs. This is still more than worthwhile, as it is a nice listen with some real gems and it certainly won’t offend, but the band could definitely have tried harder as evidenced by how good the bright spots here are; they are good enough to go toe-to-toe with anything from their finest albums. The issue is that not a lot of the material stands up too well when thought about for a bit, as you realise it leaves you cold like nothing else in their catalogue. All this said, even with the music at its most shallow and simplistic this beats out a lot of other music out there; a true testament to the talent of this band.

Rating: 80%

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