Triptykon – Eparistera Daimones

Excessive, uninspired and misguided

Monotheist was the unexpected second wind in Tom G. Warrior’s lengthy and storied career – a peerless, bold and unique album from one of metal’s most influential and iconic artists. But with internal tensions splintering Celtic Frost, it was destined to be a singular flash in the pan, a one-off that stood as an incredible epitaph but also a comeback story being cut tragically short. That is, until Tom came roaring back into the spotlight with Triptykon and this album, a new project made to keep the momentum built up on Monotheist going. It’s a third wind of sorts, and at the time must have seemed like a truly rousing second comeback. The presentation of the album – the absolutely maximalist production, its roaring opener, even the H.R. Giger cover art which is of course a subtle nod to Tom’s glory days – only furthered this feeling, and at the time it must have been a truly exciting development in metal to see a veteran artist come back with something so vital and world-destroying; not only had Tom seemingly lived up to Monotheist, he’d even exceeded it – or so many of us thought.

However, as the years have drawn on and the dust has settled, I can’t help but feel this album sounds a lot less spectacular than when it was first released. I wasn’t around at the time to listen to it so I can’t say for sure, and this album’s extremely strong performance in MA’s end of decade poll is strong evidence to the contrary, but nevertheless once I’d actually grown acclimatised to Tom’s Monotheist era sound, that album and this album’s successor Melana Chasmata have both risen to be some of my favourite metal albums ever made. This on the other hand, never really reached those heights for me. It’s absolutely a decent, extremely professional and laboured over album, but it falls far short of the bar set by Monotheist. And with the release of Melana Chasmata, I think the flaws of this album are more evident than ever – indeed, directly contrasting that album’s musical contents, presentation, overall ethos and goals with this one’s pretty clearly illustrates where Tom missed the mark here.

A rundown of the style here is necessary of course, especially as it is a very unique one even after all these years. First employed on Monotheist and extended through longer, more winding songs and a more extreme tinge with Triptykon, Tom’s particular brand of goth/doom is one that really reduces the guitarwork and metal in general down to a very simple, primal state, and then amplifying the entire affair to galactic proportions. The riffs consist of gigantic, crushing yet catchy chords and grooves played through with a mind-bendingly big and heavy guitar sound played across lengthy compositions that are draped in a suffocatingly thick, dark and gothic atmosphere. Tom’s vocals range from croons to wails to whines to barks to growls, all the while deeply impassioned, pained and tortured. Subtle flourishes such as horns, pianos and strings round off and embellish a sound that is absolutely gigantic in presentation and heavily focused on sheer atmosphere, emotional weight, guitar texture, compositional power and of course crushing heaviness. What results is a one-of-a-kind, terrifyingly dark, deceptively complex and multi-faceted sound that is the sound of metal’s most basic elements animated with the most potent occult magic.

The biggest overall problem with the album is the mentality that Tom was working under when making this album, or at least the mentality that can be inferred from the various creative decisions here. To put it simply, this album is striving to be ‘Monotheist but more’, because at every turn it’s obvious that Tom is striving to outdo his immense efforts on that album, which really harms the finished product in numerous ways. This is so apparent that it’s perfectly represented just by contrasting the different guitar tones used on the three albums, which are vital components to the style employed as it is so driven by texture and atmosphere. While on every album they sound absolutely massive, truly heavy and crushing, there is a distinction to be made between the smoother, heavier, more percussive sound on Monotheist and the thinner, crunchier and even more textured sound on Melana Chasmata. On this album however, he goes for exactly the same tone as Monotheist‘s but louder. This really does encapsulate the differences between the three; the elder and younger siblings are subtly different beasts in their own right, while the middle child here seeks to ape and outdo the elder with no subtlety to speak of. The production in general is very much in line with this as well – Monotheist was loud and polished but the music was still spacious and everything came through great, while Melana in general sounds a bit thinner and tighter to make the entire arrangement a bit more visceral and direct. This album meanwhile just sounds like Monotheist but even louder – the guitars, drums, bass, all of it – and critically a lot more cluttered. The drums take up more space than they need to, and the resulting lack of clarity makes the music less nuanced and a bit messy as the instruments start to bleed together a bit too much. On first impact – as in, once ‘Goetia’ first bursts into life – it sounds even more extreme and insane than its predecessor but 11 minutes and one track in it simply gets tiresome, never mind the numbness felt when the 70 minute mark is reached.

Compounding the issue of less dynamic production is that the album as a whole isn’t varied nearly as much or as successfully as those other two albums. Monotheist and Melana Chasmata both have numerous softer, more tender and emotional tracks all over them. They serve to spice up the album with some eclecticism and break up the tracklist’s doom metal crushers and make them all the more impactful by enhancing the atmosphere of the album as a whole and preventing the listener from growing numb to them due to an overwhelmingly heavy tracklist, as 75+ minutes of this sort of material would do to anyone. On this album however, the only softer moments present are the first half of ‘In Shrouds Decayed’, the sub 2 minute interlude ‘Shrine’, the piano break on ‘Myopic Empire’ and the 5 minute ambient interlude ‘My Pain’. These moments are a smaller fraction of the runtime compared to the other album’s softer moments, and they still don’t achieve much of what those other moments did. While they are a much needed break for the listener, these are honestly some of the least interesting moments on the album and routinely just grind things to a halt instead of carrying over the tension from the heavier songs like those other albums could. ‘Shrine’ is nondescript ambient filler that never amounts to anything significant, and while ‘My Pain’ has more meat on the bone in the form of vocals and more instrumental layers it still feels like an extended interlude and not a full song. Meanwhile the first half in ‘In Shrouds Decayed’ is Tom talking over reverby clean guitars that isn’t interesting at all, and the break in ‘Myopic Empire’ is a bizarre artefact that betrays the Monotheist era’s origins in the infamous Prototype demo. It’s also an unfitting and unnecessary tonal shift that kneecaps the song; this should have been a kink that was worked out of the song in the 8 years it took to see a proper studio release.

The failures of these quieter moments are smaller examples of a couple of other major problems that really, really bring the album down. The first of them is that the material written for this album simply isn’t as strong as what was presented on the other two albums. For all the extremity implied in the production, most of the material here is a lot more plain than anything on Monotheist or Melana Chasmata, heavy or soft. The softer moments of ‘In Shrouds Decayed’ fall totally flat unlike the moody, forlorn but still tense verses of ‘Boleskine House’. ‘Synagoga Satanae’ is a nightmarish and terrifying journey while ‘The Prolonging’ is a slog. There are no truly memorable and visceral grooves or riffs here like on ‘Domain of Decay’, ‘Breathing’ or ‘Tree of Suffocating Souls’, nor is there much catchy, flashy or dynamic drumming like on ‘Aurorae’ or ‘Black Snow’. With a handful of exceptions, none of the tracks here stand up in any way to their counterparts from the other two albums. In the pursuit of ‘Monotheist but more’, Tom has Flanderised his sound on this album and stripped it of subtle yet essential elements like tension building, hooks, and generating atmosphere, all in the name of extremity – and all that’s led to is an album that is viscerally appealing on first impact when it’s loud (but mostly doesn’t stand up to repeated listening or as the album wears on) with some half-hearted, boring breaks along the way that grind the album to a halt instead of keeping the tension and energy up. The only times this album truly succeeds and stands up to those other albums in terms of the material being played is the aforementioned barnstorming opener ‘Goetia’ (which remains one of Tom’s best songs ever) and the devilishly simple ‘Shatter’ which is on par with ‘A Dying God Coming Into Human Flesh’ and ‘Aurorae’ for how ingeniously it uses such simple elements to make an incredible song.

The second problem is related to the first: a distinct lack of an atmosphere, which is a massive problem given how much atmosphere is integral to this sound. Critically, both albums that bookend this one have extremely strong atmospheres generated from the music that are very distinct from one another. The way I hear it, Monotheist is this inhuman force of nature. It’s the equivalent of taking a vacuum or the void, somehow giving it mass and density and blowing it up to be the size of galaxy. Listening to it is staring into an abyss totally devoid of light – you know something is there because you can feel it in and all around you, but you can’t see anything. The sole human voice in the album is Tom’s vocals; which are the whines, wails, groans and shouts of a weary old man who has spent aeons wandering this abyss as it torments him – the instrumentation (critically, the massive guitars) being the calls from the abyss doing just that. Melana Chasmata with its thinner, crunchier guitars, less spacious sound and more ragged, strained vocals leads to an album that feels a lot more human and direct. Instead of being this inhuman force of nature that is all around us, it’s a decayed and occult darkness that originates in our minds, as exemplified by the miserable introspection of ‘Aurorae’, the sheer resentment of ‘Altar of Deceit’ or Tom’s utterly tragic, pathetic whines and growls into the night over a lost loved one’s memories tormenting him on ‘In the Sleep of Death’. On the other hand, this has no feeling to speak of to me – apart from the impassioned rage of ‘Goetia’ and the catchy and entrancing ‘Shatter’, this is all a load of loud noise that is viscerally appealing but leaves no lasting impact, or boring quiet parts that break up the album a bit but also kill the energy of the album and aren’t atmospheric at all. By trying to be ‘Monotheist but more’, the essential nature of that album’s atmosphere, along with the need to balance beauty with brutality and integrating quieter moments into the album’s flow properly is completely lost in favour of being really loud and aggressive. It’s a truly tragic regression that harms most of the album’s ability to stand up to repeated listening, as the initial excitement of the heaviness of the song wears off and it becomes a load of excessive and meaningless noise.

With all these problems in mind another more minor issue becomes apparent – the length of the songs themselves. Taken as a whole and with bonus track ‘Shatter’ in tow this album is about as long as its siblings (77 minutes for this album vs. 75 for Melana and 80 for Monotheist) but while its predecessor had 14 full length tracks and its successor had 10, this only has 9 (discounting the short interlude ‘Shrine’) – so the songs here on average are a fair bit longer. It’s simply too much to hit a listener with an 11 minute rager of an opener in ‘Goetia’ and a near 20 minute crushing penultimate song in ‘The Prolonging’ and then for the rest of the album to be so overwhelmingly heavy and also not that interesting or varied. All of this said, one will note that my score still lies on the positive side of 50%, indicating that I still enjoyed this album in spite of these numerous flaws, because there are many things to appreciate here. For instance, taking one or two of the heavier songs in isolation shows that the material is a cut above most metal out there, with all the performances being top notch (Tom’s vocals and lyrics in particular) and the songwriting being generally solid, even if on these fronts they still fall short compared to anything from this album’s siblings. Messiness aside the production is certainly very high grade and far above most metal out there, and the presentation and aesthetics of these songs is incredibly grand and larger than life. The problem is that consumed as a pack and put into the context of Tom’s career, this is a very underwhelming album.

To my mind, Celtic Frost splintering was a minor setback; Tom was not going to be stopped from carrying on what he started on Monotheist. Rather than the band’s breakup potentially killing the momentum that album generated, I’d wager that *this* album is what did that, being an excessive, uninspired and misguided facsimile of what came before it. It’s not up to the standard of what came before or after it; in the pursuit of surface level, visceral extremity Tom wrote out all of the essential nuances that made those other albums so great. Melana Chasmata is Tom’s true third wind; it’s a recovery from this sophomore slump, the truly worthy successor to Monotheist on a quality level, and a genuine evolution of that album’s sound by being closely related to it stylistically yet still being its own unique beast. I realise I’m probably alone on my opinion of this album but still; I’d encourage anyone curious about this era of Tom’s career to check out Monotheist and Melana before this, maybe giving this one a chance afterwards if you can’t get enough of this sound. If you checked this one out first and were disappointed, give those other two albums a shot as they’re much better.

Rating: 60%

Type O Negative – The Origin of the Feces (Not Live at Brighton Beach)

Mostly redundant, entirely hilarious

When discussing Type O Negative’s major releases I often forget that The Origin of the Feces even exists. That’s not because it’s bad – far from it, the material here is amazing – but this is the one major release they have where no new ideas are introduced and no progression of any sort is made, to the extent that I don’t even consider this a main studio album despite this being a collection of studio material. It’s more of a foot note in their discography than anything else, and it doesn’t mean a whole lot when divorced from Slow, Deep and Hard and by extension the two Carnivore albums. If it does represent anything, it’s possibly the greatest example of TON’s sense of humour across their entire discography, as this release is literally one giant joke.

The Origin of the Feces is for the most part re-treads of various tracks from Slow, Deep and Hard. ‘I Know You’re Fucking Someone Else’ is ‘Unsuccessfully Coping…’, ‘Gravity’ is ‘Gravitational Constant…’, ‘Kill You Tonight’ is ‘Xero Tolerance’ and ‘Pain’ is ‘Prelude to Agony’, which is about 36 minutes of this 51 minute tracklist. These songs are abrupt collisions of goth/doom and crossover/thrash that bring excellent riffs, keyboard lines and a bitter, ugly attitude courtesy of Pete’s amazing vocals, which range from a hardcore-tinged shout to more conventional singing to go with the more melodic strains of the music. While this material is of quality, this is pretty much the main reason this is their weakest release; though there are differences between the originals and these versions the basic musical foundation here is a straight up rehash of their debut, with no substantial musical progression or new material being presented, merely alternate takes on songs listeners have heard before.

There are differences, of course – these certainly sound more like live performances despite not being live. The sound of the music is as if they were playing in a large room of some sort, with more reverb and space in the sound. The performances differ too, with the riffs and keyboards perhaps having a slightly different sense of melody or the drumming being slightly different in its timing. The vocals are particularly different – Pete often delivers lyrics slightly off the mark or at a different pitch, if he even delivers them at all. The songs are often truncated too, with ‘Kill You Tonight’ being played here as both a two minute track and a 7 minute reprise and ‘Pain’ being a bit under 5 minutes in length. The most notable difference however is the crowd noise found throughout the songs, consisting of fans jeering and booing in a studio to be recorded and added to the songs. Honestly, the back and forth between the verbal abuse of the crowd and Pete is one of the only aspects of this release that truly makes it worthwhile; it’s actually goddamn hilarious. Highlights include when ‘Gravity’ is interrupted due to a supposed bomb threat targeting the venue, the very opening moments which is just the crowd chanting ‘You suck!’ and when the band gets bottled by one of the crowd, but honestly it’s all just one giant laugh.

Beyond the humour, the only other main draw here is the various tracks that are exclusive to this release. ‘Hey Pete’ is a reworking of ‘Hey Joe’ and it’s about as good as a cover could turn out; the band do a great job of making the song their own, turning it from a laid back psychedelic track into a gloomy doom metal number with lyrics to fit Slow, Deep and Hard‘s concept of murdering your ex over infidelity. The reissue features a cover of ‘Paranoid’ (one which lacks much of the faux-live trappings of the rest of the songs here) – the band pull a similar trick here by turning this speedy rocker into a 7 minute morose and downtrodden doom metal song and it goes over amazingly. It beats out most of their material up to this point and is perhaps a precursor to their more overtly doom metal-influenced albums down the road. The sole new original song here is ‘Are You Afraid’, which is a little over two minutes of goth rock, containing the sort of lush keyboard work, gentle bass-baritone crooning mixing with agonised screaming and tender atmosphere that would come to define TON’s later, more famous albums. Critically, all of these new tracks show the band going in a more pure goth/doom direction and as such they are the only times they really undergo any progression from their debut; it’s a shame that they make up less than a third of the runtime.

As if the original cover of Pete’s hairy anus wasn’t enough of an indicator, this is obviously not meant to be seen as a serious work from the band at all and indeed it isn’t for the most part, being a rehash of their old songs for a joke. This does have some value for the sheer humour on offer and the few new tracks here are certainly interesting, but otherwise this is one of the only non-essential and unnecessary releases in their catalogue. It’s fun for sure but most of these songs were done better a year prior, and honestly this makes far more sense as an addendum to their debut than as a standalone release. All this said however, it is quite a testament to the quality of TON’s music and sense of humour that they can just play their old songs more sloppily on a new release while getting fans to tell the listener that the band suck and still have it turn out better than most artists could even dream of.

Rating: 70%

Type O Negative – Slow, Deep and Hard

Agony and ecstasy

Slow, Deep and Hard is an odd place for Type O Negative to start out, as it’s honestly not a whole lot like what would end up putting the band on the map. Rather, this listens more like the last Carnivore album – while there are certainly elements to the music here that weren’t present in Carnivore’s music (ones that would end up on Bloody Kisses) this still has a lot of influence from those old albums and the feel of it is certainly much more in line with them too. It isn’t so much a bridge between the two bands as even with these extra influences its closer to Carnivore than anything TON would put out, but in retrospect the indication of a new direction is certainly there.

Of the 6 actual compositions here, 5 of them are towering, mighty epics with multiple distinct sections to them. The simplest way to describe them are lengthy feedback-inflected doom metal numbers with thrash metal/crossover sections spliced in, along with strong goth overtones due to the presence of keyboards and more melodic riffing. Thrash was obviously the backbone of Carnivore’s sound, doom metal isn’t a foreign influence (several tracks across their catalogue played around with it) and even the rare acoustic break here doesn’t feel that dissimilar to the one in ‘Male Supremacy’, but with this release the thrash and doom (the latter sometimes spiced up with goth influence) are in equal parts the core of this album’s sound. It’s as if every element present in their sound beforehand has been extended out and turned up to 11; the occasional gloomy doom passage is now the bulk of each track, the thrash sections are even angrier and more blood-pumping than before and what few tender, melodic moments there were are now found at various key points throughout each song, with keyboards being there to help emphasise them.

Critical to this blend of ideas are the performances themselves, which are excellent. The drumming is unobtrusive but still creative and inventive, managing to keep the beat and throwing in a good few fills and double bass sections while not subtracting from the meat of the album; the guitars and vocals. The thrash riffs here don’t feel at all stale despite this album’s 1991 year of release because Carnivore were one of the progenitors of that NYHC-flavoured crossover thrash style; and indeed none of them would feel out of place on a Carnivore album, being lethally aggressive and memorable. The slower doom metal passages are great too; the more atonal moments such as those found in ‘Der Untermensch’ are heavy and oppressive, hitting as hard as the earliest sludge metal bands that were getting started around the time. The more melodic moments backed up with keyboards are a nice touch of variation and give the album a lot of character, and while the keys here aren’t as lush as they’d be on later albums Josh Silver still does a lot with a little. This is especially evident on ‘Unsuccessfully Coping…’ and ‘Prelude to Agony’, which both take on the larger-than-life quality of something like ‘Bloody Kisses’ at points especially combined with the vocal delivery, the latter having always been Carnivore’s and TON’s trump card. Pete’s vocals here are as captivating and distinctive as the always were and would be. He mixes up his hardcore punk-tinged bellowing during the thrash sections with more tonal work to fit the more melodic sections, and is backed up by gang vocals at various points to great effect (‘I know you’re fucking someone else!’ and ‘Waste! Of! Life!’ are truly legendary moments.) He even starts to incorporate goth-tinged bass-baritone singing that would become a staple of later TON albums, most notably on ‘Prelude to Agony’. His position here as a very flawed narrator is pulled off very well; he truly comes across like a troubled, deranged and sick person. Whatever style he shoots for he always manages to pull off with amazing conviction, and whatever emotion the lyrics are trying to convey he always delivers.

What really separates this from TON’s later albums is the general atmosphere, one that results from how well the band work as a unit and how evocative the music manages to be as a whole – even at its most goth rock-infused this doesn’t have any of the dry, dark, tongue-in-cheek goth vibes of Bloody Kisses or the romantic, lovey-dovey feel of October Rust. Instead, the vibe throughout is a really ugly and dark one, which ties into its concept of murdering one’s lover due to infidelity and then taking one’s own life out of guilt over the act. The feel is much more in line with Carnivore’s deliberately offensive schtick than anything that would follow and the sheer bitterness and hatred on display here is something to behold. The more keyboard-y sections recall those later TON albums a bit more, but the doom sections are crushing, droning and gloomy (and at times bring to mind World Coming Down) while the thrash sections are no-holds-barred bursts of anger. This atmosphere is a big part of why this album works as well as it does, as the songs here are honestly abrupt collisions of crossover/thrash and doom/goth with no real progression between them. Rather than coming across like an incoherent and jumbled mess however, the songs listen more like emotional roller-coasters full of twists and turns, ones that consistently keep the listener guessing as Pete tells his depraved tales of murder and suicide. The music shifts tone with the lyrics perfectly, with the murderous ‘Prelude to Agony’ being the darkest and most crushing song here and the final track ‘Gravitational Constant…’ being a slab of pure, morose goth/doom to fit its themes suicide ideation.

There are a couple of questionable outliers in the track list that are worth mentioning – ‘Glass Walls of Limbo (Dance Mix)’ is a little under 7 minutes of gloomy industrial noise which is underpinned by a singular metallic clattering beat while numerous layers of non-lyrical vocalisations and chants get worked into it. While it’s a pretty interesting mood piece it breaks up the flow of the album somewhat, and given that these sounds are nowhere else to be found on the album it listens like a strange stylistic detour that doesn’t lead to anything or advance the narrative of the album. ‘The Misinterpretation of Silence…’ meanwhile starts a long tradition of humorous interludes on TON albums, and it’s literally 64 seconds of silence. It’s hard to hate a blank canvas but there’s no joke here at all; it flat out did not need to be here. All this said however, this is still a timeless and one-of-a-kind debut that only Pete and the boys could have come up with. Any fan of metal should listen to this at least once; it’s truly one of the greatest and most unique albums in metal, and an amazing start for an amazing band.

Rating: 93%

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%

Type O Negative – The Least Worst Of

Hey, it could be worse

(Note: I am reviewing the unedited version of the album, which features ‘It’s Never Enough’ as track 4 and ‘Unsuccessfully Coping with the Natural Beauty of Infidelity’ as its penultimate track, with the edited version swapping the latter for ‘Gravitational Constant: G = 6.67 x 10⁻⁸ cm⁻³ gm⁻¹ sec⁻²’ and dropping the former altogether. As this means the unedited version has more new material, this is the one I recommend.)

This compilation released about a year after World Coming Down is a bit of an odd beast, as far as compilations go. At best this sort of release compiles rarities such as demos, b-sides and outtakes and if pulled off correctly can function as unique albums in their own right; while at worst they have nothing new on them at all and instead present material that has already been heard before on past albums. The Least Worst Of straddles a line between the two, as it mostly offers up alternate versions of past material, with a few rarer or exclusive tracks in the mix as well.

A significant chunk of this album’s running time is devoted to edited versions of songs we’ve heard before, that have either been released as b-sides or are unique to this album. All of them are shortened radio edits, and they all suffer from the same problems. While most of these songs still function, retaining some of the atmosphere and getting the same basic ideas across, they lose a lot of the larger-than-life quality the originals had as they do not flow nearly as well, with transitions from section to section feeling much more abrupt and sections being omitted entirely. The edit of ‘Black No. 1’ in particular is truly terrible and entirely skip-worthy – it doesn’t flow or listen like a complete song at all, sounding more like various sections of different songs stapled together with no rhyme or reason. There’s also the matter of the remix of their version of ‘Cinnamon Girl’, which changes the song for the much worse. The drum machine used previously sounds much more like a sampled electronic kit now, and the guitars and vocals sound similarly processed and electronic due to being slathered in effects. The guitars cut out abruptly at points, particularly for the verses, but otherwise the song remains structurally unchanged. It’s an interesting edit but I feel like removing the spacey, atmospheric sounds of the original album does nothing to help the song at all.

This album only really falls into the best of formula on two occasions. Both versions feature a track from Slow, Deep and Hard as their penultimate song, and while both of these are great, we’ve heard these before. In addition, songs almost always work better in the context of the album from which they came, and as such there’s no real reason to listen to these tracks as presented here; they are inferior due to the context they are in. The other is a ‘remix’ of the track ‘My Girlfriend’s Girlfriend’ – I guess it is a remix but it barely qualifies as it is very nearly the same song; the only alteration I can hear is that the beat during the first few seconds of the song is removed, leaving only the organ before the drums come in anyway followed by the guitars. It’s otherwise identical to the original and therefore totally pointless for the same reasons that the songs from the debut are.

There are however, a few songs that are of more interest. The main draw for me on this album is the three World Coming Down session outtakes, as that is in my eyes one the greatest metal albums ever released. The songs in question are ‘It’s Never Enough’, ’12 Black Rainbows’ and the closer ‘Stay Out of My Dreams’. All are great representations of that album’s sound, with dreary and ugly stretches of riffing being broken up by occasional moments of sheer beauty, sparse but effective keys contributing to these and uniformly hopeless and negative lyrics. ’12 Black Rainbows’ is a shorter, catchier number with an explosive chorus that could have been a single, while the other two are more expansive and progressive tracks, combining crushing doom metal riffs with more atmospheric sections and frequent changes of pace – particularly in the case of ‘It’s Never Enough’, which contains thrashy up-tempo sections that hearken back to the days of Slow, Deep and Hard.

Also of note are two alternate takes of covers from earlier in the band’s career. ‘Hey Pete (Peter’s Ego Trip Version)’ is their version of the popular song ‘Hey Joe’, originally from The Origin of the Feces but without the faux live noise present on that album. The lyrics have been re-written lyrics to fit the theme of revenge against an unfaithful girlfriend present on Slow, Deep and Hard and its aforementioned ‘live’ counterpart. It’s been turned from a laid back psychedelic rocker into a gloomy doom metal number, as is befitting of the new lyrics. ‘Black Sabbath (From the Satanic Perspective)’ meanwhile is their take on Black Sabbath’s classic (originally from Nativity in Black and later on reissues of Bloody Kisses), albeit with lyrics that show the other side of the story told by the original. The song is a great deal heavier and slower than the original, bordering on funeral doom speeds during the verses, and Ozzy’s agonised singing has been replaced by Pete’s bass-baritone crooning. Both of these are great examples of covers, having been translated and built upon properly to turn the originals into different beasts entirely, ones that sound so natural and distinctly Type O Negative that they both could have been written by the band.

A heavily discounted purchase is recommended when seeking this album out. It is an incredibly mixed bag, coming out only slightly positive when factoring in the amount of inferior edits and redundant inclusions present. The radio edits are all inferior to the originals though they’re mostly alright and not entirely disposable, but barring the two covers and the three new originals everything else here is skipworthy or redundant. This album is by no means essential as a whole and it certainly is not a good introduction to the band’s career, but it does have some merit.

For what it’s worth, I do appreciate the good humour needed to put absolute silence on a best of compilation; that alone is worthy of a chuckle.

Rating: 55%

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